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Asia Cup: Polish and Passion

By Gaurang
July 28 2004

In about two weeks, Team India’s season has gone from rigorous but ennui filled practice sessions, fielding drills, and cardio-workouts, to needle edged contests, diving stops on the boundary, and pulse pounding tension in the middle. The rust and relaxation has almost totally been stripped, and the team is exhibiting signs of the old polish and passion. The rust has been flaking off in incremental chunks, with a very large piece coming off thanks to the steel Woolmer has already managed to instill in his new wards, one in particular by the name of Shoaib Malik.

However, today’s near miraculous victory over a rampaging Sri Lanka, who have themselves been honed in the cauldron of Australian cricket to a near perfect sheen, shows that Ganguly and his men are almost at their best again.

There is still certainly room for improvement in every facet of the game: from more purpose and skill in running between the wickets, to better alacrity in the field, to more accuracy and purpose in the bowling. In no area can the Team be said to be more than 80-85% from where it can and should be. One area though where the Team will now be nearly 100% is in their self-belief.

First India survived the early dismissal of their key batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, and the cheap dismissal of their best batsman of the recent past, Rahul Dravid. A very intelligent and useful stand between the captain, Sourav Ganguly, and the previously out of form Virender Sehwag, was the base. The finishing touches were added by another key half century from the blade of the young, yet highly experienced, Yuvraj Singh.

Next India withstood an assault with the bat as brutal yet starkly beautiful as any, launched by Sri Lankan Master Blaster Sanath Jayasurya. Surviving Jayasurya’s incandescent innings, singed but unburned, will do wonders for the Team’s confidence. As Ganguly and coach Wright have said many times, cricket is as much a game played in the mind as on the field. After this superb victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, in which lots of team members contributed their part, the Team will be looking forward to a re-match with Sri Lanka in the finals.

A first inkling of the return of the old self belief was actually seen in the previous game, where despite being quite rusty in all their disciplines, and maybe a touch arrogant or complacent, not to mention a bit lost without their seventh batsman, the Team battled back from the brink of elimination to force their opponents to concede a bonus point and thus prevented their own early exit from the tournament.

This same battling attitude was then exhibited in the win over Sri Lanka that has now assured Team India a place in the Finals. Slowly but surely the Old Magic is returning. The Asia Cup is within their grasp and Indian fans would ardently wish that their Team returns with it for the 5th time in the last two decades.

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