India Complete A Memorable Series Win Against Pakistan.
India chased successfully again in the last game of the 5-match series against Pakistan to win the series 4-1. This is our thirteenth consecutive successful chase and we are now only one short of the record set by West Indies in the mid-1980s. We also move into joint third position (with New Zealand) in the official ICC One-Day rankings. More importantly than these statistics, this victory represents a sea change in the attitude of the Indian team and a willingness to work hard and show lot of discipline. Naturally there are a number of positives that we can take home from this series.
Firstly, we showed remarkable resilience after a depressing defeat in the final test in Karachi and truly out-classed Pakistan. After a close defeat in the first match, we bounced back with much improved bowling performance. Indeed, that is one of the biggest gains for us. Our bowlers performed lot better than anyone expected, and easily bettered their Pakistani counterparts. For instance, we got 43 Pakistani wickets to the 25 wickets we conceded to Pakistani bowlers. We scored 1335 runs in 219.3 overs (a run rate of 6.08) to Pakistan's 1311 in 238.1 overs (a run rate of 5.51).
Perhaps the most satisfactory development for the Indian fans is the emergence of Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the new stars of Indian cricket. Yuvraj was always considered a special talent, but this series marks a turning point in his career. The ability and temperament he showed (particularly in the third and final matches, when he shifted into an anchoring mode after Dhoni arrived) are exemplary. No words can adequately describe the influence of Dhoni on this Indian team. An average of 53.95 at a strike rate of of 108.73 (not to mention a Test average of 46.85) attest to the fact that he is a player of highest class. With his keeping also making rapid improvements, he is set to go down as the greatest wicket-keeper/batsman to represent India. At 24, these two players are the future of Indian cricket and one can see them forming the backbone of the team in years to come.
Another heartening feature about these two guys is the great camaraderie that is apparent between them. They are already showing a great partnership on the field (in the third and final games, their match-winning partnerships amounted to 248 runs in 177 balls). In addition to that there is an almost kiddish-exuberance to their regard for each other. Dhoni, when complimented on his innings, remarked that all credit must go to Yuvi [Yuvraj], and he turned to him and said "Thank you, Yuvi, thank you for the great win". And Yuvraj, on receiving the highly deserved Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards, duly gave all the credit to Dhoni. "When Dhoni comes to bat, I just decide to give the strike to him. For me, he is the Man of the Series and he is the Man of the Match."
A word must also be said about the role of Sachin Tendulkar in this victory. His tally of 237 (100, 42, 95 and 0) showed that he still can contribute a lot to Indian cricket. His 95 in the third game at Lahore was a gem and was the foundation for the eventual win. It was sad to see many irresponsible comments in the media after the test series, but he answered his critics emphatically with his batting. He is showing signs of his best, and many sides will feel his force yet. It was a memorable incident in the dying moments of final game when Sachin came up to Yuvraj and Dhoni with drinks and gloves and gave them some instructions. As Waqar Younis commented, he must be the most experienced twelfth man in cricket. That scene symbolized the smooth transformation that is taking place in this Indian team.
Much as the Indians played well, they were helped considerably by the ineptitude of the Pakistanis. Their batting never really took off, their bowling disappointing to say the least. But, as Inzamam said, it was the outrageous fielding which was the crucial difference between the teams. Indeed, their fielding was hardly fitting at this level, failing to stop even routine balls near the boundary on a number of occasions. Pakistan have a lot to ponder about, and need to considerably improve their spirits to compete well in Sri Lanka. They can take a leaf out of their Under-19 team who defeated India in the world cup final in Colombo.
As for India, they now go back home to play three Tests and seven One-Days against England, and they must be raring to go.