INDIA DOMINATE CRICKET AREANA AFTER WORLD CUP VICTORY
A huge six to long on by Captain Mahendra Dhoni completed victory for India in the 2011 Cricket World Cup in style and brought to a satisfying conclusion what has been a truly entertaining World Cup.India without doubt played the best cricket over the last six weeks and the final against Sri Lanka proved a worthy contest, with tension, drama and superb individual performances plentiful.
India’s talent has long been apparent, with stars such as Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and, of course, Sachin Tendulkar all proving them- selves world-class. But there was always the fear that they lack the mentality to build upon their obvious talent and achieve success at the World Cup.This year though they showed such doubts to be wrong, displaying an assured toughness in victories over Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the knock-out stages. That they defeated these three teams (arguably the three strongest teams after India themselves) too proves them worthy winners.
Much attention is placed on the incomparable Sachin Tendulkar, who did have an exemplary tournament, ending it the second highest run scorer (behind Tillakaratne Dilshan). But their success has been a real team effort, with match-winning contributions being made throughout the squad.
Sehwag’s 175 in the opening match was the tournament’s highest score; Zaheer Kahn took the joint highest number of wickets, at a devastating rate of 16.66 runs per- wicket; and, most noticeably, Yuvraj Singh batted and bowled superbly throughout, ending with four man of the match awards. And in the final, it was two players who had so far had a quieter tournament, Gautam Gambhir and Dhoni, who put in star showings. When Gambhir came to the crease India were in crisis, with Tendulkar out for 18 and India at a perilous 31-2. But the 29-year-old kept a calm head and scored a brilliant 97, most of them coming during his 109 run match-winning stand with Dhoni.
Dhoni had surprisingly elevated himself up to bat at five, ahead of the on-form Yuvraj Singh, but his decision was justified as he made 91 not out of 79 to calmly bring home victory for India.
For a long while beforehand the game re-balls deserved to be a match-winning knock. His elegant batting style was beautiful to watch, and came very quickly too thanks to a lethal acceleration in the last 10 overs. He even ended Sri Lanka’s innings not out, and, despite ending on the losing side, probably deserved to be man of the match.The wickets of Tendulkar and Sehwag at the hands of the dangerous Lasith Malinga put Sri Lanka in a very strong position and stunned the home crowd into silence. But Gambhir and Dhoni’s composed and excel- lent performances slowly put India back into pole position, before Dhoni’s on-drive six saw them over the line. Such a great game was a welcome relief from the trilogy of thrashings Australia have dished out in the previous three world cups.The semi-finals too proved entertaining contests.
First Tuesday saw Sri Lanka complete what looked halfway through the second innings – with Sri Lanka 160-1 chasing 217 – to be a routine victory, but what proved, thanks largely to intimidating captaincy by Daniel Vettori, to be a tense finale as New Zealand took three quick wickets. But with Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Matthews at the crease Sri Lanka ultimately steadied themselves and booked their finale as New Zealand took three quick wickets. But with Thilan Samaraweera and Angelo Matthews at the crease Sri Lanka ultimately steadied themselves and booked their place in the final.
Then the India v Pakistan took place, the tournament’s most hotly anticipated match. The contest did not disappoint, as the first innings saw batting fireworks from Sehwag and Tendulkar (the latter despite being dropped multiple times) only for young Wahab Riaz to strike back with the ball with a five-for.Pakistan needed a difficult-but-obtain-able 261 runs to win but fell short, failing to accelerate sufficiently at the end of their innings. The inexplicably defensive Misbah-ul-Haq the main culprit and they were bowled out for 231, with all five of India’s bowlers taking two wickets each – further evidence of their strength as a collective whole.Looking back, the tournament was a far more exciting affair than predicted.
It still had structural problems, specifically the seemingly never-ending length of the group stages; but despite the inevitable one-sided affairs at the early stages, we have England’s unpredictable showings to thank for keeping the early stages interesting. The most memorable words of the night came from Sangakara, the Sri Lankan skipper, who spoke like a great ambassador for his country, speaking words worthy of his reputation, giving un- conditional praise to his opponents, and making every Sri Lankan proud by accepting defeat with graciousness and extending no excuse, the sign of a truly great cricketer.
The quality of cricket, the closeness of matches in the knockout stages and India proving to be worthy champions ensured this World Cup to be the best in re- cent years. The grand success of the World Cup plus the IPL success saga has assured that India will remain the power house of the world cricket, a strategic shift from the mecca of cricket – England. All the international players are rushing to India to associate themselves with Indian cricket to reap both practical and monetary benefits.
– Prakhar Mishra