Indian tough guys looking to world title

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly believes his 'soft-looking' team will assume the mantle of the world's best cricket side if it can take a series off Australia at home this summer

Indian captain Sourav Ganguly believes his "soft-looking" team will assume the mantle of the world's best cricket side if it can take a series off Australia at home this summer.
India, led by the iron-cast concentration of Rahul Dravid, stunned the world champions with its first win in Australia for 23 years, beating Steve Waugh's team by four wickets to lead the series 1-0 with two matches to play in Melbourne and Sydney.
Ganguly said his players, while looking "soft and gentle", had hearts and minds of steel as they showed in winning the second Test at Adelaide Oval from an almost impossible position.
Australia, normally the hard men of world cricket, now look increasingly brittle after two major batting collapses in this series and with a less than fearsome bowling attack.
Waugh admits it will be tough for his team to fight back from one down in his farewell series. "India did it to us in the last series over there in 2001 ... so there's no reason we can't do it - but it's a big ask."
While many would beg to differ and the International Cricket Council ratings will disagree, with India currently ranked sixth, Ganguly was adamant his team would take over Australia's Test No. 1 ranking if it can win the series.
"I said before that we're the second-best side in the world at the present but if we can win this series yes definitely we can [be regarded as No. 1]," Ganguly said.
He said his team wasn't about to capitulate from this position, warning Australia his men wouldn't be intimidated by the return of players like Brett Lee and, possibly, Glenn McGrath, before the end of the series. "There's some tough characters in this side. They may not look like it from outside, they may look soft and gentle but there are tough guys around like Laxman, Dravid, Agarkar, Sehwag - they're very tough characters."
Waugh refused to use the excuse of missing players even though Australia struggled without the injured Lee and McGrath and the suspended Shane Warne. Waugh said he would like to have those players in his team, "but that wasn't the case and we just had to get on with the job. You can always write that when certain guys aren't in the side we don't win but I think that's an easy line to take. I think we had the players to win."
Injuries to Brad Williams and Jason Gillespie also depleted the team but Waugh expected both to be fit for the Boxing Day Test.
India has now won three of its past four Tests against Australia and one of the keys is their consummate ability against legspin. But Waugh wouldn't be drawn on whether it was time to get rid of legspinner Stuart MacGill for the rest of the series. "That's up to the selectors ... but I thought Stu bowled really well. We were down a bowler in both innings and that put pressure on Stu because he had to bowl [constantly] from one end ... from my point of view I was happy with his performance."
Waugh paid tribute to the "outstanding concentration and magnificent technique" of Dravid, who batted for 14 hours in the Test match for scores of 233 and 72 not out, hitting the winning runs as India reached its target of 230 with four wickets to spare.
"It's very hard to come back after a big double hundred and score in the second innings," Waugh said. Once he gets in he's very hard to get out, he plays with a straight bat and outstanding technique."
Ganguly went further, saying "Dravid batted like God".
India, resuming at 0 for 37, needed a further 193 runs, and got there with a minimum of fuss and with thanks to a glaring dropped catch from Adam Gilchrist when Dravid was on 9.
Australia set defensive fields, strangling runs as they tried to choke India into errors.
Through the 40-degree heat and after being on the field for all but two hours of the five days, Dravid stood firm. After his chance to Gilchrist off Williams, his patience was impeccable. He knew that if he stayed at the crease the runs would eventually come. "I knew that if I was batting at the end we would win the game," Dravid said. "I tried to stay there as long as possible and tried not to get out and let the other guys bat around me."