It has been a long while since the match got over, but the excitement has still not left me. I wish I could analyze the game in a comprehensive manner, but to hell with that. India won! Every time India has moved closer to World Cup glory, memories of the 2003 humiliation at the hands of Punter are being scrubbed away from the recesses of my brain. Now, being one match away from history, I hope India has generated enough momentum to clinch the Cup. It is not going to be easy against the mighty Lankans, but this is the call of destiny for Tendulkar and Zaheer who had a day to forget at Johannesburg eight years ago. Please anwer the call!
Anyway, I stayed up through the night, to watch this game and here are some random thoughts from during the match:
- When I heard that Dhoni had replaced Ashwin with Nehra, there are no words to describe the feelings of angst and despair which filled me. Sidhu, the master of hyperbole, put it aptly when he stated that it was like ‘a dog going back to its vomit’. Luckily for India, the ‘vomit’ justified Dhoni’s decision (though he admitted that he got it wrong, later) and I duly apologize for my lack of faith.
- All Sehwag might have done was to get a quick fire 38, but it was perhaps a more crucial knock than Tendulkar’s, as in a space of two overs he broke Gul down, and neutralized Pakistan’s most impressive fast bowler in this tournament. If Gul had been in a more confident frame of mind, he and Riaz could have terminated the Indian innings early.
- I have never been comfortable with equating Tendulkar to God, and today it was proved that a higher being exists; and that He was watching over Sachin. A close lbw decision in favor of the batsman, lucky to survive a stumping opportunity (by Kamran Akmal!) and four dropped catches. The real God gave Sachin many opportunities to reprise the heroics of 2003, but after Tendulkar kept turning Him down repeatedly, a moody God terminated his innings by allowing a catch to finally stick.
- When Tendulkar finally got out, I breathed a sigh of relief. Whenever Sachin has scored a ton in this World Cup, India have failed to seal the deal. At first, I thought that even the Pakistani fielders were aware of this, and were playing along. Apart from that, this innings was not worthy of a history making 100. Sachin’s sheepish smiles after every reprieve told as much.
- I hate it when my instincts are right. Well before the game, I felt that it was the unknown commodity (Riaz) who would cause problems for the Indian batsmen; and so he did. In the absence of Amir and Asif, he has stepped in to support Gul appreciably whenever he has got the chance. Today was no different. If the wicket of Sehwag was the first punch, Yuvraj’s dismissal was the knockout blow. Well, as it turned out, someone forgot to mention that to Raina.
- Raina sure has got big match temperament. He has a history of doing well in the knockout stages of the IPL and the CLT20. In this World Cup, he has already played two crucial knocks in the knockout games against Australia and Pakistan, which should hold him in good stead against the Lankans.
- With the advent of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I realized how sensitive I could be to jibes from supporters of the opposition. When Pakistan were on top during a passage of play, some Pakistan supporters took delight in rubbing it in, and mocking Indian players. It took a lot of self control not to get into a tangle with any of them; of course, this was not limited to the Pakistani supporters as Indians duly returned the favor later. Now, I accept this as part and parcel of following the game online. In the end, it was nice to see tweeters and bloggers (most of them!) from both sides congratulating each other and wishing each one well. Now, thats the spirit!
- 260 was eventually 20-30 runs short and by the way the pitch was behaving, the decision to leave out Ashwin was turning out to be more and more foolish. Luckily, Munaf and Nehra were spot on throughout the game while Zaheer had an off day (which was due!). Nehra was pretty impressive in the field, and took a pretty decent ‘catch’ too, even though it was not a legitimate one.
- Trust the Taufel. Always. He is the Tendulkar of umpiring. When he makes a decison, whether out or not out, he does so with utter conviction and self belief, that it could be unnerving to cricketers in the wrong. Three of his decisions were reviewed today and all of them were spot on. If the adjudicators were a little creative, they could have made him man of the match.
- For once, there was nothing unpredictable about the Pakistani batting. Hafeez played an innings which Ian Bell would be proud of (in terms of strokes and dismissal), Younus Khan scratched around without convincing, Umar Akmal dazzled without staying till the end, Afridi got out to a slog, and the most predictable of all – Misbah was the last man dismissed after raising faint hopes of a heist. Memories of the 2007 T20 WC, anyone?
- Lot of high profile celebs in the house. Apart from the Prime Ministers and politicians, there seemed to be a lot of IPL team owners and other assorted movie stars. How much do you wanna bet that, there is going to be more of them in Mumbai on Saturday?
- An Indian model has promised to reveal her ‘bare assets’ to the cricketers if they win the World Cup. I wonder now that they have come so close, whether they think that they should reserve the right to choose the celebrity whom they would prefer to see in their bare essentials! Jokes aside, I hope that this does not materialize and the cricketers strongly rebuff any such publicity seeking stunts if they win the World Cup, in what should be a defining moment for this generation of Indian cricketers.
- Say what you want about Afridi, but he has been Pakistan’s saving grace over the last few months. Ever since the spot fixing scandal broke out, he has handled this team in such an impressive manner that it is hard to see anyone doing a better job. While his batting prowess has disappeared from view, he has been the world’s best ODI spinner and led the team from the front. He was magnanimous in defeat, congratulating the victors and praising his ‘boys'; how can anyone in Pakistan be mad with the team after his sincere apology to them, even when he had nothing to apologize about? If the PCB are wise (thats a big ask!), they will keep Afridi as captain for a bit longer and develop a strong team under him. Well played, Afridi; and thank you for the entertainment!
- In the end, India won the game pretty convincingly, and they didn’t even play their most effective bowler today. Having faced the heat of two sapping encounters against the Aussies and now the Pakistanis, the atmosphere at Mumbai might seem to be a breeze to them. Well, of course, one should not be complacent against an impressive Lankan outfit, but this is India’s World Cup to lose. For the likes of Tendulkar and Zaheer, this could be one final shot at glory. Hopefully, they will rise to the occasion and deliver a performance worthy of world champions.
(PS: Recently, I had blogged here that I would eat my article if India wins the World Cup. Here’s hoping that they make me eat my own words!)