Leeds: Sourav Ganguly isnít the only one superstitious. Now, the entire team has been influenced by the captain. So much so that a team dinner, to celebrate Indiaís biggest win overseas, got scrapped Monday.
ďWell, everyone decided not to go out collectively... After all, we did that in Bulawayo, Kandy and Trinidad... Celebrated our victories there, but each time, lost the very next Test. This time, then, we decided to put everything on hold till The Oval,Ē Sourav told The Telegraph Tuesday, before the teamís departure for Derby.
[India won the Bulawayo Test by eight wickets (Shiv Sundar Das MoM), the one in Kandy by seven wickets (Sourav MoM) and Trinidad by 37 runs (V.V.S. Laxman MoM). Yet, the ones immediately after each victory ó Harare, Colombo and Barbados ó ended in disaster.]
Speaking on the morning after Indiaís finest hour overseas, Sourav emotionally remarked: ďIím absolutely thrilled... Perhaps, I didnít give that impression right after we won, but Iím actually so thrilled... How often do we see such convincing wins' Then, whatís remarkable is that everybody played a part. A captain canít ask for more.Ē
That, indeed, is correct. Itís the collective effort from Team India which made the difference ó with even the unheralded Sanjay Bangar contributing big. Yet, as Sourav quickly reminded, ďthe job isnít over.Ē
Of course, itís comforting that The Oval is known to favour spinners ó Shane Warne, Phil Tufnell and Muttiah Muralidharan will confirm that ó but, nothing, is being taken for granted. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singhís hunger, though, should increase.
In just two Tests, by the way, Kumble has emerged joint highest wickettaker in the series ó with 13, he is at par with Matthew Hoggard, who has played all three matches.
ďLooking back, yes, itís a regret I didnít field both Anil and Bhajji at Lordís... Itís possible we wouldnít then have ended up losing. But, then, nobody expected the wicket to turn so much. We all learn from experience...Ē Sourav, who never quite gets the credit he deserves, observed.
[Only Kumble played at Lordís, alongside three seamers: Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra.]
Despite the huge (innings plus 46-run) victory at Headingley, Sourav still regards the stunning win over Australia at the Eden as the best of his 11 victories as captain. ďThat was incredible... Trailing by 274 on the first innings and, then, not losing a wicket an entire day... Here, we were in command right through. It wasnít so at the Eden...Ē
More than anything else, the Headingley win has proved that the balance must always be right. Full marks, therefore, to Sourav and coach John Wright for exercising the Bangar-option. Now, the ball is in Bangarís court to be consistent and, thereby, provide the thinktank room to manoeuvre.
Incidentally, MoM Rahul Dravid is now the seriesí No.1 run-getter. With a total of 385 (77.00 average), the Indian vice-captain is 12 runs in front of Michael Vaughan. Sachin Tendulkar has 347, while Sourav is exactly on 300. The only other Englishman in the 300-plus list is captain Nasser Hussain (305).
Dravid, though, isnít one to ever go overboard. ďIím very happy I could contribute in the best manner possible... Itís great we won, but this series isnít over,Ē he pointed out. For Dravid, life isnít changing right now, but it could after The Oval.
Boardís no to Joshi, Bahutule
Meanwhile, the Board has turned down a request from the team management to either allow Sunil Joshi and Sairaj Bahutule (playing in the Yorkshire league) to turn out in the three-dayer versus Derbyshire, beginning Wednesday, or to release two U-19 bowlers.
The request, obviously, was made to allow all frontline bowlers a break before the decider at The Oval (from September 5).
While the XI hasnít exactly been finalised, Sourav wonít be playing. Sachin, Kumble and Zaheer Khan may also rest. Then, young Parthiv Patel is still in some pain. So, he has to be counted out.