India switches gears ahead of World Cup

2006 Apr 08 by DreamCricket

If Rahul Dravid can give India its first World Cup win since 1983, then all the defeats in Test matches will be forgiven.

India is the in-form team in ODIs with the start of the World Cup now less than 12 months away. The relative ease with which they have defeated England in the current series must give them tremendous confidence with the first target being the Champions Trophy in India in October.

Having made a sweep of the first four matches, a 7-0 verdict is now certainly on the cards. That would be a unique achievement, even against a side so obviously demoralized as England.

Public memory is short. In Pakistan earlier this year, one abysmal batting performance in the third and final Test saw the series being lost 1-0, only for India to come storming back to take the ODI series 4-1.

We are seeing an uncannily similar situation unfolding right now. The collapse on the final day of the third Test at Mumbai last month now appears a distant memory. The Test series was drawn 1-1 when the experts had predicted a clean sweep against a severely depleted England side.

Indian fans, given the choice would certainly prefer the team to win one-day matches rather than Tests. A lot can happen before the World Cup. But if Rahul Dravid can go one better than his predecessor Sourav Ganguly and give India its first title since 1983, then all the defeats in Test matches will no doubt be conveniently forgotten.

Comparisons are being drawn between the Ganguly/coach John Wright regime and the current one of Dravid and coach Greg Chappell. It is true that India won a Test (and ODI) series in Pakistan for the first time back in 2004 and drew 1-1 in both England and Australia.

But it also received defeats in the West Indies and New Zealand and all the good work of the first four years was erased by a miserable final season. Chappell’s propensity to experiment has its fair share of critics. It has done wonders in the one-day game but has not clicked in Test matches where such measures tend to unravel over a period of four to five days.

Certainly the strides made by Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina have been the most positive aspect of the current one-day series. Harbhajan Singh re-discovering his bowling touch is also a major plus-point as is the fielding which is the one aspect which has shown the most improvement since Ganguly’s departure. It is the captain who is supposed to set an example and thus lift the rest of the side in the field. This is where Ganguly was pretty woeful. The rapid improvement in fielding is due in no small measure to both the current captain and coach.

Nothing less than 7-0 will do this time around and it is up to the coach to ensure the motivation levels of the players do not flag. Chappell’s ruthlessness has not gone down well with his critics. But you can be sure that the mean streak he showed as a player and captain will come to the fore now when it is time to turn the screws on England.