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Rock, rock, rock it again by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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It has taken two short of a couple of decades to achieve this distinction. It has taken years of misgivings, mistakes, shortcomings and shortchanges before the final mix was prepared and ready. It has taken years of toil, effort and teamwork to finally rock the infamy over. This team certainly stands over the rest that has ever worn a crest emblemed cap, for it has certainly accomplished the deed that lured the public ever since India started to compete at the international level - beating the enemy in its own backyard convincingly and comprehensively. Pales before this distinction, the processions that carried burning effigies of the senior members, when they failed, the arm chair critics who shot off their mouths and wielded their pens, tearing through the team, even for their natural and inevitable mistakes and finally the lingering doubt that this team could be THE ONE that would go down as the true dream team in the annals of the Indian cricket history.

Look at the leader before you at the team, quoted an erstwhile famous cricketer. Haughty, brash, opinionated, impulsive, arrogant, volatile and fragile are just some of the adjectives that come to mind when the image of Saurav Ganguly flashes in the mind, especially when the going is getting tough and the image of locked brow captain shouting at his troops, in the veil of commandeering it, is displayed on the television monitors. Aggressive, demanding, uncompromising, result-oriented, ruthless are just some of the adjectives that appear on the other side of the coin, when the every move and every tactic that he makes and he takes seems to pay off and yield rich dividends. Whatever quality one would attribute Ganguly to or whatever adjective one would associate
Ganguly with, he remains as the one of the finest captain that India has ever produced - the most winning this and the most prolific that statistics aside. Raw, animal hunger for a real brutal win seemed to replace the nice gentlemanly goal yearning for an earnest victory, which has by far plagued the Indian cricket team before he took over. If what it took for a win were a sharp look over a fumbled attempt, a profanity laden yell at a bumbling comrade - irrespective of the meritocracy or seniority, the boiling over aggression and the ultimate drive to excel - the proverbial Indian captain steered clear of the above and remained waiting on the sidelines patiently, for fate to call out his name and award him the highest honor. Enter Ganguly who has meager respect for authority and short temper for a patient turn. Opportunities were seized, rules were trampled, and traditions were side-stepped and destiny was created.

It was so not long ago when a baby face cricketer slogged Abdul Qadir to successive sixers and plundered 24 runs in a single over, to announce his arrival to international cricket in a loud and a clear voice - with his bat doing all the talking. Soon before his knowing, the Indian team became synonymous with his name and his successes and failures dictated the fluctuating fortunes and unfortunate fate of the team single-handedly. The work horse slogged at every department of the game, trying to desperately change the fate and fortune of the team, seldom with succeeding efforts. He drove, he cut, he pulled, he glided, he turned, he twisted, he tweaked, he zipped, he fell, he run - but the collective fate of the team could not have changed with a single minded dedication of a puny looking person. Success eluded him while statistics held his name high. It was like having the ability to change everything but his fate. It was pretty ironic and quite fitting that India re-wrote its fate, turning over a new leaf, leasing a new life, in the same soil that Sachin Tendulkar debuted 15 years ago.

The rag tag band that was assembled consisted of Rahul Dravid who was declared unfit for one day play, VVS Laxman whose confidence might have been dented beyond repair by repeated walks in and out the team, Virendar Sehwag who was considered to have no technique whatsoever, Kumble - the non-turning tweaker whose charm and spell did not extend beyond the country's boundaries, the pace bowlers, who were only marginally faster than Kumble but fell way behind the international standards dictating speed and pace, the fielding, which was clean and tidy at best. All the elements fell right in place, when all the non-performers and under-achievers would be groomed and ironed out, for that big finale. Recounted right, the path that the Indian team has taken, would make a great inspirational tale, if not an exciting movie script. Times were when, the idea of a foreign coach, a physio-therapist, a psychologist were laughed at, and all that the team got were job-jugglers, who were both manager and coach, physio-therapist (read, Iodex master) and nutritionist, travel arranger and batting coach and the like. The transition from that period to the current times, when the question that rages is not whether there should be a bowling coach but who, is remarkable in regard to the attitude of the BCCI to support the team, in case of need and back the team up with solid deeds (contracts), which was a far cry from yester years, when the relationship between the board and the players were lukewarm at best.

When it happens once, it is a flash; when it happens twice, it is luck; when it happens thrice, the run is a fluke, and when it starts happening over and over again, it is much more than flash, luck and fluke put together, like it is meant to be. It is a payoff that was long overdue and it is a great yield that is ripe for harvest. It tows the line of "what we sow is what we reap".

By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

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Tour full of negatives
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