| Kumble at Eden. Picture by Santosh Ghosh
Calcutta, Dec. 2: The Indians are back to being tigers at home. Yet, the latest victory came over a cub-like South Africa.
The last home-series ended in a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Australia with the one before that, versus New Zealand last season, ending in a draw.
Despite India on the threshold of a big win, the Eden turnout today never exceeded 40,000. And, when Anil Kumble equalled Kapil Dev's record of 434 wickets, even that many weren't around to salute a wonderful champion.
'It's an important victory for the team and important for me as captain,' acknowledged Sourav Ganguly, adding 'the past five months, after all, had been tough'.
Notwithstanding Makhaya Ntini's bravado last evening, that '110 would be enough' to get the better of India, the hosts strolled to 120 for two, three more than the target.
The eight-wicket win ' which took India to a high of No. 3 in the ICC rankings ' came via a pulled four from Sachin Tendulkar 13 minutes before the final day's tea. As the Kanpur Test was drawn, the Videocon Cup went to Sourav, who now has 16 victories.
It was, in some ways, a classic win with the mediumpacers picking up seven wickets in innings No. 1 and the spinners claiming all 10 in the second.
Sourav, of course, admitted that the wicket's rather gentle behaviour on the fourth afternoon made him 'worry' that the Test may end indecisively.
Victory, therefore, brought relief as well.
The die was cast by stumps yesterday, with South Africa effectively five down for 66. Once Jacques Kallis went early this morning, the end was a matter of minutes.
Harbhajan Singh again became the cynosure and, for his part, emotionally said the Eden was 'always special'. The offie's seven for 87 took his match figures to nine for 141.
Despite Kallis' excellent exhibition (121, 55), there was little doubt that the man of the match award would go to Harbhajan. It did.
Team India made a clean sweep with Virender Sehwag adjudged man of the series for 262 runs in the two Tests.
Sourav didn't appear to show much emotion but, talking to The Telegraph, explained 'it's not necessary to jump up and down' I was delighted as were the boys'.
Asked whether Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (chief guest at the presentations) offered a win-bonus, Sourav laughed: 'Buddhababu just congratulated me' Nothing special' If anything, he had more words for Sana, who he felt had grown 'very big'
Sana, who turned three last month, entered the Eden turf on her father's arms. As was to be expected, briefly, she upstaged the Sachins.
While Sourav spoke about the team playing 'very well' throughout the series, counterpart Graeme Smith conceded that the absence of a frontline spinner cost dear.
Nicky Boje would surely have made some difference, but he opted out after being named vice-captain because of apprehensions over the Delhi Police's match-fixing inquiry of 2000.
As opener Herschelle Gibbs didn't offer himself for selection for much the same reason, Delhi Police had a hand in the South Africans' defeat!
Perhaps, the biggest plus for the visitors was the captain's courage in playing only a few hours after being reduced to hobbling on crutches.
That was because of a courtesy-car driver's carelessness, in the team hotel's porch, and Smith made light of that during the presentations: 'We enjoyed ourselves on the tour, but there were crazy times like being run over by a car'
Actually, the statement Smith made when he stepped out for the toss should inspire generations.
South African cricket has, in recent years, been hunting for a pucca hero. Well, Smith has it in him to fill the vacuum.
While on the South Africans, coach Ray Jennings is quite a smart talker. The team, however, is some way off from being smart.
Footnote: Despite the presence of the most respected Daryl Harper and Simon Taufel, the Test saw poor decisions. For example, Harper erred in not giving Kallis out yesterday; today, he erred in giving Shaun Pollock out. Significantly, Sourav observed such decisions 'don't' even out owing to the 'difference in quality'.