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Gautam Gambhir has hailed offspinner R Ashwin as the find of the one-day series against New Zealand and praised the professionalism of his side after India beat the visitors by eight wickets in the fifth and final ODI in Chennai to sweep the series 5-0.
"Ashwin for sure was most impressive. He is a quality bowler even as we saw in the IPL, the way he bowled in the Powerplays ... If you have an offspinner who can bowl well in the Powerplays and slog overs, it can be a great asset for the team.
"I have always stressed that no one takes any match lightly when you are playing for your country. I think a lot of credit goes to young bunch as we didn't get complacent after clinching the series. That's what professionalism is all about and speaks a lot about your character."
Gambhir captained the team in the absence of MS Dhoni, who was rested for the one-dayers along with several senior players, and said it was a great sign for India that the reserve players had done so well. "It's a good thing that there is healthy competition and that can bring the best out of any player. You can never afford to be complacent at any stage because you know there is another one waiting in the wings."
India bowled New Zealand out for 103 on a turning track on which the spinners took seven wickets after the seamers had made early inroads "I think this is the first turning track we got and you don't expect the ball to turn and bounce so much in a one-dayer," Gambhir said. "So it was always difficult for them to bat because we have a lot of quality spinners in our side."
He also praised Yusuf Pathan, whose savage maiden ODI century carried India to victory in the fourth one-dayer in Bangalore, where they had to chase 316. "I have always felt that Yusuf is someone who has the talent to turn the game on its head. If you see the last game, he turned it completely. Given the situation, not many would have given us a chance to win the match, but he won it for us."
Despite the success against New Zealand, Gamhir cautioned that the team can expect a much tougher test in the 2011 World Cup, which will be played in the subcontinent. "There will be far more pressure and there will be a lot of expectations from us as well. If you really want to be No. 1 and you really want to sustain that position, you need to improve all the time."
One area where he felt the team could improve was their fielding. "If we compare ourselves to the New Zealanders, they were far more brilliant in the field. If we can improve as a fielding unit, we will be strong contenders for the World Cup as we have a very potent batting and bowling line-up."