Triumph of youthful belief and zest
Triumph of youthful belief and zest
Erapalli Prasanna - 14 July 2002

July 13th will always be remembered as a golden day in the annals of Indian cricket hence. Under clear blue skies and with Lord's bathed in golden sunshine, the Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly went down on his knees to kiss the hallowed turf after what could be termed as the greatest comeback win in one-day cricket history.

The eventual win had looked highly improbable when India had lost five of their top batsmen, including Sachin Tendulkar, with just 146 runs on the board in 24 overs. But thankfully Saturday was to witness a miraculous recovery by the Indians and an end to a blighted sequence of nine straight losses in the finals of multi- team limited overs tournament.

As far as I was concerned, the most satisfying aspect of this win was that the heroes were two young men, who refused to give up in the face of almost impossible odds, and went on to ensure that all of India rejoiced in sweet victory. Mohammad Kaif and Yuvraj Singh have indeed infused a new life into Indian cricket while also instilling a new-found belief in the millions of fans who support their team.

One of the best matches played at Lord's witnessed a deluge of runs - 651 runs were scored in a matter of 99.3 overs - in what turned out to be a summer treat for everyone present at the headquarters of world cricket, including even the prim and propah MCC members.

No one would have imagined at the start of the day that the fortunes of the battle royale would fluctuate so dramatically from one team to the other.

I was a bit bemused by the Indian management's decision to drop Ajit Agarkar, who it has to be said has had a brilliant tournament with the ball. It is another matter altogether that Harbhajan Singh, his replacement, contributed with the bat at the death. Had India lost the match, the decision to play two spinners would have definitely come in for some much-deserved criticism. There, however, is nothing like winning, and they could be forgiven this faux pas after a win of such incandescence.

England have been playing some smart cricket under the able leadership of Nasser Hussain. I have only deep respect for Hussain's leadership qualities; here is a man who has instilled a lot of character into the England team. His decision to bat first against an Indian side, which went in with just two medium- pacers, was by all counts right.

Having said that, Hussain disappointed with his decisions towards the closing stages of the game; the field placements were all awry and there was a certain complacency in his team's approach who it seemed almost expected India to buckle under the pressure of having to score 326 runs. In my opinion, Hussain, then, gifted India a memorable win.

This after Marcus Trescothick had ignited the England innings with a luminescent start in the morning. Trescothick, in my opinion, must rank right up there in the order of merit with the very best in the world. Along with Matthew Hayden, he must rank as the best opening batsman in business today.

He played an impeccable innings, not resorting even once to an unorthodox short on a placid track; there were runs to be scored and he showed how to get them in style without the slightest fuss. When you have efficiency, class and character blending like they did in Trescothick's innings, there is very little that bowlers can do.

In contrast to Trescothick, Hussain looked like a man who had dragged excess baggage with him into the middle. I was not amused by his antics after scoring his maiden ODI hundred - pointing his number three on the shirt to a few of his detractors. It was not a polished hundred by any stretch of the imagination.

The England captain wasted too many scoring opportunities by trying to play the reverse sweep. There is a time and place for everything; a big final at Lord's is simply not the place to try things out - that is what nets are for.

It is a completely different story that Andy Flower plays that stroke to perfection; the many indefatigable hours of practice that he put in has made Andy a master at it. I am sure that if Hussain had played sensible cricketing shots, England would have scored 20-odd runs more in the end. There were 59 dot balls in his innings and on a belter of a track that simply was unacceptable.

Coming to the Indian challenge, it threatened to vapourise after Ganguly and Sehwag had given their team a good start with some brave and innovative hitting. Yes, India has been playing some good cricket in England. But on the day of the big final, Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar were guilty of not applying themselves. Everyone knows that Tendulkar is a class batsman, and this makes it the more difficult for me to believe that someone like Giles actually gets the better of him in personal duels.

When it all looked dead and buried, the two young men - Kaif and Yuvraj - refused to accept defeat, a very positive attitude that might soon change the face of Indian cricket. We have seen so many times in the past, the Indian team folding up when victory is well within their grasp.

No words are enough to praise Kaif for a wonderful exhibition of batting; it was simply sublime, not one wild slog even when things looked so desperate. Yuvraj Singh also played yet another innings of character, taking his time to settle before opening out to punish the part-time bowlers.

The temperament, self-belief, natural talent and hunger for success that they displayed, makes these two guys real match- winners. I sincerely hope that the selectors take note of this and retain them for the Test series too.

Andrew Flintoff bowled very well in the end and almost gave England a realistic shot at victory. But Kaif put paid to his hopes; the Indian middle-order batsman kept a cool head and took his team to a sensational victory.

Great indeed as Kaif's and Yuvraj's contributions were, I cannot help remarking that Hussain made it easier for the duo by some strange field placements. Kaif was finding the ropes at mid- wicket with such ease and yet most of the fielders were on the off-side.

I am sure India will take the belief gained from this victory to the upcoming Test series. The morale must be sky high in the Indian camp, and they now have a real chance of upsetting England in the Test series. As the wise men have observed nothing succeeds like success. This indeed is the time for a whole nation to rejoice.