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April 27, 1999


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India's tail is up now; England please note

Sanjay Manjrekar

Saurav Ganguly, to my mind, is the second most gifted player in the Indian side. We all know who is the most. His knock at Taunton was one of the greatest one-day innings you'll ever get to see. People who watched it were privileged.

Individual brilliance has been the hallmark of Indian cricket and Indian victories. Players with their brilliance have conjured up victory. Today was just one such day. It came about because of Ganguly and Rahul Dravid. It was incredible to see them go about their task in the manner in which they went about today. It was a critical game, the penultimate in the league, against Sri Lanka, and both batted brilliantly. It took two incredible knocks to see India through.

One could sense the tension in the air while arriving at the Somerset county ground. Two Asian teams playing against each other, under immense pressure of staying alive in the tournament. Also, two captains with their heads on the block and answerable to the fanatical expectations of millions of their countrymen. Such is the significance of the World Cup.

Round one of the match-up went to Arjuna Ranatunga, when he won what looked like an important toss. All the rounds thereafter went to Mohammad Azharuddin. Three hundred and seventy-three runs in 50 overs at lunch time. The second highest score ever made in a one-day international in the World Cup. Something that you only dream of. But it became a reality at lunch break.

It was quite obvious that the Lankans would have to contend with a buoyant, charged up, Indian team, waiting out after the interval. The target, 374, was always going to be near-impossible for the defending champions, especially when they are having a nightmare of a World Cup. What's more, all the big guns are now a little rusty. So, it wasn't surprising to see the Indians leave Taunton celebrating after this big win, fashioned only by the brilliance of Ganguly and Dravid.

Ganguly is now the proud holder of the highest one-day score by an Indian, and the third highest ever made in limited overs cricket. The man, who, till date, was the second highest one-day scorer in the World Cup, Viv Richards, was sitting next to us waiting for Ganguly to achieve the landmark. Most of us cricketers who saw Ganguly play before he played for India were struck by the extraordinary talent this young man has. It was only his approach to the game that baffled us. For a cricketer so naturally gifted, his mental conditioning was disappointing. He connected all that in this very country, in England, three years back. He hasn't looked back since. His attitude to the game these days is admirable. Today, even the man himself will be enlightened as to what he is capable of when that talent he has is put to good use.

It was a feast of batting for all those who were watching the Prince of Calcutta in action this morning. It is not the time to forget Rahul Dravid once again. The way he started off the innings, it looked pretty clear that here is a man in supreme form and making the most of it. It is this admirable quality of this honest, committed batsman from Bangalore. When he is playing for his team, he'd like to think that he has given nothing less than his best. His consistency and excellence in one-day cricket in recent times is going to be one of India's strengths in this World Cup.

It was nice to see India score 373 runs and to know that Sachin Tendulkar scored only two of these. It augurs well for the future for this team. I have always maintained an Indian team with its tail up is a very dangerious side. Their tail is now up. England please note.

By scoring in excess of 300 runs in both the last two games, the Indians have done their cause no harm at all. But if I was the Indian captain, I wouldn't want to look at the run-rate or the calculations. I would look at winning the game against England at Edgbaston and qualify on a clean slate for the Super Six round.

As so often has happened in the past, the Indian team yet again kept their fans on the toes and gave their best when all looked lost. The Indian team deserves to celebrate today, for today has been the first impressive performance in this tournament. They now go to Edgbaston with each member of the side now believing that they are good enough to beat the hosts, something they weren't quite sure until yesterday. That, more than anything, is the biggest gain from today' s match.

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Sanjay Manjrekar

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