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Javagal Srinath

Path to victory was not exactly rosy

December 18, 2003

The winning hours are naturally the most cherished moments in anybody's sports career. It would have been worth pledging my life to be a part of the Adelaide Oval Indian dressing room.

The atmosphere, I can well imagine sitting here, must have been electrifying, bottles of champagne flowing and words of appreciation and loud applause filling the sacred room. The subtle differences among the players, which sometimes keep building on such a long and arduous tour, vanish and players condone each other to form a much stronger, cohesive unit.

A series victory can only become a World Cup equivalent, but beating the world champions in their own backyard even in one Test is indeed a stupendous achievement.

The inspiration: V V S LaxmanThe hard-fought match had all the ingredients to go down in Test history as one of India's best wins abroad. The path to victory was not exactly rosy. The odds were against the Indians on several counts. They lost the toss, dropped catches, were denied decisions, lost quick wickets, but still the players showed great character and a tremendous sense of responsibility. They were resolute and resilient enough to come back into the game from the depths.

No one, including yours truly, dreamt of India forcing a result when they were tottering at 85 for 4 on the second day. I only prayed for another Rahul-Laxman partnership venture with the hope of saving the Test. Agarkar was the man who actually set the pace and made India think of winning the match.

Even chasing a moderate total like 230 on the last day of any Test match isn't easy. Teams more often than not fail to deliver in such circumstances, as it requires nerves of steel. But our batsmen batted with great responsibility to reach the target. Even the dismissals of Sachin and Sourav suggest how cautious they were in their approach in the second innings.

Rahul is undoubtedly the right choice for the man of the match, but Laxman remains the real character. He has certainly engineered the success of the team so far, especially against the Australians.

It all started for Laxman on the last tour of Australia in 1999-2000, when he scored a big hundred in Sydney. He continued to torment the Aussies when they came to India the next year. Ever since he has remained a thorn in the flesh of the mighty Australians. It is only true to say that the other batters have taken a leaf out of Laxman's capabilities.

It takes at least a few good years to make a world-class player at the international level. Rahul and Laxman also took their time to be labelled world-class batsmen. Both have contrasting styles. While Rahul is more of a perfectionist with an emphasis on technique, the Hyderabadi loves to operate with his magical wand and sheer elegance. Laxman makes batting look so simple, while Rahul just grinds it into the opponents. The common factor is their hunger to play and occupy the crease for long, which could be a lesson for any youngster.

Rahul doesn't seem a man who really sets a target in terms of runs, but would see to it that he stays for long hours. It automatically brings him runs in the end. This very approach of staying at the wicket for long hours makes him one of the best players in regulating the innings with controlled aggression. Test match batting is all about taming the bowling attack of the opponents. Rahul's game is powered by his mind. For Rahul, cricket is a game in which the mind has a bigger role to play over matter.

Ajit Agarkar, till this match, had always played second fiddle. Here, in the absence of Zaheer, he became the leader of the pack. The responsibility of being the strike bowler did wonders to him. Players can mature fast when entrusted with responsibility. On a flat wicket like Adelaide, he really made out a game out of nothing.

Ajit's six-wicket haul will give the much-needed impetus to his career from now on. I am extremely pleased to see him doing well. Now the Indian fast bowling department is only waiting for Ashish Nehra to join the party in full swing. I am confident they won't have to wait for too long.

The win was another feather in the cap of skipper Sourav Ganguly. His bowling changes were excellent. The masterstroke, however, was to bring Sachin on to get rid of Damien Martin and Steve Waugh, who could have become dangerous. The immediate introduction of Agarkar thereafter was another true indication of Ganguly's great captaincy.

Previous column: Write Sachin off at your own peril

Steve Waugh's column: We must take inspiration from Calcutta

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