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Winning is a habit, says Ganguly

By S. Dinakar


RAWALPINDI, APRIL 17. The morning after a memorable triumph is always special. The sweet memories of the day gone by are still fresh and a sense of achievement invariably puts a smile on the faces of the players. The Indian cricketers were emotional in their reaction to a historic Test series victory in Pakistan at the Pindi cricket ground.

The side got together on Friday evening for a team meeting, its last one of a memorable tour, where the team-members congratulated each other, before departing for an official dinner. On Saturday the Indian cricketers, mobbed wherever they travelled, completed some last minute shopping.

Among the shoppers was skipper Sourav Ganguly.

"It is a great victory because of the way we fought, both in the Tests and the ODIs. We were able to pick ourselves up just when it mattered,'' said the Indian captain.

He was delighted that the side was finally able to finish things off at the business end of an away Test series. "Winning is a habit and is about confidence. We have the confidence and are winning. I hope we continue in this fashion.''

Vice-captain Rahul Dravid had a hectic time, posing for pictures with kids, signing autographs and settling his hotel bills. "Years from now when we look back at this day we would still cherish it and probably realise its significance even more,'' he said.

His epic 270 in the third Test had been the foundation on which the Indian victory was built. "It (this knock) is right up there with the very best of my innings. It is a nice feeling when you contribute to a historic win. This tour of Pakistan has been very special.''

This is the first away Test series win Dravid has been involved in and he said, "It took a little while coming but the manner in which the side was performing in the away campaigns, the kind of effort the team put in, it was only a matter of time.''

Indian coach John Wright honoured a promise to the owner of the carpet shop in the team hotel — that he would part with a couple of India jerseys. "It's historic. A great team effort, the batters backing the bowlers,'' he said.

In his quiet fashion, Wright, as the side's video analyst S. Ramakrishan put it, has managed to change the `thought process' of the Indian team. And the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary, S.K. Nair, said, "Cricket was the biggest winner in the series. The series has brought the people of both the countries together.''

Sachin Tendulkar, mobbed every step of the way, put it in simple words, "it's one of the best moments of my career.'' Considering how eventful his career has been, it places the series triumph way up the ladder.

Like Tendulkar, Anil Kumble was part of the last Indian team that clinched a Test series on foreign soil - in Sri Lanka in 1993. And he had bowled magnificently in both Sri Lanka then and Pakistan now, where with 15, he has emerged the highest wicket-taker in the series. "I was at the beginning of my career then. That was a good Lankan side and I still remember the triumph. I am happy to have played a part this time too. The batsmen put runs on the board, the young pacemen bowled extremely well and I contributed. This is a more satisfying moment for me than my 10-wicket innings haul against Pakistan at the Kotla. One is always charged up while playing Pakistan. There is so much history to the series,'' said the genial man.

The Man of the Series award is a feather in Virender Sehwag's cap. "There are so many seniors in the side who have waited for such a long time for this to happen (away series win), and I am fortunate that I, who have played Test cricket for only two years now, have seen this moment. The whole team is happy. We celebrated and danced. Actually it has still not sunk in.''

The young pair of L. Balaji and Irfan Pathan has been a key element of the Indian victory, bowling with great heart and striking timely blows. Said Balaji, even as he packed his luggage in the hotel room, "It is wonderful to be a part of history. There was great support for me from my teammates and that helped. Actually one of my dreams when I started my career was to register a five-wicket Test haul in Pakistan. I just fell short of it here, but India's win made up for it.''

The paceman was pleased that he was now being able to take the ball away from the right-hander consistently. He snared Inzamam-ul-Haq in the second innings of the third Test with one such delivery. "It was my most memorable wicket in the Test series. He is a big innings player.''

And Pathan, before he took off to buy some DVDs, said, "This win has been inspiring for all of us. Bala (Balaji) and I have been bowling together since our India `A' days and we combined well. I was happy that I bowled to a good rhythm. The wicket of Inzamam in the second Test was most satisfying.''

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