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Future is here, groomed by Greg

Pune, Nov. 3: We’ve seen the future. As an excited Rahul Dravid put into words the thought that was on every Indian cricket fan’s mind, another voice, characteristically cool, could well have noted: “I told you so, mate.”

After Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s one-man show in Jaipur, it was a team effort that gave India a series win against Sri Lanka today.

But Greg Chappell would have permitted himself a smile of satisfaction as he sat watching his proteges win a trial by fire. The Australian has been insisting that if his ideas and strategies for the 2007 World Cup are to work, youngsters need to be promoted right now.

If proof was needed, three raw talents he has been grooming provided it. Dhoni, Suresh Raina and Venugopal Rao batted with surprising maturity at a crucial time, helping India to a winning 4-0 lead in the seven-match series.

“Young tigers” was how Ravi Shastri summed it up as Dhoni and super sub Raina did the star act with an unbroken 82 for the seventh wicket. It was a vote for the “Chappell way” in Indian cricket.

Dravid basked in the glory. “We saw what our youngsters can do. Two boys in their first year in international cricket batted with a cool head at a critical time and were simply brilliant. It’s been exciting... We’ve seen the future of Indian batting.”

Dhoni hit back-to-back sixes to finish the game and seal India’s first home ODI series win since overcoming Zimbabwe in 2001-02. Yet, behind the late flourish lay a gritty team performance.

If Ajit Agarkar pegged the visitors back at the death with five wickets, Harbhajan Singh’s miserly middle overs had set the stage. Virender Sehwag’s struggling 48 showed new desire while the captain himself, once again, played anchorman.

“This has been a great group,” Dravid said. “The results are just beginning to show.”

Lankan coach Tom Moody praised Raina. “The left-hander batted with a cool head. The way he collected the boundaries was amazing.”

The diplomatic Dravid played it safe when someone asked if this victory had shut the door on a few seniors. “I don’t think we need to worry about selections. It’s great that we have so many options in the side,” he said.

And has the birth of his son changed his fortunes' This one had him stumped for a moment. “Yeah, it has... Definitely special,” he replied finally and burst into laughter.

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