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Since 1st March, 1999
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There is still space for Souravs and Dravids
Sourav Ganguly (top) and Rahul Dravid

At the end of India’s tour Down Under, Australia are now part of the leading pack in world cricket rather than miles in front of it. The impact of the retirements of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath has been immediate. Australia are not as potent and India are more confident.

This summer was as hard fought as it was acrimonious but certainly it was the personal tensions which held the spectator’s attentions. Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, then Matthew Hayden, then everyone had an opinion of the feisty offie.

His captain (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) stirred things along masterfully and kept the ranks composed and ready for the one-day onslaught.

Sachin Tendulkar executed a pivotal senior pro’s role, which eventually brought out the best in his batting. He played an important part also in the racial court hearing before inspiring the youngsters to the Commonwealth Bank series win with his batting heroics.

The tactic of the summer, for me, was Anil Kumble’s comment that only one side was upholding the spirit of the game.

He had only Michael Clarke not walking on a certain dismissal to back it up but that mattered little. The press and the public snapped into a full interrogation of Australian players’ behaviour and the emphasis was off Harbhajan’s racial slur.

This was a definite turning point and India would go on to script history in Perth.

India’s greatest regret should be their lack of preparation for the Test series because that quite possibly cost them a clean sweep.

Melbourne’s performance was to be crucial and they were hopeless and insecure, Sydney looked better and except for one umpiring decision (Rahul Dravid’s on the last day) and 15 minutes of pathetic batting, the series could have been in the balance!

Nil-nil or 0-1 down going to Perth was critical but it was poor to allow 0-2.

Australia were dealing with frustrations on several fronts. The media were examining their every move and on field appeals, the Indians were baiting them beautifully and their administrators were backing them.

These irritations eventually sapped them of energy and technique for the top order to finish the summer in a way we haven’t seen in the recent past.

With all this commotion surrounding the senior players there was no better time to unleash the one-day young brigade to follow on from their Twenty20 world championship success.

They were terrible. The Melbourne Twenty20 was disastrous as they capitulated one after another like schoolboys. The question was asked — was India fair dinkum?

The ensuing month answered it clearly. Slowly India built confidence and form. Several poor batting days followed but never a moment of panic from the captain.

In my opinion this is the best group of emerging players I have seen in one team.

A combination of senior players sprinkled in between these youngsters will be important and I would not rule out Sourav, Laxman or Dravid for future series as long as they are working as hard as the rest on the training paddocks.

This Indian era should produce some real masters of the game.

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