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Last Updated:  Saturday, 22 March, 2003, 07:57 GMT
India's long road to the final
A 10-match World Cup is gruelling enough for any team, but India's path to the final is all the more remarkable because it comes at the end of a non-stop year.

India team huddle
Team spirit has been forged through 12 non-stop months
Opponents Australia have been far from idle over the last 12 months, playing 28 one-day internationals and eight Tests prior to the World Cup.

But, thanks in part to the cancellation of their tour of Zimbabwe, the men in yellow had a two-month break from all cricket in May and June.

India's year saw them play 14 Tests and 31 ODIs across four continents, even though they faced only six different opponents.

Add to that tour matches and occasional domestic appearances and it adds up to a gruelling preparation.

The journey began in April, when they began a five-Test tour of West Indies, playing a five-match one-day series too before they headed straight to England.

One-day plans took shape as they won the NatWest Series final at Lord's.

And, after four Tests it was off to Sri Lanka to prove their ability in the limited-overs game in the ICC Champions Trophy.

But fortunes were mixed, and injuries caught up with Sourav Ganguly's side during two marathon one-day series, the first at home to West Indies and the second in New Zealand.

At times the side were forced to be without their stars.

INDIA'S TOUGH 12 MONTHS
Tour of West Indies:
Lost 5-Test series 2-1
Won 5-ODI series 2-1
Tour of England:
Won NatWest Series (7 matches v Eng and SL)
Drew 4-Test series 1-1
ICC Champions Trophy:
Shared title with SL after washed-out final (5 matches)
West Indies tour:
Won 3-Test series 2-0
Lost 7-ODI series 4-3
Tour of New Zealand:
Lost 2-Test series 2-0
Lost 7-ODI series 5-2
Batsman Sachin Tendulkar missed November's seven-match series against West Indies because of a hamstring problem while Zaheer Khan played through a knee injury.

Fellow pace bowler Javagal Srinath had some time at home when he was dropped from the one-day side after announcing his retirement from Test cricket.

But a shock recall in Colombo, combined with contractual commitments elsewhere, saw Srinath travel an estimated 16,150 miles in a single week.

The non-stop schedule appeared to have taken its toll on the whole team when the World Cup began.

A sluggish win over Holland was followed by an embarrassing defeat to Australia, when India's batsmen appeared to lack sharpness as they collapsed to a record-low 125 all out.

The unity forged during the last year, though, has had a positive effect since then.

India have proved more than able to pull themselves out of the depths of despondency to the verge of a World Cup title.

"Australia in the first round was just one of those days," Ganguly said.

"You need a bit of time to get used to these tracks and since then we've beaten everybody hands down, it's been one-sided."

Ganguly pointed to the side's record over the last 18 months - 30 wins in 50 matches - as proof that they could turn things around.

"I always knew we had the side to come back."

"We've won eight games in a row - that's definitely good preparation for a World Cup final."




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