The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Victory is an arm away in Sydney
- Steve farewell fares well for Sourav's boys

Sydney, Jan. 5: Sourav Ganguly was preparing tea in his Rydges Jamison suite, moments after returning from the SCG, when there was a knock. In walked John Wright, beer in hand, and congratulated the Team India captain for an “excellent job” thus far in the four-Test series against the No. 1 team.

The coach, though, added with passion: “But, we must finish it off here.... It will then be even better....” Stirring his tea, Sourav nodded, saying: “I agree, this is our best chance.”

Both, then, proceeded to discuss close-in field placements and the feasibility of utilising Sachin Tendulkar as a frontline spinner.

Actually, having set Australia a never-before-achieved target of 443, Sourav is sitting pretty. However, nothing is being taken for granted as Australia didn’t suffer a reverse in the four overs before stumps on the fourth day. Moreover, rain is forecast.

Tomorrow, India needs all 10 wickets within the stipulated 90 overs; Australia requires a further 433 runs. Given that the wicket is going to deteriorate, with the rough outside the leg stumps coming into play in a bigger way, the ask is that much stiffer for the hosts.

The general belief, though, is that the Matthew Haydens and Ricky Pontings will have a go, if only for a perfect goodbye to Steve Waugh. Who knows, Steve himself may make the most of his last stand at the SCG. A draw will allow the Border-Gavaskar Trophy to remain with India.

“We’re going to take it session by session. Our chance will improve if we get two or three wickets before lunch,” Sourav told The Telegraph. Much as he was trying to relax by watching the South Africa-West Indies Test in Cape Town, he kept getting edgy.

That’s understandable. Never before, after all, have we won a series in Australia and a win will take Sourav clear of Mohammed Azharuddin in the captain’s roll of honour. While Sourav already is the most successful, by way of percentages, he remains tied with Azhar on 14 victories.

In fact, we haven’t won a series outside the subcontinent since 1986, when Kapil Dev’s team emerged victorious in England. It was an Indian summer then, it’s been so this time as well.

Just how the script unfolds will, to a large extent, be determined by the top-spinners and googlies unleashed by Anil Kumble. Incidentally, by taking an overseas best of eight for 141, he reached 20 wickets for the series and confirmed that he remains India’s most aggressive-minded bowler.

“Who am I dedicating the achievement to' Nobody at the moment. In any case, the final day could see me doing better,” Kumble quipped, when reached for a comment.

Among other things, it’s this attitude which has transformed Team India.

The Indians, of course, lost the plot somewhat in the morning as overnighter Simon Katich helped himself to easy runs, thanks to inexplicably defensive fields. He posted a career-best 125, an innings which was character-packed. Then, Jason Gillespie, best known to torment batsmen, reached the highest of his career (47).

With such firsts, Australia managed to reduce the deficit to 231. With the lead well under 300, Sourav decided not to enforce the follow-on. Not that the Indians were keen to bat fourth.

In the second innings, Rahul Dravid (91 not out) and Sachin Tendulkar (unbeaten on 60) did the star turn after Virender Sehwag capitalised on an early let-off (by Ponting off Brett Lee) to total 47. The declaration was effected on 211 for two after Dravid was struck on the right earlobe by a Lee bouncer. He needed two stitches.

The Australians often resorted to negative bowling but, given the circumstances, it was pretty much par for the course. As Dravid accepted, the Indians would have done the same.

There appeared to be some confusion in the lead-up to the declaration, but Sourav clarified he only wanted to be sure that play wouldn’t be called off (owing to inadequate light) once he called his batsmen in. He insisted he wasn’t in two minds as Dravid was approaching his 18th century.

“No. That didn’t come into my calculations. Rahul is a great batsman and, surely, will have many opportunities to add to his centuries. I had to keep the team’s best interests in mind — nothing more, nothing less,” Sourav said.

Dravid, who ended with 619 runs (his highest in any series), said he wasn’t unhappy at not getting another century. “I got an unbeaten 91, didn’t I'” he countered at an interaction with the media.

Later, talking exclusively, Dravid said his tally did make him feel good, but he would label his run “excellent” if India won the Test — not otherwise.

That speaks volumes for the team’s spirit, its common agenda and a dream shared by the entire dressing room.

Email This Page