April 18, 2011

The joy of winning a World Cup is sweeping across India and why not? With three Asian teams in the last four, I think the entire sub-continent should be happy with India ‘s victory. Pakistan and Sri Lanka too did very well in this championship and should be proud of themselves.

There can be only one winner and India deserved to be the champions. According to me, the biggest match of the World Cup was the semifinal at Mohali. There can’t be a bigger battle than a clash between India and Pakistan . India were in full control of the high-voltage semifinal and the way they handled the pressure, no one was going to stop them in the final. I am not surprised that Sri Lanka were simply blown away.

I have all along said India were the favorites. Except for a few hiccups along the way, India were consistent throughout. India ‘s average bowling attack was well covered up by the all-round team effort as the batsmen and fielders rose to the occasion when required. The final was a case in point. The Indians fielded like tigers and a bowler gets a massive boost when his mates chase every ball to stop runs.

The fact that Kumar Sangakkara said Sri Lanka needed at least 350-370 runs to beat India underlines the solidity of India ‘s batting. I had written in my preview Virender Sehwag was due for a big one, but the way the Indian top order came good having lost Sehwag and Tendulkar cheaply, was just amazing.

Gautam Gambhir and young Virat Kohli played crucial knocks under pressure and this is a lesson for batsmen like Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shahzad in Pakistan . But, if there was one man who took the game by the scruff of its neck, it was Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His decision to bat at No. 5 was not only wise, but it also spoke about his mindset as a captain.

Dhoni, not the most beautiful batsman in the world, used his batting skills to telling effect. He not only grafted runs, he kept the pressure on Gambhir to run quick singles and convert singles into twos. Dhoni’s calmness in the middle was something to note. The situation never got the better of him. That’s the hallmark of a good captain. This is what I saw in Imran Khan, a man who soaked pressure and kept things simple in complex situations. Dhoni is not far away from Imran.

The latest ICC rankings are out and India are still No. 2 in the ODI list. Australia may lead the table with a seven-point cushion over India , but that’s all for the record books. According to me, India today is what Australia used to be three years ago: a great team with positive attitude and a hunger to excel every time they go out in the middle.

While I am happy that Australia ‘s monopoly has been shattered, I will still not say this is the start of Asian domination in world cricket. The more India , Pakistan and Sri Lanka win overseas, the belief will get stronger. All three teams are capable to play on quick and bouncy tracks and although this is too early to predict, at least two among India , Pakistan and Sri Lanka will surely make the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand !

India certainly owe a big thank you to Gary Kirsten. The South African has been a calming influence on the team and if the young guns like Yuvraj, Kohli and Gambhir lifted the coach on their shoulders, it was to tell Kirsten that he was loved and respected in the dressing room. The advantage of having a foreign coach is now clear: no politicking in the dressing room, cricket is the only goal.

Before I conclude, let me salute two of the greatest in the game: Sachin and Murali. The Sri Lankan office has bid farewell at the right juncture of his life. He has proved what cricket gives you when you try your best. We will miss him. For Sachin, sky is the limit. So good luck, Little Master!

Courtesy: www.espnstar.com

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