India, 2011 Cricket World Cup Champions
In the end it seemed so easy, Mahendra doing last week what Mohinder did back in ’83. The final at the Wankhede seemed predestined to go our way, especially after the two knock out matches we’d played en route Mumbai. Things didn’t go so easy though but that just added to the legend though.
This hadn’t been a convincing campaign until the quarterfinal. The joy of paying back Bangladesh lasted only till the innings break. The tie against England was alarming, simply it was England that had nearly chased 338. Ireland and Netherlands were no easy pushovers, Yuvraj was the only guy playing and even the NRR buffing chances were squandered. Then we crash landed from space against South Africa, that collapse, that insipid defense against that inexperienced middle order after Hashim and ABD had bled us once again. Playing the West Indies in Chennai, even SRT couldn’t stop the jugger-not that is Ravi Rampaul. RAshwin was ok, his mental toughness probably wasn’t at it’s optimal potential yet. But the team pulled through as the West Indies self destructed. Yet again.
Quarter Final, Ahmedabad
I was at the ground, and for me it was the team’s most stunning win this World Cup. The bowling and fielding was several notches higher, the batting was steady mostly, then after a wobble, the game was seized very authoritatively. And the crowd was mad, madder than Mohali and madder than the Wankhede crowd was through most of the final.
Zaheer’s bowling (especially that Mike Hussey dismissal), Yuvraj’s domineering, electric storm of an innings which was unlike his scrappy ones earlier in the tournament and Raina’s calculative cameo under pressure were the highlights of that match. And Ponting scored a fine ton too.
In Mirpur, in a very important development, NZ knocked out SA, the team that looked scarily well equipped to win the WC in the subcontinent. John Wright #FTW
Semi Final, Mohali
Sachin capitalized on his 5 lives to build a safe-ish platform before Raina again played his very important knock at the end. Pakistan’s one good batting performance against decent opposition in the WC had come against SL when Sanga had let them drift off in the middle overs and I didn’t expect MSD to repeat that mistake. Still, with Umar Akmal threatening to take the match away, Plaha struck. It was a stupid shot but I suppose it was Plaha’s bowling that first disarmed UAkmal before snaring him. That Plaha. Then Munaf bowled a peach of a legcutter to get Razzaq, Plaha outlasted Afridi’s patience within an over and Nehra redeemed himself as a dream final was advanced into.
I saw the toss before heading out, I thought it was shady that Sanga didn’t know what he had called but if the referee and MSD failed to hear it, fair thing is to do it again. Bloody Sanga.
I saw two matches at the Wankhede, NZ batted first and expectedly decimated Canada’s bowling but Canada batted decently, finishing at 259. Good, except that they were chasing 358. So, good for batting. In the other match though, Sanga and Jaya built a platform after early wickets against NZ, Sanga got to his century and SL posted a decent 270 total. Then their bowlers ran through NZ for a paltry 150 something. Under lights, with dew. India HAS to win the toss and bat first, or probably not, considering the dew and the fact that RAshwin will come in for an injured Nehra, I thought.
My captain is my fantasy captain. Despite his lean run so far in the tournament, as a CSK fan I’ve seen MSD pull off miracles. “Back your players and they will deliver”, how many times has he said it himself. Full faith.
Toss 2: SL won, chose to bat. Fuck. AND,
RAshwin Sreesanth is in for Nehra. Fuck Fuck Fuck.
I’m giggling as I listen to the commentary on the train. Yuvraj, Raina and Kohli are throwing themselves on everything that Dilshan and Tharanga can put a bat to. Zak is bowling like a dream with 3 maiden overs in a row, the openers are ultra cautious and even Sree gets by lightly. Tharanga falls to Zak bringing out Sanga who gets the scoring back on track. A while later, Harbhajan gets a ball to caress Dilshan’s thighs rather intimately before crashing into his leg stump. Harbhajan. Dismisser of explosive openers in World Cup Finals.
Sanga and Jaya do their usual thing before Sanga disrespects Yuvraj strikes. Actually, Sanga throws his wicket away. Wankhede mein aaya bhoot, Sri Lanka ki maa ki *%&^ rings out at the bar. Then one review is wasted for a lbw/caught, we suppose it would’ve fallen on the stumps if MSD hadn’t reached out in front of the stumps to catch it. The next time Thilan Samaraweera tries to Neil McKenzie it though, he’s gone. One review in our favour.
