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Sunday, April 3, 2011

India crowned at the WC 2011 Finals - the bizarre start to the match !

2nd April 2011 turned another cherished day as much as 25th June 1983 in the annals of Indian Cricket. 

The bizarre start and the great finish to WC 2011 Finals.  INDIA IS THE CHAMPION.

There is some history that in the finals of the tournaments, Indians have not won against Srilanka while chasing.  Dhoni replied strongly with his bat and his strategy and proved all his detractors wrong.  His leadership qualities assume greater significance for he backs his men strongly, leads from the front, talks to people, does not spew emotions on the field and above all is willing to accept the responsibility of all his actions and take the blame.  A man made of strong mind and steely resolve.  As he walked to the podium he said : -  "I took a quite few decisions tonight, if we hadn't won I would have been asked quite a few questions: Why no Ashwin, Why sreesanth. Why no Yuvraj, Why did I bat ahead?! That pushed me and motivated to do well. The pressure had got to me in the previous games. In this game, I wanted to bat up the order and Gary backed me and by the senior players. I had a point to prove to myself. Virat and Gautam batted brillantly; lots of singles. Then with the help of bit of dew , we put pressure on the spinners. I would have liked Gautam to go on and get that big hundred."

It was close to 11 pm and perhaps the entire India was awake.  There were sounds of crackers, people shouting in happiness as Dhoni received the trophy – the ICC World Cup was lifted – icons were getting lifted – the stadium bustled and spectacular fire works were on.    This is the moment of great pride for all Indians and for the cricketers it has already started raining money.  BCCI announced 1 crore to each team member, 50 lakhs each to Gary Kirsten and his support staff, the Selectors got 25 lakhs each – but BCCI would still seek tax exemption and the Govt. would waste hours discussing and finding out means to relieve BCCI. 

The Lankans have now lost the final hurdle of International tournament thrice – the present WC, the previous WC 2007 finals and the T20 WC in England Sangakkara said that it was hugely disappointing to miss this once a lifetime opportunity, praised the Indian team and said that perhaps when playing India, a score of 350 + would be required to contain.  A polished and seasoned speech and Kumara Sangakkara deserves special praise, one thought but not when one thinks of the start to this match.

The cricket capital of India reverberated and the capacity crowd witnessed a great match at Wankhede, established in 1974.  The curator of the pitch was Sudhir Naik, who represented India decades back without great success.    The Bombay Gymkhana ground hosted the first ever Test in India in 1933-34 against England. Then the Brabourne stadium was in use.  Arising out of a dispute with the CCI, the Bombay Cricket Association built the present Wankhede stadium, which is closer to the Brabourne. 

When we were expecting R Ashwin, in the place of injured Ashish Nehra, it was Sreesanth who had  a poor 5 over spell against Bangla in the opening game.  Lankans made sweeping changes – Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath, Chamara Silve and Ajanta Mendis were out – in came – Perera, Randiv, Kulasekara and Chamara Kapugedera. 

Zaheer had it all – started with a 3 over maiden spell, scalped Upul Tharanga and his first spell read 5-3-6-1 then was clobber for 35 in two overs in the powerplay, ended up at 60/2 off ten.   Harbhajan and Yuvraj combined to bowl 20 overs giving 99 taking 3.  Dhoni turned to Sachin for a couple of overs and tried Kohli also. A classic century by the veteran Mahela Jayawardene, an ordinary bowling performance ended up a decent score of 274.
Immediately after lunch, at around 0650 pm – a hush descended at Wankhede.  The slinger Malinga bowled to Virender Sehwag who generally opens with a four off the first delivery.  This time not and of the second ball, Sehwag was given out leg before.  He went for a review but still was out.  First wicket gone without score on board. The fourth over was bowled by Kulasekara and the third was the greatest treat  to eyes. It was an advertisement for addidas.  Sachin lunged forward opened the face of the bat and kept it for the TV camera to focus – the ball had powered past the bowler in a thrice. 

The first ball of the seventh over silenced the Nation.  The noise Wankhede went in to a huddle.  The ball moved got the outside of Sachin and thudded into the gloves of Sanga. At that point 31/2, not many were optimistic of India Virat Kohli played well with Gambhir but departed at 114 @ 21.4; still a long way to go.  A very well phased innings by Gambhir, who unfortunately missed his century and his century partnership with Dhoni enabled Indians pull off a great win. 

Dhoni wrapped it in style with 10 balls to go, he sent the ball flying over long on for a huge six.  He had not contributed throughout the WC but what an innings in the Finals – he promoted himself above Yuvraj.

It was a bizarre start to the Finals:  

In 1979 when Pak toured India and when Asif Iqbal was the captain – in the last test at Calcutta,  there were allegations that Asif told the Indian captain Gundapa Vishwanath that he had won the toss and mildmannered Vishy lacked the gumption to contest him and accepted his words !!!

In modern day things are different.  There was Ravi Shastri as commentator – there was the match referee  Jeff Crowe, an International from Kiwiland – but there had to be retoss.   Dhoni tossed the coin and Ravi Shastri started querying Dhoni on what he intends doing.   It was clear to most that Sanga had called tails and lost it but Sanga claimed otherwise and Jeff Crowe said ‘he had not heard it in the din’.  A poor thing, a  decision which could easily have changed the course of the match. 

If not others, Sangakkara certainly knew what it really was !  Perhaps this will give place for a collar mark or perhaps they would start carrying placards of head / tails, if somebody could not hear the call !  So the match started with a confusion in the toss – there was a retoss, Sanga won and decided to bat first – the result is now history.

The toss is most important as it gives the opportunity to take strategic decision of what to do first.  The flip of the coin is a randomized trial.   Law 12 states that ‘the captains shall toss for the choice of the innings, on the field of play and in the presence of one or both of the Umpires (now a days in the presence of Match referee and even the TV anchor).  This is held not earlier than 30 minutes, not later than 15 minutes before the scheduled start of the match.

In the end, Tendulkar was chaired from the field as the celebrations began in earnest. "He's carried the burden of our nation for 21 years," said the youngster Kohli. "It was time to carry him on our shoulders today."

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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