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Dravid toasts victory of youth

Multan, Feb. 16: Young bowlers, young legs in the field, young side.

Young was the most heard word when Rahul Dravid spoke today after the crushing ' as sweet as when sugarcane is crushed ' series-clinching victory against a pulpy Pakistan.

As the clenched fists went up in the balcony on India knocking off the 162 it needed to win the penultimate match of the series to go 3-1 up, there were some raw hands there with the hard knuckles of Sachin Tendulkar and Dravid. There were a couple on the field as well ' Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Suresh Raina, who looked classy and calm in getting his 34 and seeing India off to victory.

When Pakistan batted, Indian youth was on show too, in the shape of Rudra Pratap Singh, the strapping lad from Uttar Pradesh who won the man-of-the-match award with four for 40, sending Inzamam-ul Haq’s team crashing to 161 all out on his home ground.

“It feels good. Beating Pakistan at home is no easy task. This is a young (there he goes again) team and we’ve played positive cricket. The confidence gained will help us in our future endeavours,” Dravid said.

That’s the other thing: “future”.

Speaking of the gains from the series, Dravid said: “We are a young side and constantly learning and trying to improve. Hopefully, we can go from strength to strength.”

Maybe in keeping with the “development process” the young team is going through, there was no excessive display of emotion in the dressing room. Only a pat on the back, a few wide grins.

The captain, however, couldn’t but help praise Rudra Pratap. “RP has been doing well. He was the man of the match in the Faisalabad Test, too. This is his first year on the international circuit. He has been working hard and that is a good sign. The left-right combination of pacers is good and we’re reaping the benefits.”

India has opened the bowling with Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan while Ajit Agarkar and Rudra Pratap have picked up from where the first two have left off.

“My aim was to contain the batsmen. The wickets have come as a bonus. I have been learning from every match. Everyone has a specific role in the team and am happy that I performed mine to perfection today,” said Rudra Pratap.

“We have several young bowlers who responded positively to the challenge. The young legs in the field also made a difference, restricting the Pakistan score,” Dravid said.

He said his young new-ball attack would be ready to take up the challenge in the 2007 World Cup. “It is a young attack and they are learning. I am hopeful that leading to the World Cup they would be better off.”

As the prize distribution ceremony was in progress at the centre of the ground, amid a smattering of Pakistani supporters and to the left of the Indian dressing room balcony, a young man held up a poster for the TV cameras, “Sourav Ganguly, we miss you”. Greg Chappell couldn’t have missed it.

The public sentiment here may still be with the former India captain, but between “youth” and “future”, words that are slipping off Dravid’s tongue so easily, supplied first by Chappell, Sourav may get crowded out.

If today’s series-winning performance is any indication, Chappell’s plans for Mission 2007 are on the right track.

The former Australian captain wouldn’t say a word, though. “Sourav is not here and I wouldn’t like to take any questions on him” has been his standard response.

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