Kapugedara, whom I still hold responsible for not scoring quickly enough in the 2008 IPL final against Rajasthan, fellearly, fooled by Zaheer who is now the joint highest wicket-taker in the tournament. I was delighted.
Kulasekara (new CSK guy) stuck around though. And not getting Jaya proved costly the way he picked up. Perera (ex-CSK) too plundered the bowling at the end. It was painful, doubts crept up. Murali waiting to extend his farewell script and Malinga with his flaring nostrils, Randiv with his do-what-it-takes attitude, everyone seemed a tad more dangerous.
Sehwag is out on the second ball and takes a review with him. It’s infuriating but you don’t get the oh-so-fuckin-good without the bad.
SRT’s punches are all fielded at the ropes by a relentless Dilshan before he plays the sweetest straight drive off Kulasekara. So straight, so divine. Then he chases a wide delivery, edges it to the keeper and walks off to the awkward silence of hundreds of millions of people. WankhedeLPD. At least Gambhir didn’t run him out, I think.
Kohli, young, big balls Kohli walks into a situation the pressure of which I cannot comprehend. He negates Slinga, whose teeth I felt like breaking then, and goes about building a least fussy partnership with Gambhir. Gambhir plays an unnecessary lofted shot when in the 30s which Kula thankfully bumbles. ‘You just dropped the World Cup son’.
Gambhir grinds his way to his 50 from there.
Then Dilshan plucks Kohli out of nowhere for a brilliant caught and bowled, aided in no small measure by Gambhir who moved out of his way unlike any other batsman would do in a WORLD CUP FINAL. Dilshan mouths Kohli off, probably because he outscored him in the final off the same number of balls. Give it a rest Dil, just because he’s performing at potential within the first half of his career doesn’t mean it’s a slight to you.
MSD promoted himself. Chalo batting toh aayi. Then ball by ball, poke by poke, blow by blow, glance by glance, the duo bled Sri Lanka. They dealt with Murali & Dilshan, Perera’s predictability turned out be his liability, Kulasekara enforced nothing and Randiv was milked.
Just clinical accumulation, as gameplan abiding a team could be. Gambhir fell to his exhaustion, missing out on a much deserved century. Dhoni battled cramps and pain while Yuvraj eased the required rate. Malinga’s final spell was seen off by Yuvraj before MSD launched Kulasekara into the Divecha Pavilion for the winning six. He then didn’t launch into a tirade, and twirled his bat to honour Rajinikanth who was among the audience.
The sight of Tendulkar and Kirsten being carried around the crowd, the emotional crying and hugging, Kohli’s straight from the heart quote about it being the team’s turn to carry Sachin on their shoulder, Sanga’s rather gracious talk, MSD’s talk [the bit about the anxiety the team faced during the tournament was intensely frank] and the final celebrations with the trophy, with Sudhir Gautam were joyous and heartwarming.
The talk had been of the team wanting to win it for Sachin, at a point it seemed he’d be the one winning it for them but the final sorted the obligations out. It belonged to the old hands as well as the new.
The celebrations all over Mumbai that night were unbridled. Even the jingoistic sloganeering could be forgiven. It was fun watching kids who probably didn’t grasp the enormity of the win celebrating flat out, kids who had watched India win more than lose in their decade and a little on earth. It was just as good as watching elder people who saw the ’83 win only to endure the late eighties and the entire nineties, praying for history to repeat itself through all those years. Reviews of the final said the team that wanted the win more won it, but for every person in the team who yearned for it, there were millions across the country who wanted it even more. Their fervour was the ultimate motivation.
PS: I had been preparing myself for Sachin’s possible retirement from ODIs post the WC. He didn’t but I really don’t see any other reason for him to continue besides the 50 100s landmark in ODIs. The team that won the WC didn’t even have the first choice bowling attack for god’s sake and there many good batsmen waiting for their chance to be a regular at least in the LOI team. So whenever he makes the decision, or is forced to make it, he has my Thank You Sachin!