How quickly fortunes can change in sport. A few weeks back, anyone predicting a win for India in the five-match series against England would have been scorned, laughed at, and dismissed as an emotional fan.
Now, India are 3-0 ahead on the eve of Sunday’s penultimate match at the Wankhede, and a 5-0 sweep now looks a distinct possibility!
The same Indian side which struggled to do anything right during their 77-day tour in England seem to have rediscovered their invincible and menacing self, comfortable as they are in their own den. In no time, India have surged from No. 5 in ODI rankings to No. 3. Having clinched the series already, their sole aim now would be to complete the revenge with a clean sweep. Though Indian skipper MS Dhoni has termed ‘revenge’ as “too strong” a word, deep down he knows that for his wounded team, nothing less will suffice.
The Englishmen wouldn’t know whether they should be feeling confident or scared while turning up at the Wankhede. Strangely, it’s a venue where they have never lost to India – they beat the hosts by 35 runs in the semifinals of the 1987 World Cup, and won again by five runs in a 2002 thriller, at the end of which all-rounder Andrew Flintoff took off his shirt and ran across the ground in jubilation.
However, they would do well to remember that a certain individual too enjoys loads of good memories at this very ground.
Indian skipper Dhoni has won both his games while leading the side, the second one being the memorable World Cup win with that famous, famous six off Nuwan Kulasekara. If we go back a bit further, the legend of MSD took a firm shape at the Wankhede in 2004-05, when the Jharkhand cricketer smashed back-to-back tons in the Challenger Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy, knocks which helped him break into the Indian team.
England, clearly, have no clue how to stop him at the moment, riding as he is on a crest of four straight half-centuries and a match-sealing unbeaten 35 in the last game against the beleaguered visitors.
Apart from Dhoni, the entire batting machine – barring opener Parthiv Patel and to an extent Suresh Raina – is firing on all cylinders. While Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli have been their usual efficient self, it’s the emergence of Ajinkya Rahane that must have gladdened the hearts of the team management.
Fresh from his match-winning 91, Rahane will be playing on his home ground in India colours for the first time.