New Delhi: Behind the heat and dust generated by the England series, a silent but apparent transformation in the Indian team perhaps went unnoticed by many.
It could have been the culmination of a hush-hush experiment started in the backrooms a few months ago, or it could be just that Team India has finally arrived!
Maybe it started sometime before the Sri Lanka series and the England series was just a logical culmination.
Whatever it is, India is back to its winning ways in the one-dayers and no one is complaining.
Having convincingly won the last three ODI series against Pakistan on foreign turf and against Sri Lanka and England at home, Team India is riding high on an eclectic mix of experience and youth.
In a scenario where India is looking at making a cracking team for the World Cup next year, the spate of wins and that too while chasing is a big boost.
Under the astute leadership of Rahul Dravid, the boys in blue have convincingly matured into men in blue, positively boosting their chances of going into the World Cup armed to teeth with confidence.
After the much-publicised showdown between coach Greg Chappell and Sourav Ganguly and the alleged politics behind Ganguly’s ouster, the alliance between Rahul Dravid and Chappell has become much talked about.
They have tried experimenting with the team and bent rules to make way for a new order.
It has become a fad across sporting communities to axe ageing and ailing sportsmen from squads.
Chappell and Dravid steadfastly stuck to the ‘future holds the key’ dictum, despite initial cynicism from many quarters.
The chopping-changing routine did help and things fell into place.
Ailing and seemingly out-of-form players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were made to sit out and Team India marched towards victory against England.
If anything, the phenomenon worked in India’s favour and the stars in Indian victory have been the big four finds of the season – S Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina and Munaf Patel.
Former England captain Graham Gooch has put it in as many words.
Gooch, in a column he wrote recently, emphasised how a youngster comes into the Indian side and earns a place for himself. These young guns soon acquire “the halo of veterans” and Team India certainly doesn’t seem to miss a Tendulkar or a Sehwag as long as the going is good.
But the real test is yet to come. World Cup is around the corner and expectations are soaring. Team India will soon visit the venue West Indies for a crucial series.
Sachin Tendulkar has already opted out of the ODI series to be played there and the hostile Windies turf will be the real test of India’s newly-discovered talent mine.
But is it early days to hail the Men in Blue? Being the cricket-crazy nation that India is, the resounding public opinion is a big no.
However, to be a World Cup winner one cannot just take one big tournament seriously and let others be.
As Gooch points out, India may be reaching their peak a tad too early before the World Cup, and fears it may not be all that great a sign after all.
History has it that during the England tour in 1992, India maintained a continuous winning streak through the series, but flagged just ahead of the final game.
It could be plain bad luck or a serious case of fatigue. The fact remains that India need to maintain consistent performance and not let the exhaustion set in.
Can Team India survive the initial euphoria and live up to the soaring expectations? Can youngsters make up for the out-of-form, out-of-action veterans?
Tendulkar and the likes striking form in the nick of time can only boost India’s chances of claiming the world champion crown.
Will it happen? Well, your guess is as good as ours!
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