As the young fans stood in a queue,flipping pages of their autograph books to see if they had enough pages left,their excitement was not an indication of the interest in this low-profile one-day series but in Mahendra Singh Dhonis Indian cricket team.
Going into the last match on Sunday,they are in a position where every game is an opportunity to set the bar higher after already having set an Indian record by winning nine ODIs in a row. Though the team dont have an array of stars like Sunil Gavaskar,Kapil Dev,Mohammad Azharrudin,Anil Kumble,Sourav Ganguly or Rahul Dravid,names such as Gautam Gambhir,Virender Sehwag,Yuvraj Singh,Dhoni and Zaheer Khan are now starting to command an aura of their own.
One of the main reasons why this is the best Indian team is because we enjoy each others success. We are like a family, said fast bowler Ishant Sharma on Saturday. Even when we lose,or when someone does badly,we dont point fingers at each other. There is no sense of insecurity among the players,and no one plays for himself but for the team, he added.
For example,he said,Suresh Raina could have held on to the strike and completed a 50 in the fourth one-dayer,or Dhoni could have slowed down and reached his century. When asked about the mind-set,Dhoni said: There was a ball change in the 34th over and we had to take the second powerplay as well,so one of the batsmen had to capitalise. As captain,I decided to take the initiative to go after the bowling,but I got out on 94.
Sense of security
Opener Gambhir,now the teams most reliable batsman,said the main reason for his golden run has been a sense of security provided by the skipper and coach Gary Kirsten.
Im much more relaxed. Once you feel secure of your place in the side,and know that one or two failures are not going to make much difference,you feel a lot more confident. Its going to be a fantastic achivement if we can make it 5-0. You want to be a part of history. Winning 4-0 is not enough. When you go onto the field you go to win. Great teams are those who dont let up, he said,making Indias intentions clear for Sundays day-match.
One-day cricket is all about the start with the bat and the ball and this Indian team has forged potentially dangerous partnerships with both. Sehwag,Sachin Tendulkar and Gambhir with the bat,and Zaheer,Ishant,and Praveen Kumar with the ball. And then there are players such as Yuvraj,Dhoni and Raina in the middle-order,along with plenty of makeshift bowling options. The pieces of jigsaw have all started to fit in nicely.
Even Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan had words of admiration for how the Indians have shaped up. One of the reasons why this team is doing so well is because they have confidence. That was the case with the Australian team that won so many matches in a row as well. India have just had a landslide 5-0 win against England,so theyre feeling good and playing without the fear or failure.
On Sunday,India will make two changes to their side,with Lakshmipathy Balaji set to make his return into the XI three years after his last match at the same venue,and Yuvraj Singh will sit out for Tendulkar. The hot weather will be of concern for the Indian team,but Sri Lanka will just be concerned about avoiding a whitewash.