One can pull out the thesaurus and combine different adjectives to describe Sachin Tendulkar's 95 at the Gaddafi Stadium at Lahore, but nothing may convey the influence it had on the course of the run-chase. A buoyant Rahul Dravid, speaking at the post-match press conference, described Tendulkar's effort as "absolutely incredible" and went on to add that it was "one of his best innings".
"I think he assessed the situation beautifully," he said. "He realised there was something happening with the ball, realised we needed to keep wickets. The way he controlled the game, played positively without doing anything risky, was great to watch. He scored at a great pace on a difficult wicket in difficult conditions. I thought it was one of his best. There are so many he has played but this was really a special one."
Tendulkar's knock was one of the three main components of India's run-chase, with Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni complementing him admirably. "Sachin, Yuvraj and Dhoni all played critical parts in this win," he continued. "All three played different kinds of knocks in different stages. Yuvraj's maturity in stepping back, after playing positively initially, when he realised he needed to be there till the end shows that he's a very good cricketer. He's always been one and has had a lot of success in the one-day game. This tour has taken him to another level.
"Dhoni was outstanding too. It's terrific for someone new in international cricket to handle the pressure so well. He can adapt his game to the situation, knows what his team requires, and has got a good head on his shoulders. His performance over the last 6-8 months has been critical in our success."
Dhoni himself admitted felt that this was one of his best innings, putting it above his whirlwind maiden hundred at Vishakapatnam. "My 148 helped my team to win and it was at a crucial time. It was an opportunity to grab for me but the amount of pressure here was much more. This was a much better innings that way."
Dravid was candid when speaking about his decision at the toss and felt it didn't matter at the end of the day. "Even I was unsure about the toss because we're not used to the 11:00am start," he added. "Playing in the evening, we had doubts about the twilight period and whether we could sight the ball then. I don't think toss was that important. We were chasing well so we decided to field. The new ball helped in both innings so it didn't make too much of a difference."
While refusing to find fault with Pakistan, he thought his side had been the better on on the day. "I don't think there was any problem with Pakistan. They played well and their batsmen put on 288. I don't think there was any fault. We need to be given the credit for doing well."
What really heartened Dravid, though, was the improvement his side had shown in the last few months, winning 10 of their last 14 games. "Every game is different and we need to keep performing. Pakistan are not an easy team to beat at home and we need to play well to win. We're leading 2-1 and a couple of games to go. Irrespective of the results, the strides and progress we're taking as a ODI team is really heartening."
Pakistan vs India
India tour of Pakistan