Thursday, March 31, 2011

India beats Pakis in the Semi at Mohali - the Nation rejoices



There have been thousands of matches before this but ODI 3147 at Mohali was a supercharged one.  The entire Nation stopped work, streets were empty – family and friends reunion everywhere.  People were talking to each others, phones kept ringing – the only topic INDIA --  read cricket….

At 11 pm in the night, most children are awake so also are parents.  In Triplicane, one can hear bustling sounds of crackers.  People descend down in our apartment to stealthily bring the electric crackers, light them – jump in joy and return to their beds.  In some ways reminiscent of 25th June 1983 – when the whole Nation erupted but 28 years is too long and this generation and times are far too different perhaps. For most of the days, the cities were ghost towns, markets deserted…… people actively had only one work – watching India expecting and praying a win. 
In my yesterday’s post I had mentioned of  ODI No. 729 played at SCG on 4th Mar 1992. India opened with Ajay Jadeja and Krish Srikkanth.  The young Sachin made a flamboyant 54 off 62 balls  and India mustered 216 for 7 in 49 overs.  Pakistanis were all out for 173 with Kapil, Manoj Prabhakar, Srinath all taking 2.  Sachin chipped with 1 giving 37 in his full 10 overs and was the Man of the match. The greatest batsman ever failed to get a hundred but got another Man of the Match.  Well, it was never that simple as the drama unfolded making the weaker hearts sink.    

It is no coincidence that Sachin is the only player who has appeared in all the 5 Indo Pak clashes in WC and has helped them on the winning side.  He won the MoM in 1992, 2003 & 2011.  You need not be in the stadium, you can be in a large group to understand and feel this phenomenon.
When Sachin is on say in his twenties, generally no body speaks much (inside stadium there will be raving chants of sachin, sachin.. and the beat would raise up) – the air is expectant of a big innings from him.  If he is in a spot of bother – hush would descend and there would be total silence.  Then slowly people would find reasons for his getting out – either blaming the pitch or the decision but never the icon.

Yesterday, after the Sehwag blast at 11th over – 4th ball Saeed Ajmal deceived Sachin with a good delivery.  Ian Gould raised his finger.  Sehwag had already contested the decision unsuccessfully – India went on a review – the ball was legal, pitched in line but likely missing the leg stump.  All the pundits roar that he is not out.  So says Billy Bowden and Gould reverses but there is no respite.  The next ball sachin lunges forward and beaten by the doosra – Kamran Akmal who has poor outing these days, whips the bails in a flash and now the Simon Toufel refers to Billy.  All the children inside the room, say that his leg is very much planted well inside – most out of conviction than factual.  He was in and he continues. 

It was not the greatest innings from the greatest batsman of this generation – he plodded and pushed – lucky to be dropped but nothing will diminish the grit and tenacity of the little master. In 1983 Krish Srikkanth during that sweet knock of 38 went down on this knees to make the sweetest drive off Andy Roberts, which remain etched of the memories of all cricket lovers.  Yesterday Sachin played a very similar shot.


Indians are savouring this moment and not speaking of the match against Lanka.  To many a win against Pak was more sweeter.  Statistically, India played Pak in WC in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2003 & 2011 – all Indian victories. 

When the match started – almost the entire Nation watched and sang the National anthem along with the team.  Yusuf was deservedly left out in favour of Raina, who eventually played a neat little cameo in the company of rabbits and fielded electrically.  But No Ashwin – something incomprehensible.  How and why the leaking Munaf and the oldie Nehra found a place !!  Shoaib Akhthar has been training hard and was expecting this to be his swan song – he was also dropped even when Pak went in with an extra bowler.   Wahab Riaz and Sajeed Ajmal ae playing.  In the end the pitch played a lot slower and Ashwin would have exploited things better – the Indian bowling for once did appear good though Misbah helped the cause in his own way. 

When almost all batsmen prodded and found scoring difficult, it was a different ball game for Virender Sehwag.  The third over of the match was bowled by the best Pak bowler – Umar Gul and Viru was on strike.  The first one was pitched on leg and flicked nonchalantly past midwicket for a four.  No one move shot.  Second, viru without any foot movement whips it past midwicket again slightly  away from the earlier spot – the same result.   The field changes – viru plays it to square leg – no run.  Gul sighs a relief.   Fourth ball another leg side shot beats long leg for a four.  Fifth a slower ball finds the point boundary.  Sixth was a no ball – a front foot one and hence free hit – sent scurrying through extra cover.  [21 runs already] and a ball left.. mayhem. No run off the free hit.  When Sehwag was blazing, there were talks of India scoring 310 [people dreaming 350 in their mind but wantonly telling a lower figure] which vanished later as the game progressed and Indians struggled to milk Ajmal and Afridi. 

The score card of India 260/9 and Pak 231 – India winning by 29 runs would never reflect these happy moments.  India's dream of a World Cup triumph at home is one step closer now.   The Indians bowled a much disciplined length and the first extra came off Munaf in the 37th over. 

All would be lost count in a win like this but the later middle order has not been contributing at all – Dhoni has not contributed much with the bat.  Virat failed, Yuvraj did not trouble the scorers.  The score of 260 was eventually enough but more contributions should come as India have the best chance of lifting the trophy on Saturday at Wankhede.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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