11 Years ago, on this day Sourav Ganguly’s boys entered the field to face 2 time world champions Australia. It was India’s best display at the world cup after the 1983 heroics. It was akin to the 1992 Pakistani team led by Imran Khan. Imran and Dada have a lot in common. Both were fighters and never gave up till the match is over and they laid the foundations for players who would be the pride of the nation for the next decade.
India was down with agony after the match fixing scandal, when the nation’s biggest star was implicated of match fixing. The captaincy position was offered to many players including Sachin who declined it politely because of obvious reasons. Destiny meant that Sourav Ganguly had to take over the reins at that time. John Wright was appointed the first foreign coach of Team India. Wright’s calmness perfectly complimented Dada’s aggression. It was the beginning of a fruitful partnership during which memorable victories were achieved. Wins, which included the epic series against Australia in 2001. Dada realized the way to go forward was to bring in youngsters into the team and back them. During this period lot of youngsters were tried out and Dada was able to identify the group of players whom he believed if backed would achieve laurels for the country.
The players identified by Dada were Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. Sehwag was an unorthodox batsman who didn’t exactly set the Ranji charts on fire, but Dada saw the spark in this young man and was tried for the No 7 spot. He hit some quick fire 40’s and 50’s and this is when Dada realized that Viru would be better opening the batting for team India. Thus was formed the legend of Virender Sehwag. He went from strength to strength and went onto redefine the role of openers in test matches.
Yuvraj Singh was an arrogant youth who had all the talent in the world, but was threatening to wander away. Dada identified the correct role for him as a finisher and he learnt the art of building an innings playing alongside Rahul Dravid. He was backed and was given the freedom to play his shots. He went on to become the biggest match winner India has produced apart from Sachin. He starred in the two world cup India won during this period.
Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh were raw, but nurtured by Dada. Post Kapil Dev and Anil Kumble, they went on to become the best fast bowler and the spinner all time. These were all players who formed the core of team for the next decade and were the primary reason Dhoni was able to lift the world cup on April 2, 2011. If we rewind 11 years earlier, Dada and his boys faced Ponting’s all conquering world 11. The youngsters were overawed by the occasion and even the wise old head Srinath couldn’t control a rampaging Ricky Ponting. Australia posted a huge score and the confidence of India took a beating once their star player Sachin Tendulkar departed to McGrath. Post that dismissal, the innings was just a mere formality barring Sehwag’s blitz. But the lesson was learnt and Dada’s world beaters did not let go the opportunity next time around.