| Yuvraj Singh and Rahul Dravid with the trophy in Indore on Saturday. India won the final ODI by seven wickets to wrap up the series 5-1. (AFP)
Indore: It’s pretty widely held that England’s players just aren’t passionate about one-day cricket. The more uncharitable would even, perhaps, say they’re indifferent. While that can be debated within the ECB and outside, Andrew Flintoff’s decision to “rest” instead of trying to lead from the front and ending the tour on a high was bewildering.
The seventh ODI had a tight finish ' MoS Yuvraj Singh, vice-captain for the day, clobbered the winning runs with no more than five balls remaining ' and the England captain’s experience may have made a big difference. Rather than being in the sun, Flintoff watched England lose 1-5 from the comforting shade of the dressing room.
It’s to be seen how the Media in the UK reacts, but had an Indian captain done the same, he would have been torn to shreds. It’s worth noting that ODI No. 5 (Guwahati) wasn’t played at all and Flintoff had already taken a break in Jamshedpur. Frankly, given the stakes, no match is ‘dead’.
Despite Flintoff not being there, England posted their highest of the TVS Cup (288) and were competitive till about the very end when Yuvraj (among the finest of finishers) and Suresh Raina (an emerging top-bracket finisher) pulled away.
At 256 for four in 45 overs, it seemed England would total at least 300. MoM Sreesanth’s second spell, though, had that choking effect and the Kochi lad finished with a career-best six for 55.
The wicket was excellent, but chasing 289 in oppressive heat (without Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni) was somewhat of a tough ask. However, captain Rahul Dravid and debutant Robin Uthappa, both Bangaloreans, raised the perfect platform with 166 for the first wicket ' best of the series by the width of the Narmada and more.
Uthappa, in fact, was heading towards a hundred when run out amateurishly. Fourteen more and he would have joined Dennis Amiss, Desmond Haynes, Andy Flower and Salim Elahi in a select club. Still, his 86 is the highest by an Indian debutant.
Dravid, who has kept open the option of continuing to open in the near future, followed at the same score (contributing a solid 69), but Yuvraj and young Raina again got into the act beautifully. The MoS, who was troubled by cramps, remained unbeaten on a typically classy 63 (second fifty-plus of the series); Raina got out for 53.
While the Indians improved their world record of successive wins while chasing ' it’s now 16 ' Yuvraj registered a rare hattrick. The first of his MoS awards (jointly with Graeme Smith) came in last November’s ODIs against South Africa. After that was the face-off in Pakistan.
“The one in Pakistan will be more special as it was a tough series,” Yuvraj remarked. Dravid complimented thus: “I think responsibility has made a difference mentally... He’s now a senior... Then, Yuvraj is playing a lot straighter and has emerged a great finisher... With Dhoni and Raina, he has formed a potent combination...”
Dravid, incidentally, hasn’t lost a one-day series after becoming the full-time Team India captain, last October: Sri Lanka got whipped 1-6, the ODIs versus South Africa ended 2-2, Pakistan got thrashed 1-4 and England received a 1-5 walloping.
It has been different in Tests and Dravid was quick to acknowledge the loss in Mumbai, which allowed England to draw 1-1, was a “low point.” He said: “Throughout the three Tests, we could have played better.”
Reflecting on the ODIs against England, Dravid observed: “We finished it off in a very good way... We lost the last Test (Mumbai), but the spirit and attitude made us bounce back straightaway... Every player played his part'”
What pleased him most is that different players put their hands up “to be counted” at different times. Of course, the one exception would surely be quick Vikram Rajvir Singh. He appeared a misfit, often an embarrassment.
The home engagements for 2005-06 have ended and, now, only the two ODIs in Abu Dhabi (versus Pakistan) remain.
Coach Greg Chappell, by the way, is as pleased as Dravid. Asked by The Telegraph whether he’d actually been hopeful of a quick recovery (after Mumbai), he replied: “Absolutely... And, for a simple reason ' we’ve got good players... I didn’t have negative thoughts...”
Chappell revealed a celebration has been planned in Mumbai, before Team India’s departure for the UAE capital. In the one-dayers, certainly, the bubbly has been richly deserved.