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Sachin Carrying India To Historic Double Triumph

By Orin Davidson
Thanks mainly to a resurgence by the master Sachin Tendulkar, India is on the threshold of posting their most successful overseas tours in decades, if not ever.

Today it will conclude and Lords’ would’ve been ram-packed with Indians, if tickets were not pre sold long in advance. Not since the 2003 World Cup finals four years ago will so much be at stake for an Indian team, because victory would give them the series and cap a fantastic summer that began with their brilliant come-from-behind victory in the Tests.

Even before the limited overs series started people were saying the 1-0 Test triumph made the tour their best in years. It is because India has one of the worst touring records of all the established Test teams. That Test triumph was only their eighth overseas in 75 years of competition . They had not won in England in 21 years which was their first there and last year’s 1-0 decision was also only India’s second ever in the West Indies, the first recorded way back in 1971.

You can imagine why the euphoric feelings were still vibrating from Bombay to Birmingham after England was unable to tie the final Test this tour at the Oval.

After today those vibrations could rattle even the Taj Mahal as a victory in the seventh ODI game would give India a 4-3 come-from-behind triumph and a unique Test and one-day series double win that would rival that 2001 epic 2-1 Test defeat of Australia or the 1983 World Cup final triumph.

None more than Tendulkar has been mainly responsible for the current euphoria that has been build on consistent solid batting especially in the last two ODI’s that brought them back from a 1-3 hole.

By his standards, the Test series yielded moderate returns, but you could sense Tendulkar was gradually weaving away the cobwebs with the half centuries Trent Bridge and the Oval. And if umpire Simon Taufel had not delivered the second of two bloopers at Trent Bridge he sometimes wroughts on batsmen and bowlers, Tendulkar would’ve had a century to run his confidence higher.

Nevertheless the highest scorer ever in Limited Overs cricket, reeled off four more half centuries in six innings including one for 99 and another 94, without which , today’s decided could’ve been merely one of academic interest.

India made the sensible decision of having Tendulkar bat right at the top of the innings which gave their best batsman the opportunity to perform to his maximum.

It is a move West Indies wished they could’ve forced Brian Lara to do in all those One Dayers when he took the crease at number five.

England might not be the best one-day team out there, they actually finished fifth in the World Cup, but you cannot deny that India is a better one-day side than the one booted from the most prestigious competition around, in the first round.

Tendulkar has found his mettle, Ganguly, without the specter of Greg Chappell hovering over his shoulder, is back to his best one-day form, Dravid is his usual productive self, Robin Uthappa is getting there while Mahendra Dhoni is no longer at sea to the English conditions. But there is a prized find they have from this tour in the form of Piyush Chawla.

His off spin bowling has mesmerized many seasoned English batsmen, especially in the second ODI where the youngster made Kevin Pieterson look silly. Fresh out of the under-19 ranks Chawla is showing signs of becoming the next great Indian spinner the world has waited so long to see.

He was not needed in the Test series and not many selectors around the world would’ve introduced him to international competition in the shorter form of the game.

Yet he is shinning where Monty Panesar is struggling and you wonder how more dangerous he could’ve been was Chawla introduced earlier in the tour.

At Lords’, England will have a handful of problems, and with Flintoff, struggling, Steve Harmison still sticking to his retirement decision and no pace merchant to exploit Ganguly’s and the others’ weakness to pacy bumpers, one cannot see how they could avoid losing this decider.

You always go with the team on a roll and India is that one, even if the game is being staged at the headquarters of English cricket.

Shoaib Akhtar’s seems set to pack it in.

Given his long list of run-ins with officialdom, culminating with that positive drug test for the the steroid nandrolone, you would not expect Shoaib Akhtar getting into more hot water anytime soon.

How wrong we can be at times.

This occasion it was not a clash with the coach, or with the Pakistan Board, instead Shoaib exposed his volatility by assaulting his teammate Mohammed Asif that sent him packing from the Twenty20 World Cup.

Of all the players in the team you would least expect Akhtar and Asif to be at each other’s throats.

The two fast bowlers have endured such agony over the last six months after being exposed to the world as drug cheats and getting kicked out of the Champions Trophy and missing the World Cup, you would expect them bonded for life after getting their careers back on track without any major time loss.

At 32 .years of age, you get the impression Akhtar is feeling the effects of the stress of international competition greater now and is more prone to flip his lid more often than not.

This time he did not deny striking Asif on his leg with a bat in a dressing room scuffle and as such has left the team management in a quandary in acquiring a replacement, because the competition rules do not cater for such changes precipitated by disciplinary reasons.
"I'm human and made a mistake in the heat of the moment," Shoaib explained to the media. Asif said something to me that made me lose my temper. I apologized to him, but I was very upset," the fast bowler explained.

But this one seems a temper tantrum too many for the volatile Pakistani. It makes you want to think there was more in the mortar than in the pestle when it was alleged he hit the late coach Bob Woolmer during the team’s tour of England last year.

In most countries Akhtar’s career would’ve history by now but in Pakistan, politics determines almost everything. So far Akhtar faces an indefinite ban but that could change in a jiffy. If it doesn’t it will be sad to see one of Pakistan’s most exciting players end his career in a manner undeserving of his talent.
Orin Davidson Column Homepage


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