Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara wore distinctly different expressions at the end of India's 3-1 series win at Baroda. Lara, usually eloquent and warm, seemed hurried and just about ready to leave as soon as he arrived. Dravid, normally cagey and defensive, was relaxed and cracking jokes. But both sang from the same hymn sheet when asked about Sachin Tendulkar's innings.
"We were not unduly worried about Sachin. Maybe everyone else can stop worrying now so we can have a bit of peace around. But what will we discuss then?" said Dravid, eliciting laughter from the press corps. "It was a great innings. Sachin showed why he is a great player, why he can play in different conditions, why he can adapt. Not many people in the world can do this. If you have players who can do this sort of thing, you're going to win a lot of games, no doubt about it. Sachin's innings was truly special and one of the best I've seen from him." Lara was no different. "Another very good innings. We all know what he's capable of. I am not surprised, maybe you are," he said. "He's capable of producing innings like that every now and then."
But from there on, there was little similarity in what the two captains had to say. Lara acknowledged that his team had been comprehensively outplayed on the day. "It was complete domination but I wouldn't say it was a lack of fight from West Indies," he said. "I thought the Indians just played much better. They deserve the win. Their performance was outstanding with the bat and in the field as well."
Lara also stood by his decision to put India in, explaining it by saying, "There was nothing wrong with the decision to field. It was the same decision as the one in Madras [Chennai]. There was nothing very different about this pitch. We gave away too many runs and when it was our turn lost too many wickets. India batted pretty well and things didn't work out for us in the first half. After they had a good foundation the likes of Dhoni and Tendulkar could accelerate in the end. We started poorly and didn't put the ball in the right areas. Uthappa got India off to a flier, scoring at 6-7 an over and this meant that there was no pressure on the guys who came after."
Dravid was just happy with the way the series had ended. "It's a really good way to win the series. It was a must-win game for us, to win the series," he said. "We were under a bit of pressure. That's good. We're going to play some pressure games that are must-win in the future. To come out and put in a performance like this was a tribute to the whole squad."
When asked if any players would be rested in the forthcoming matches against Sri Lanka, Dravid said, "Now we're coming to a stage where we have to pick our squad and play our best fifteen with an eye to the World Cup. Who plays in specific games depends on the conditions."
Before the start of this match there was plenty of interest in how Irfan Pathan would fare in his comeback. Seven overs for 43 runs was not exactly ideal, but Dravid was comfortable with the start that had been made. "I thought Pathan bowled quite well. He bowled in some good areas," said Dravid. "When he pitched it right he created a few problems for the batsmen. He has to get some more international bowling under his belt before we can make any judgments but the start was a good one."
Dravid was also happy with the way Yuvraj Singh was finding his feet on return from injury, and the manner in which he fielded. "He was exceptional, wasn't he? That's exactly what we wanted to see," said Dravid. "One of the goals in playing Yuvraj - who feels fit and fine - was to see this. What he needed was the confidence in a match to do the things he knows he can do and has done in the past. Under pressure of a game when a catch is there your instincts take over. He was brilliant."