The tide has at last turned for India. Taking a 3-0 lead in the Sahara Cup, they can finally take home a series Cup for their cupboard. This has been their first ODI tournament victory since last year's Titan Cup. Tendulkar must be a happy man, at last. And he knows that he owes it mostly to his bowlers who performed wonderfully in these three matches.
India entered this tourney apprehensive and cautious. They had lost too many matches, whether ODIs or Tests and they didn't know what to expect of this tournament. Pakistan was without the services of their main strike bowlers Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed. But they still had an extremely good batting line-up. India, on the other hand, was minus Prasad, Srinath and Kumble and that meant that they had completely new bowlers like Harvinder Singh and Debashish Mohanty for their bowling attack. Nevertheless, they had to experiment as they didn't have any other choice. And so they went for it.
In the first match, India scored a modest total of 208 and then set out to defend. The debutant bowlers, Singh and Mohanty were full of enthusiasm and bowled "beeyootifooly" as Geoffrey Boycott said, and before India knew it, they had won a thriller of a match by 20 runs. Already their morale had improved and they looked forward to the second match. This time on the field first on a difficult pitch, the Indian bowlers bowled with all cylinders firing and reduced the strong Pakistan batting lineup to 116 all out.... an amazing performance by the bowlers. India won that match in style by 7 wickets, taking a 2-0 lead in the series with 3 more matches to go.
Now Pakistan were under pressure as they had to win the remaining three matches to retain the Sahara Cup. They batted in the first in the third match and this seemed to be a whole new Pakistan side. Afridi and Anwar batted very sensibly, the latter going ahead to score 73* when the rain gods decided to show their mercy on the Indians. It never stopped raining and the match was abandoned. For once, India were saved by the rain-gods. Had they lost that match, their morale would have sunk low and the Pakistanis are very capable of fighting back.
The next day, the match was replayed. It was an amazing day's cricket. Sent in the bat, India scored a mere 182 runs in 50 overs. Pakistan then got off to a flying start, by reaching 59 in the first 10 overs for the loss of just one wicket. But then after the loss of Rameez Raja's wicket to a poor shot, the rest of the batting followed suit. Wickets just began to tumble at regular intervals. Ganguly ended up with 5 wickets in the match, his career best figures that won him the Man of the Match award. By some strange turn of fortune, India won the Sahara Cup in a match that seemed to be totally one-sided, until the Pakistani batsmen fell to poor shots.
The jubilation on the faces of the members of the Indian team was overwhelming. Noticeable among them was Tendulkar's. He somehow seemed to have sorted out the pressures of captaincy, though he has yet to work on his own batting, and he seemed to enjoy the job once more. The sight of the team rejoicing reminded everyone, I think, of their Titan Cup victory, where they beat the formidable South Africe in a splendid performance. Nearly a year after that, they have finally won an ODI tournament. This just shows that if a team has the will to win, they will do it, no matter the odds against them. One hopes that the Indian team has finally learnt to believe in themselves. A tournament victory for them was long overdue. And they have begun to balance their account.