Believe me, I have been a believer in Team India only after Mohammed Azharuddin departed as captain. That one event (and the concommitant dragging down of Manoj Prabhakar) turned me from being a non-believer into one that has faith in this team. It marked what was probably, in my view at least, the brightest spark in Indian cricket. The structuring of this current team (I am talking Test team here by the way) commenced at that point in time, in my view. It has then progressed through the captaincy of Sachin and Ganguly before it rests very comfortably in Dravid's shoulders.
Listen to Dravid's interview on Cricinfo and decide for yourself on the clarity of the thought process in this group. He clearly states, even amidst the euphoria surrounding the win, that there are areas where the team can improve. The team knows that the South Africans will be hungry and will come at them hard. They know they have areas to improve. They aren't getting carried away. They want to play a 2-day game prior to the second Test to iron out a few areas where it can improve.
It is such clarity of thought that convinces me that Team India is worth reposing faith in.
It is possible that India may still lose this series. It would be disappointing if that were to happen. But it could happen. The South africans will come back hard at India. But I believe there is a will to fight it out; a strength to guts it out; an ability to back it up with performances...
Ganguly (along with John Wright) taught this team pride and self-belief. Dravid (along with Greg Chappell) is providing them with collective steel and process-hygiene ("focus on the process and not the outcomes").
I have faith in them as a Test group. Yes, they will screw up every now and then. Yes, they won't score 95,965 runs every time they go out to bat. Yes, Saurav Ganguly will play a rash stroke and get out for 25. Yes, they will bowl out the opposition for "only" 84! Yes, they will never have either the fighting spirit or the energy of the Australian team. And every now and then, they will make a complete hash of things, as they did in Pakistan earlier this year in the Tests. But, more often than not, they will play their hearts out and play with pride. And that's enough for me!
Meanwhile, while I still remain a great fan of Ganguly (play with pride and play with spirit... a leader who has inspired his players to give off their best) Dravid is providing inspirational leadership in his own way:
- Dravid was there in a larger-than-life form when we won in Leeds (who can forget that memorable first day when he battled it out with Bangar?).
- He was there in Adelaide (if not for his double century, for his stupendous catch to get rid of Steve Waugh off Tendulkar).
- He architected our first win on Pakistan soil (he captained when Ganguly was injured and won that first test when the Sultan of Multan scored 309 and when, as captain, he declared the innings close when the master blaster was on 194!).
- He captained India's the first win in 35 years in West Indies (and played a great hand in it himself).
- And now, he has captained India's first win in RSA.