Mission Accomplished Unexpectedly For India
By Orin Davidson
With almost zero percent margin for error, a team has to be strong in every aspect of the game as you pay dearly for mistakes you don’t recover from in 20 overs.
Powerful in every conceivable area, not many fans would’ve betted against world number one Australia completing the Trifector of becoming 50 overs, Test and Twenty20 world champs.
India, eliminated in the first round of the 50 overs World Cup version a few months prior, was not expected make any impression in a format of the game unfamiliar to most of its players.
The Board of Cricket Control of India (BCC) seemed resigned to merely going through the motions. It was reflected in the selectors not even bothering to pick the three biggest names in the country’s game - Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly along with their current best bowler Zaheer Khan.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni was only made captain solely for this competition and you got the impression the weight of expectations from India’s billion plus fan base did not weigh on the shoulders of this team.
Dhoni turned out to be more than just a fill-in captain, rather he showed he is a much better motivator than even his bosses in the BCCI expected.
The players rallied around him in unprecedented manner that saw them upsetting Pakistan in the final when all prior indications pointed to the latter team taking home the Cup.
The final went down to the wire and Pakistan once again proved that talent alone cannot take a team all the way to ultimate success.
Misbah-ul-Haq had the game fully in his hands going into the final over with 13 runs needed for Pakistan and India requiring one wicket to win. Being the form batsman with the uncanny ability to hit sixes and fours in the front of the wicket with ease, Misbah suffered a brain cramp and decided to use finesse instead of power on the third ball with seven required for victory, that wrenched the Cup from Pakistan’s grasp.
Had Misbah had his thinking cap on he would’ve played to his strength and try to loft a six or four with a straighter shot instead of attempting an overhead backward scoop over fine leg.
India made full use of the gift when Sreesanth ensured he held the resulting simple catch at short fine leg that made his team the biggest long shot champions ever in all major world limited overs competitions.
Going into the series, recently crowned 50 overs champions Australia and runners up Sri Lanka were the front runners with hosts South Africa also big favorites, to cart off the Cup and half a million dollars prize money.
Australia though, was rusty coming off their winter and not playing since beating Sri Lanka in final in April.
It showed in their early losses to problem plagued Zimbabwe of all countries, and Pakistan. But against India they had no one to counter the bombardment of Yuvraj Singh’s exhilarating 38-ball 70, in the semi-finals.
With captain Ricky Ponting
out of the team injured, they fell 15 runs short, which should’ve
made India instant favorites for the final but then again, Pakistan
was going great guns and had defeated Australia more convincingly
in the Super Eight stage. Pakistan had suffered just one loss –
that dubious bowl-off to India after a thrilling tie, in six matches.
RP Singh showed remarkable improvement and swung the ball just enough to cause batsmen trouble, more so when the onus is on all out slogging. He was the surprise package ahead of proven off- spinner Harbhajan Singh while Sreesanth, Irfan Pathan and Joginder Sharma proved valuable when it mattered most.
They wrought havoc almost every game, taking wickets constantly, none significant than against South Africa who was bowled out for a paltry 116 in that crucial Super Eight match that sent the hosts packing from the competition for their lone loss.
Australia found themselves in a similar hole in the semi-final where they dropped two many wickets without having enough in hand to successfully chase down 188 in the latter stages.
On a pitch which India’s batsmen made look anything but a bowling paradise, they dealt Pakistan damaging blows at crucial moments through bowling skill rather than batsmen’s mistakes, in the final.
Number three Kamran Akmal was bowled by a beauty from R.P. Singh which set the tone for key dismissals at crucial periods to excellent deliveries.
Dhoni’s decision to Sharma instead of Harbhajan in that final over was a tactical stroke that summed up India’s overall prowess which grew as the tournament went on.
Ultimately, the inaugural Twenty20 Cup proved that competition in the game’s shortest form yet guarantees non stop entertainment, in abbreviated competition that leaves very little to choose between most of the world’s established teams.
In this form of the game, you will never find a team that would dominate the Test scene the way Australia has done, or the West Indies in the 1980s.
It is the big difference with the traditional game that robs the world the pleasure of seeing one country gradually breakdown that dominance and eventually take its place at the top of the ladder.
In those situations you enjoy being a purist rather than the entertainee.
Australia has dominated Test cricket for 10 years, but it does not mean they will be world champs forever.
You can bet that era is seeing the beginning of the end now with Shane Warne, Glen McGrath and Justin Langer out of the picture.
From this distance India has the best chance of replacing the current number one, but they will have to regard Dhoni for what he is worth and stick with him as captain.
It will be counter productive
to recycle Sachin Tendulkar or Sourav Ganguly.
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