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  Saturday, 7 April, 2001, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
India's future looks bright
India: On a high despite losing the one-day series 3-2
Indian journalist Arjun Sandhu assesses their future prospects after a thrilling battle with Australia.

Indian cricket chiefs cannot believe their good fortune.

In the face of adversity - that's how the Australian challenge was perceived by a team lacking a quality bowling attack - a Test series victory and a closely fought one-day series was unexpected.

By standing up to the rampaging Aussies, Indian cricket has developed a healthy outlook.

A new crop of players set out to prove how 'aggro' had become the new buzzword in Indian cricket.

Steve Waugh had his first glimpse of India's young brigade in last year's ICC Cup in Kenya and he didn't like it.

Just six months after being mauled during a tour Down Under, India outplayed Australia in Nairobi.

New stars

Laxman played well in the Tests and one-dayers
Laxman's 281 in Calcutta was a brilliant innings

Reinforcing the fighting spirit was the first thing on skipper Sourav Ganguly's mind when he began his long-distance psychological warfare with Waugh before the Aussies boarded the flight to Mumbai.

India were no longer overawed by Australia, even if their confidence stemmed somewhat from the home conditions.

Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman and Harbhajan Singh were the real finds during the Test series.

Laxman's blazing knocks ensured he was no longer just another middle-order batsman content to play a supporting role to the star cast of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Ganguly.

There is now healthy competition in the Indian middle-order which will push them all to strive harder.

The stakes are high as the selectors may decide to play an extra bowler when leg-spinner Anil Kumble, presently sidelined following shoulder surgery, is fit to return.

In Kumble's absence, Harbhajan Singh proved that the Indian spin legacy lives on.

Harbhajan Singh celebrates a wicket
Singh exceeded even his own expectations

He was the match-winner with 32 wickets against an Australian side, who were found wanting against quality off-spin.

With Kumble and Harbhajan soon bowling in tandem, the Indian spin attack can again make batsmen dance to their tunes.

Battle of wills

Left-arm pacer Zaheer Khan's consistency in the Tests and one-dayers was a gain in the fast bowling department.

Opening batsman Shiv Sunder Das proved his potential against genuine pace, albeit not on the bouncy tracks he will encounter when touring overseas.

And in the one-dayers, all-rounders Hemang Badani and Virendra Sehwag illustrated how youth may have transformed the team by the time the 2003 World Cup in South Africa comes round.

Ganguly emerged as a worthy leader after the heavy defeat in the first Test and stood up to Australia's attempts at 'mental disintegration'.

India's young players were inspired by their skipper's attitude - he made few attempts to reign in his boys if they had a go back in reponse to 'sledging'.

Sourav ganguly sends Steve Waugh on his way
Ganguly held his own in the verbal exchanges

The Aussies were seething at his lack of courtesy. But Ganguly is unapologetic.

"Why the double standards?" he wondered.

"Anything they do is gamesmanship but if we do the same thing it's misbehaviour," said Ganguly, who was dubbed a "spoilt child" by the Australian media.

"We don't require a 'good conduct' certificate from the Australians."

The arrival of youngsters - several of whom graduated to the national ranks from the junior teams that won the under-15 and under-19 World Cups - has given Indian cricket a new look.

Accustomed to winning, these boys have a positive disposition and the battles with Australia can only make them stronger.

See also:

06 Apr 01 | India v Australia
06 Apr 01 | India v Australia
31 Mar 01 | India v Australia
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