| Calcutta: There was on-field brilliance during Team India’s tour of Pakistan, which ended with a scintillating win on Sunday, but the trip will also be remembered for Rahul Dravid leading from the front throughout and Yuvraj Singh’s camaraderie-oozing gesture at the final presentation ceremony.
The captain didn’t just score in almost every match ' one notable failure being the Karachi Test ' but met challenges head-on.
Dravid opened in all three Tests and, when Sachin Tendulkar was rested in the final ODI, again launched the innings.
With Kiran More and his colleagues having appointed him captain till the Tests and ODIs versus England, even before the team left for Pakistan, Dravid didn’t have to worry about the hot seat.
With such a cushion, others could have eased off a bit during what remains a tough tour. Dravid, though, was as intense on the last day as on Day-I of big-time cricket (start of the Test series, January 13).
More than the runs scored (241 in Tests and 205 in the ODIs) Dravid, the captain, walked tall. Indeed, towards the end, he even showed some emotion.
However, Dravid didn’t acknowledge it.
“Did I do anything different after the wins in Multan and Karachi' I must have reacted the same way when we beat Sri Lanka 6-1 at home (earlier in the season)'” he told The Telegraph, laughing, when contacted at the Sheraton in Karachi.
But, surely, recovering from 0-1 (that, too, after being routed in the last Test) can’t exactly be ordinary...
“Feels nice, yes' Now, there’s a fresh challenge (England) awaiting us,” Dravid responded. He ended our conversation with: “I still need to pack a few things before we fly home late tonight'”
The captain may not admit it, but he was clearly worried on landing in Peshawar for the opening ODI.
Losing by the Duckworth/Lewis Method there didn’t help and the tone of Dravid’s “not a nice way to lose” comment suggested his famed mental toughness was on the verge of giving way.
Dravid, though, didn’t crack and inspired one of the more astonishing fightbacks in limited overs cricket.
Now, to talk of stand-in vice-captain Yuvraj.
From being a regular on Page 3 (thanks to dalliances in Bollywood), the past few weeks ' if not this entire season ' have seen him grow into a Page 1 fixture.
Nobody is going to forget Yuvraj’s run from the second innings of the Karachi Test onwards ' 122, followed by 39, 82 not out, 79 not out, 37 and 107 not out.
Equally, nobody will forget his straight-from-the-heart gesture after being adjudged the MoM and MoS on Sunday.
“For me, (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni is both the Man-of-the-Match and the Man-of-the-Series,” he said in the uncomplicated manner of his batting.
Later, speaking from the team hotel, Yuvraj explained: “Each time we were in a crisis, Dhoni produced something special' He took the pressure off me and batted like a champion' He deserved what I got and I wanted to thank him'”
Asked whether he was still in pain, owing to the hamstring injury which has put a question mark over his availability for the first Test against England (in Nagpur, from March 1), Yuvraj answered: “I got a hundred and we won' Why should I think of the pain'”
If only Inzamam-ul Haq could say the same'
Footnote: “Dhoni dho ditta” is the Pakistanis’ way of saluting the smasher from Ranchi.