Exactly after 16 years of India’s NatWest series win over England at Lord’s, then captain Sourav Ganguly strongly believes that the current Indian team, under the captaincy of Virat Kohli, will repeat the series-clinching heroics at the 'Mecca of Cricket' when the two teams clash in the penultimate match of the three-match series in London on Saturday.
“India will surely win the series at Lord's like we did in 2002,” Ganguly told IndiaTV during the show ‘Cricket Ki Baat’ on the eve of second ODI at Lord’s.
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The men-in-blue currently lead the three-match series 1-0 as they defeated the hosts by eight wickets at the Trent Bridge, Nottingham, on Thursday. Opener Rohit Sharma scored a match-winning ton, while spinner Kuldeep Yadav impressed with a six-wicket haul in India’s comprehensive win.
Under the captaincy of Ganguly, India had defeated England by two wickets to clinch the tri-series, involving Sri Lanka, at Lord’s on July 13, 2002.
Kohli-led India won the three-match T20I series 2-1 and now aim for an unbeaten 2-0 lead in the ODI rubber. Ganguly feels wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav has been the difference between the two sides as he made the tough encounters “one sided affair” for the visitors.
“In the four matches India have played so far, three games have been one-sided. They have been thrashing the hosts. In the three-matches they have won, at least one batsman has scored a ton. Cardiff was different because of the conditions, but on these pitches, it's not easy to get them out. If England don't study Kuldeep properly, it will be another one-sided affair,” the 46-year-old said.
Heaping praises upon the 23-year-old chinaman from Kanpur, Ganguly said: “Kuldeep brought India the win. It was a good start for England, putting up 70 runs in 10 overs, but once Kuldeep came, he took three wickets in one over. He changed the entire outcome of the game and never allowed England to gain any momentum.”
According to Ganguly, Kuldeep have intimidated the English batsman the most on the tour and the best of their batsmen start to panic when India introduce wrist spinners into the attack.
“Kuldeep's presence has intimidated the Englishmen. Ever since his performance in Manchester (first T20I), England panic when he comes around. There's not much difference between him and Chahal. One's a right-armer and the other is a left, but the way the batsmen see them, it makes a huge difference in the game.
“There's still plenty of games to play (2 ODIs and 5 Tests) and I hope that he (Kuldeep) continues to daunt them. If they continue to bat like this, there's no coming back,” he added.
In India’s 2-1 T20I series triumph, Kuldeep claimed a five-for in the opening game at Manchester. Before the series, he picked up seven wickets in 2-0 routing of Ireland. With a six-wicket haul to his name from the first ODI, Kuldeep will look to dominate the Englishmen in the games to come.
“Kuldeep has been the difference between India and England. He took five wickets in Manchester and wrapped up the game. In Nottingham he took 6 wickets and finished the job for India. If he didn't take 6 wickets, the match could have been very different. It's just match winning performances by him. If England are not able to post totals near 330, it only makes the job easier for the Indian batsmen. On flat wickets, you can expect Kuldeep to do what he does best,” Ganguly claimed.
With Kuldeep hogging most of the limelight on the ongoing tour, Ganguly didn’t shy to hail Rohit, who has already scored two international centuries in four matches.
“Class batting by Rohit. It was only time that would tell a different tale and Rohit has come out with some amazing innings. The timing of the shots, the sixes and when players like him stick on, they'll go all the way. The difference between the two sides have been the top order batsmen.
“In the limited-overs format, after Virat Kohli, the most valuable player has been Rohit. And I still believe that there's enough time for Rohit to make a major impact in Test cricket. There's a saying, 'One afternoon makes somebody a hero'. One innings is all it takes,” he continued.
Following the three-match ODI series, India will play a lengthy five-match Test series in England, starting August 1. As the tougher challenge approaches Kohli, who failed miserably in England in 2014, Ganguly believes the he will soon hit a century on the current tour.
“People keep stating that Virat hasn't yet conquered England. There's a huge difference between the him in the four years. He will make a century and leave. If you don't get Dhawan, Rohit and Virat out early, you're in deep trouble. They're the backbone of the team and are absolute powerhouses,” Ganguly concluded.