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A splendid team effort pays off
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 29 August 2002

The secret behind the Gordian Knot - or so the Greek scribes who kept tabs on it assure us - was that each of the individual fibres was so intricately bound up with the many others that it proved impossible to snap. Admittedly Alexander the Great did come along and sever it, but Alexander was purportedly hot stuff on the knot-cutting circuit, so ol' Gordian stood little chance.

India at Headingley over the last five days have so startlingly resembled the Gordian Knot that, in his grave, Alexander's hand must have been itching for a sword. In the past, India have been world champions at tying themselves into knots in Test matches abroad, but the contortions at Leeds were of a wholly different kind. Each individual player, in my opinion, played his guts out, and the team effort stood out like a neon-red Las Vegas sign on overdrive.

The result is there for all to see. India's best win overseas in 18 such victories also boosted Sourav Ganguly one notch up the ladder to top spot as India's winningest captain abroad. And Ganguly would have been hard-put to ask for a more memorable match as his fifth overseas triumph. Don Bradman favoured Leeds above many other English grounds, making two triple hundreds there, but even he would have said "Cor chase my Aunt Fanny up a gum tree!" on watching India's majestic run-glut in the first innings - assuming, of course, that Bradman had an Aunt Fanny and that he had a desire to tree her.

Nasser Hussain had, earlier in the series, professed his fear that the Indian middle-order would one day click at the same time, and that fear came true in full-blooded fury at Headingley. After Rahul Dravid notched up 148 of the best and brightest in his sanguine style, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly then cut loose. If the little Dutch boy of yore stopped the flood by plugging a hole in a dam with his thumb, Tendulkar and Ganguly not only snatched the little boy away but also brought jack- hammers to bear on the dam, letting loose a veritable flood of runs.

And then it was the bowlers' turn. In the past, the batsmen have usually charged ahead with weapons raised and full-throated animal cries while the bowlers have stood timidly at the back of the attack, feebly blowing on a tin whistle and waving a flag. Leeds was different. "O jolly K," said the bowlers to themselves, girded up their loins, and proceeded to script a famous win, bowling England out twice in slightly over two days.

Ganguly in particular must corner the praise market. Even leaving aside the century, he led decisively from the front, never letting up on England's batsmen in the field. For perhaps the first time abroad, Ganguly had a massive run buffer to allow him to attack, and he proceeded to do so gleefully, relishing the chance to position his foot squarely on the opposing team's windpipe.

His gamble of playing both spinners also paid off. England is about as hospitable to spinners as heaven is to lawyers, so it is particularly admirable that Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh picked 11 of the 20 wickets to fall. They have now enabled India to go for a historic series win in the final Test at the Oval. If the players pull that off, it will indeed be difficult for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to send a second- string side to the ICC Trophy. It may be too much to ask to shower the players with apes, ivory and peacocks, but surely an amicable resolution to the off-field controversy is not too much to ask.

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Other Articles by Krish Srikkanth