After a 24 year draught, India have pulled it off convincingly against Pakistan at home. I had written earlier that this series involves two closely matched sides, but I have now been proved wrong. Pakistan pulled an India (from the 1990s) and India pulled off something that is almost unbecoming of an Indian cricket team: sealing a series before the final match. There’s still one match to go in the series, so I’ll save my thoughts on the entire series for after that.
Many things went into the record books for the Indians in the Gwalior ODI. First, 18 years to this very day, a boy who would become Master blaster Tendulkar set foot in the international cricket arena against the same opponent. Sourav Ganguly picked up his 100th ODI wicket in Afridi: not a bad 100th to get! Giving him company was Zaheer Khan who picked up his 200th. Captain Dhoni who hit the winning stroke for six has now done that for a record 5 times.
After all that, the Gwalior ODI will be remembered by most Indian fans for the blistering innings from Tendulkar; an innings that will shut his critics up for some time to come; an innings that should have gotten him his much sought after 42nd century. But sadly, for the sixth time this year, that was not to be. A fellow blogger called it Tendulkar-nineties and it remained that this time around also. Perhaps he should have listened to his son and gone for a six when on 94! Perhaps the problem is with the fact that he wants to get the ton on singles. I think that is part of the problem; until the 90s, he is blazing, but when in the nineties he seems to stop playing his natural game. That apart, this innings from Tendulkar proved one significant fact: this man is nowhere near retirement; he played strokes like a batsman in his prime. This one was definitely the finest Tendulkar innings I have seen so far.
Many things came together for India in the Gwalior ODI: the bowling was better, the fielding sharper and the chasing impressive with Yuvraj and Dhoni seeing India through. What would be more satisfying would be to give some members on the ODI-bench some time in the middle, esp Rohit Sharma and Sreesanth. One move that surprised me (one each for India and Pak) is the exclusion of Sreesanth and Imran Nazir from the playing eleven. It would be nice to see both of them play. The Indian line-up I would like to see is: Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sharma, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Uthappa, Sehwag, Pathan, R P Singh, Harbhajan, Sreesanth.
Will Pakistan save face or will India dominate? Jaipur will hold the answer.