Zimbabwe in India, Feb-Mar 2002
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India won by 101 runs
India 333/6 (50 ov)
Zimbabwe 232 (42.1/48 ov)

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The writer in you

Stronger than ever
Vivek Gupta - 20 March 2002

Nobody would have expected this; l certainly didn’t. One hundred and twenty-one runs coming off the last 10 overs of the Indian innings! When was the last time we saw such a splendid display of batting from the Indian side, that too when there was no star power to cause such a flurry? I cannot even remember.

But what I do remember is that 333 runs in a one-day match is India’s fourth-highest total ever against any cricket-playing nation. It takes some fantastic effort to achieve such a feat, especially when the people responsible for this achievement are relative newcomers to the team. The two key players who helped India clinch the one-day series against Zimbabwe by winning the last match were Dinesh Mongia and Yuvraj Singh.

Yuvraj Singh has done a marvelous job of living up to the expectations of the Indian selectors. He has made all the difference in the two matches for which he was called up to wear the national colours. He can rest assured that he will also be called up to tour the West Indies.

But the man who took all the limelight away from Yuvraj right at the fag end of the series is Dinesh Mongia. Hitting India’s fourth-highest individual score after Sachin Tendulkar (186*), Sourav Ganguly (183) and Kapil Dev (175*), Dinesh Mongia has sent out a clear signal to skeptics and indeed the whole cricketing community that India can deliver goods even without the star players contributing heavily.

Mongia, a relative newcomer who had just 14 one-day internationals to his credit before coming into the last match of Zimbabwe’s tour of India, could not have imagined that the 15th international match of his career would produce one of the best innings of his cricketing career. Hailing from the land of five rivers, the newest recruit from Punjab displayed the wonders that mental toughness can do for a player’s performance. He batted out all 50 overs and never struggled to score runs. He paced his innings beautifully, and when it was required, he, along with Yuvraj, lashed out at the already struggling Zimbabwean bowlers to give them one of the worst thrashings of their lives. Surely even Mongia will find it hard to repeat such a display of brilliance.

The sudden surge of high-quality new batsmen into the Indian team has given a boost to the sagging fortunes of Indian cricket. Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and now Dinesh Mongia have made the already- strong batting department appear more formidable than ever. If these players keep up their levels of performance, it will force the already established batsmen of the team to consistently perform at par with the standards they had set for themselves in the past.

Batting has always been India's strength, and our team has four of the best batsmen in the world. But there have been times when the batting has been the cause of our failure to win matches. Our players have blissfully stayed away from the most essential element required in any sport to prosper - consistency.

If the Indians show some professionalism and application, things will really start looking up for Indian cricket. Also, if the whole side can actually learn to function as a "team," the batting line-up, which right now looks formidable on paper only, will actually become a force to reckon with in world cricket.

India unfortunately do not have a bowling line-up to complement the batting. But as long as at least one department of the team performs its duties diligently, and the team plays to its strengths, it will still do a world of good for the cause of Indian cricket. Let us hope that India have already embarked upon the journey to success with the latest victory.


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