Indian cricket is replete with numerous success stories. But never has Team India been gripped with the sort of amazing self-belief and intent, as exhibited by the current Virat Kohli- led one.
The common thread that ran through the first two One-Day Internationals, and the earlier Test series as well, was the conspicuous never-say-die attitude of the young as well as the experienced players of the team.
In the first ODI, India, chasing a mammoth 351, were reeling at 63 for 4 with seemingly no avenue for a comeback. Both the run-rate and wickets in hand were ranged against them. But skipper Kohli and the inexperienced Kedar Jadhav slammed brilliant tons to make light of the situation and rammed a massive psychological blow down the Englishmen’s throat.
Thursday’s showing at Cuttack was just as absolute. England sent India in to bat and plucked out the top three batsmen for a mere 25 runs. What made the situation particularly worrisome for the hosts was the loss of their best batsman, Kohli, and the adverse impact it could have had on the morale of the rest of the team. He was the man in form and could have been expected to help India amass a really huge total to off-set the disadvantage of bowling second when dew could play a huge factor in defending a total.
But like in the first ODI at Pune, the team simply refused to buckle in the face of overwhelming odds. At hand were two of India's most seasoned ODI campaigners, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. They had been part of many struggles, partnerships, and victories.
Apart from that, both had a point to prove. Yuvraj had not scored an ODI ton since the 2011 World Cup knock of 113 against the West Indies in Chennai. Dhoni’s last ton had been an unbeaten 139 in a losing cause against Australia in Mohali in 2013.
The duo not only had to prove that they were relevant in the current team management’s scheme of things, but also show that they were as much a part of the changed mindset in the squad.
They chose different paths to achieve the same result. Yuvraj, always a delightful timer of the ball, showed his power and grace in working the ball off his legs and pulling at every opportunity. These shots were cleanly struck and raced to the fence with a frequency that ensured that the scoring rate was always encouraging, the loss of three early wickets notwithstanding.
At the other end, Dhoni played himself in superbly. He eschewed risks and concentrated in nudging the ball around and giving the strike back to Yuvraj. So much so that in the first 100 runs of their partnership Dhoni’s contribution was a mere 26.
But as he got his eye in, feet moving and with the team in a relatively better position, Dhoni accelerated in telling fashion. He contributed most of the runs, 52 to be precise, in the second 100 runs of the partnership. By now India were positively cruising.
The 256-run fourth wicket stand between the battle-scarred professionals was punctuated by vintage batsmanship. Yuvraj (150; 127b, 21x4, 3x6) and Dhoni (134; 122b, 10x4, 6x6) literally provided a practical masterclass in resurrecting an innings.
The pounding they subjected the England bowlers to on this flat track and small outfield was a terrific essay on absorbing pressure and then gradually turning it around against the opponents.
A total of 381 for 6 from a precarious 25 for 3 was a stunning turnaround. However, in England’s defence it must be pointed out that they never lost hope in the chase.
They had seen India pulling it off in Pune and hoped to emulate them here. Skipper Eon Morgan, who has quite a bit of IPL experience, put it to good use with a sparkling century. Others, Jason Roy (82), Joe Root (54) and Moen Ali (55) too chipped in. But the twin blows by Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin that got rid of Roy and Ben Stokes within the space of three runs derailed the fightback.
Jadeja bowled a tight length and line while Bhuvaneshwar Kumar was good in patches. But it was the three dismissals by Ashwin, of Root, Stokes and Jos Butler which left Morgan high and dry.
Still, a reply of 366 was outstanding under the circumstances and would have given England heart for the final ODI and the three T20 matches to follow.
But India’s bravehearts who have made every post a winning one this season, will be at hand to further enhance their reputation as never-say-die warriors.
Updated Date: Jan 20, 2017 09:55:50 IST