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Saturday, February 07, 2009

India within striking distance of the ODI pinnacle

Thanks to the heroics in the ongoing ODI series in Sri Lanka, the Indian team is within striking distance of the No.1 spot in the ICC Rankings. They have replaced Australia at the No.2 spot thanks to the Kiwis win. How the mighty have fallen.

This has occurred not because of the performance in the current series alone. Over the last 1 year, the Indians have performed consistently in the ODI scene. They have accomplished the feat at the same time they replaced the seniors of ODI cricket in the team (Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble being some of the notable ones).

Gary Kirsten and his support staff have made a huge impact on the Indian team - they look so settled now. Obviously, the toss wins in Sri Lanka have given them a huge advantage but it is very important for any team to take the chances and win the matches convincingly. To give them due credit, one can argue that the umpiring decisions have also gone against the Indians (most of them have impacted the legendary Sachin Tendulkar). The Indians have taken these in their stride and have gone on to chalk out the most impressive wins of recent times.

Players like Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha have taken the next step in international cricket, proving that they belong to this level. The other strokemakers like Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh have shown consistency that was not their forte earlier. No words can describe the performances of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma. Overall, the Indian team is showing signs similar to the earlier Australian team.

Even in the previous series against England, the ruthlessness was visible in the Indian performance. The complacency that used to be part of the performance has disappeared altogether. Even though the fringe players have been given chances to perform, the overall balance of the team has not diminished a bit.

Couple of areas that the Indian team can look at include having a backup wicket-keeper. MS Dhoni has made such a big impact in the cricketing scene that none of the other available keepers are able to make any headway. This has made the Indian team play all matches with their captain, thereby not giving him enough rest. The other alternative is to take the tough option even when the toss is won - for example, in the next day-match in Sri Lanka, the Indians should bowl first so that the best conditions are not available to them. This way, they can prove their dominance in conditions that are not favorable to them.

Of course, luck has played a big part of the successes that MS and his team have achieved so far. How he fares when things go against him, will be interesting. On the basis of the performances so far, everyone is sure that MS and Gary Kirsten have the right answers.
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