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March 18, 2000
The Indians have won a series after a long time and the chief architect of the success is Sourav Ganguly in the dual role as captain and opening batsmen. He has played the role of an opening batsmen for some years and one with a pragmatic bent of mind can say that he did only what was expected of him in that role. One remarkable aspect is the way Ganguly has taken to captaincy, which has provided the much required turn around for the success starved Indians.
The openers held centre stage at Baroda in keeping with the trend of the one-day series. Gibbs and Kirsten once again provided a flying start and the manner in which they got the runs was impressive. For a change, Kirsten outscored Gibbs with some authoritative batting in the early stages. Srinath, returning after a break was rusty and the length he bowled helped the batsmen to a large extent to get quick runs. Surprisingly for an experienced campaigner like him, he did not adjust his length.
Joshi provided the break through when he trapped Gibbs and the umpire deserves to be appreciated for his decision. Kallis, the highly talented cricketer got precious runs for his side as the middle order crumbled around him though Cronje made a decent contribution. Kumble, ever reliable, ensured that the Springboks did not bat the Indians out with a superb spell. It is inexplicable as to why Robin Singh is being underbowled considering that someone like Dravid has been employed. Karim coming back into the side did a very commendable job behind the stumps.
Tendulkar and Ganguly would probably go down as the best opening pair in one-dayers after Haynes and Greenidge. They had to get going for the Indians to win and the assault they launched put their side on the path to victory. Ganguly is in supreme form at the moment and Tendulkar does not believe in failing for long. While the former missed his ton, the latter went on to complete yet another century. Tendulkar was determined to stay till the end but his dismissal to a full toss triggered off an astounding turn of events. Azharuddin and Jadeja were victims of Kallis' full tosses and the Indians found they were suddenly staring at defeat.
Robin Singh, that fighting cricketer, was the saviour for the Indians as he played till the end to ensure that the home team did not lose. Kluesner may well like to forget this game because the catch he dropped in the last over deprived the South Africans of almost pulling off a sensational victory. Karim's nerves were really tested on a day he should have been celebrating Id without a care in the world. Anyway, the victory would have added to the festive occasion not only to Karim but also to the entire nation.
It is heartening to see that Ganguly is not losing sight of the shortcomings of the team amidst success. In the past, victory normally suggested that everything is perfect and the mistakes surface only when the team loses. Ganguly, referred to as the "Prince of Calcutta" at the moment may well be re-crowned as the "Czar of Calcutta" if he carries on in the same vein, which will only enhance Indian cricket.