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India wins the Future Cup
by Partab Ramchand
Jul 03, 2007
How much should one read into the 2-1 verdict that the Indians gained over the South Africans? How meritorious is it? Should it be rated as a commendable effort or one that should not be ranked very high? These are the questions that have surfaced following the three matches at Belfast.

These days with the growing number of ODIs being played, there is a tendency to dismiss victories notched up in these matches. The words ``special’’, ``significant’’ and ``notable’’ are rarely used while the most common phrase to describe such wins is ``routine.’’ But there is enough evidence to suggest that the series triumph over South Africa is something better than just routine.

The first thing going for it is the background. The Indians were a shell shocked side following the disastrous World Cup campaign. Events off the field did not help matters and the predictable happenings in Bangladesh - even if both the Test series and the ODIs were won – raised more questions. Playing South Africa is always a tough proposition and to take them on in this bleak scenario at a neutral venue was going to be even tougher. On top of that the Indians had to endure a flu epidemic and were in danger of not having eleven fit men on the eve of the second game of the three match series. Morale is bound to take a beating in these circumstances and it is to the credit of the team management and every member of the touring squad that they took the hurdle in their stride and emerged victorious – and after being a match down.

Oh yes, whichever way one looks at the result from the Indian viewpoint it has to be termed ``special’’, ``significant’’ or ``notable’’ And what about historic for it was for the first time that the Indians had won a bilateral series against South Africa outside India. It was also India’s first series win outside the sub continent since 2002 when they defeated England in the NatWest Series final. Little wonder that Rahul Dravid was ecstatic. ``Away from home, we haven't won a lot so it was nice to win this. It meant a lot to the team particularly as we have had a few disappointments lately. To win a one-day series against the No. 2 side in the world, away from home, in conditions that suited them rather than us, I’d say we acquitted ourselves very well. After the World Cup disappointment, we needed to regroup and get our confidence back. We have worked hard as a team and deserve all the success that comes our way. The preparation for the tour was not ideal but I'm really happy the way the boys put up their hands up and performed. They did not knuckle down under pressure.’’

Heady praise indeed from the skipper and why not? The ``boys in blue’’ were fully deserving of the accolades. Both the batting and bowling came off even though there are still some rough edges in the fielding that will have to be smoothened out. And with all due credit to the bowling it must be admitted that it was the batting that ultimately tilted the scales. India’s traditional strength is their batting and they proved it once again during the series. With a couple of 90s Sachin Tendulkar yet again underlined the fact that even though the over the hill process has started he is still invaluable to the line up. The steadiness is provided by the tried and trusted duo of Sourav Ganguly and Dravid while Dinesh Karthik can be relied upon to deliver the goods in the middle order. But the man of the moment is certainly Yuvraj Singh whose stature keeps growing with every series.

In a column last year I had predicted that he was going to be a vital cog in the wheel in future – perhaps even a proven match winner - and the manner in which he is shaping the pugnacious and prodigiously gifted left-hander promises to be the leader of the new generation that will obviously take over in a couple of year’s time when the present trio of Dravid, Ganguly and Tendulkar exit the stage. Tendulkar himself paid Yuvraj the highest compliment at the end of the matches. ``It is only because of Yuvraj that we are holding this trophy," he said. Tendulkar could not have put it better for despite his own two valuable knocks it was Yuvraj’s ability to finish off the job in a pressure cooker situation that clinched the series for India. Dravid was no less wholesome in his praise. "He's got the power, he's got the skill and he's matching that power and skill with temperament, mental strength and brains. That's a deadly combination. He is up there among the best one-day players in the world without a doubt."

So the Indians have won the battle. But the war lies ahead in England. Belfast may have provided pleasant memories but the tourists would do well to leave that behind and concentrate on the tougher tasks over the next two months. They should not rest on their laurels. They should carry the confidence derived from the latest triumph and strive to perform even better in both the Tests and ODIs in England. Michael Vaughan has already said that he expects the Indians to provide stiffer opposition than the West Indians and has asked his men to prepare accordingly. The Indians should likewise raise the level of their game, play above their potential and aim to win the Test series something that they have done only twice before on 14 tours of England.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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