India v England, 4th ODI, Kochi April 6, 2006

Dravid delighted with India's hot form

Rahul Dravid: 'We fielded was a satisfying way to win the series' © Getty Images
Even in victory, it was impossible to escape the sapping heat and humidity. As he sat down in front of a battery of cameras and microphones, Rahul Dravid requested that the antiquated pedestal fans be switched on. They were about as much use as a paper bag in a monsoon, but even the oppressive conditions couldn't dim the look of satisfaction on Dravid's face. Since being appointed one-day captain in his own right, as opposed to a seat-warmer, Dravid has piloted an impressive young side to 16 wins in 20 matches.

Today, they went where no team has ever gone before, with a 15th successful run-chase on the trot. For Dravid, who showed the way with a superb 65, the satisfaction went beyond numbers and records. "We've been under pressure at various times in this series," he said, "but we've always fought back. I thought we did really well to restrict them to 230 on a flat pitch. We fielded was a satisfying way to win the series."

As long as Kevin Pietersen had been in the middle, an Indian victory was far from being a foregone conclusion. Pietersen was still suffering from the after-effects of the stomach bug that kept him out of the Goa match, but he admitted that he was no stranger to such heat. "It was a warm day," he said. "But I can recall a few club games in Durban when it got pretty hot." Despite feeling less than his best, Pietersen suggested that missing the game wasn't even an option. "I hated lying in bed watching the Goa game," he said tersely. "But it was a bit of a struggle right the way through."

Dravid, who had held back the second Powerplay with Pietersen and Paul Collingwood piling on the runs, accepted that it had been a gamble that reaped the highest possible dividends. "Having played and batted here before, I know how hard it is to concentrate once you get to 60 or 70. With a player of his [Pietersen's] quality out there, I just held it back, hoping that he'd make the error when we went for it. But yes, it could have gone either way."

Kevin Pietersen didn't feel at his best, but still made 77 for England © Getty Images
Dravid rotated his slow bowlers expertly, and his faith in the part-time spin of Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh was amply justified. When asked about Sehwag and Mohammad Kaif continuing to struggle for runs, Dravid pointed instead at the positives. "There will be times when all your players don't perform," he said. "But Sehwag got us two wickets today, and Kaif is a fantastic fielder. They each contribute to the success of this team, and we'd like to give them chances in the next three games."

After the mid-innings wobble, India's pursuit of 238 was inspired by Yuvraj, who stroked a crisp 48 to continue the rich vein of form that has seen him average close to 100 in the last 15 games. "It started off with a century in Sri Lanka," said Yuvraj, when asked about turning the corner. "I've been playing for five-and-a-half years now. I've worked on my game, and how I think about it. You learn from your seniors, and you learn how to play in different situations."

While clearly unhappy about the nature of England's capitulation, Pietersen applauded India's efforts. "They're a good side. As soon as you got some momentum going against the pace bowlers, they had Harbhajan Singh coming on. And the other guy [Ramesh Powar]... he bowled well too. It's been a different sort of challenge."

After a season that started last July, Dravid was delighted to keep the momentum going, but there were also a few words of comfort for England. "It's hard to feel sympathy at the international level. We've been at the receiving end often enough. 4-0 may look easy, but they've played some good cricket at times. Even today, if they had made 270 or 280, we might have struggled.

"It's been a tough tour for them," he said, when asked about the injuries that have blighted the campaign. "They fought really hard in the Test series. Bombay was a big blow for us psychologically, and I'm proud of the way that we've come back from that." Recent Test defeats at Karachi and Mumbai were massive setbacks, but Dravid knows that the spectacular one-day renaissance - aided by some special young talent - is as good a starting point as any from which to build for the future.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo