| Rahul Dravid in Vadodara on Saturday. (Reuters)
Vadodara: Given the series’ significance, both for himself personally and for Indian cricket, it’s fitting that the winning runs late on Saturday afternoon came from captain Rahul Dravid’s well-seasoned willow.
For a change, Dravid allowed some show of emotion as he raised his arms and embraced non-striker Yuvraj Singh. Never before had any Indian cricket captain presided over a win in a seven-match series, forget claiming it 6-1.
“All credit to the boys... It’s a team effort which made us such convincing winners against Sri Lanka,” Dravid told The Telegraph, biting into what seemed a samosa outside the Team India dressing room at the IPCL Cricket Stadium.
Asked to pick the most defining moment, he said: “It’s tough, but I suppose the 164-run partnership between Sachin Tendulkar and Irfan Pathan in Nagpur and (Mahendra Singh) Dhoni’s unbeaten 183 in Jaipur would feature at the very top...”
Earlier, at a Media conference, Dravid admitted he hadn’t expected such an emphatic scoreline. “However, once the first few ODIs were out of the way, I realised we were on the road to something special... No one thing brought about a change in our fortunes, rather I would credit a collection of things...”
With just about every move (or gamble) clicking, nobody is going to forget this series in a hurry. In fact, it has been a triumph for coach Greg Chappell as well and the Chappell Doctrine appears to have caught the imagination even of the ordinary fans.
Chappell stayed away from the Media and allowed Dravid to monopolise the limelight, but he would agree that the bigger challenge is to be consistent and keep climbing. Also, he would concur with his captain on the gains beyond the obvious: (a) “Team spirit” and (b) “The development of the squad as a unit.”
While nobody expected Lanka to perform so disastrously (they’ve already dropped two places in the ICC rankings, to No. 4), full marks to Team India for being able to sustain the dominance. A seven-match series allows a team to come back. Equally, the one in front can get complacent.
On both counts, the Indians did what’s expected of teams with ambition.
The other day, Chappell made the point about the present lot “not being great, but moving towards being good.” Perhaps, he didn’t want to raise expectations, but the unanimous assessment is that Dravid and Co. weren’t good, but very good.
Every paise of the Rs 50 lakh bonus announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India has been deserved.
Meanwhile, Dravid left for Mumbai late in the evening en route to Nagpur and catching up with wife Vijeta and one-month old Samit. Come Monday and it will be time to report in Hyderabad, venue of the first ODI versus South Africa.
He’s looking for continued consistency and is “backing” Virender Sehwag to win that five-match series for us.
Footnote: Sachin Tendulkar has headed for New Delhi and not hometown Mumbai. Chappell and one learns physio John Gloster have also gone with him ' to be around when Dr Andrew Wallace, who performed the surgery on Sachin’s left elbow six months ago, examines his “patient.”