Indian cricketers celebrate after beating Pakistan at the Twenty20 World Cup final in Johannesburg.
There was enchantment at work at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday.
Everything that could go wrong for India did, but somehow, despite scoring what should not have been enough (157); despite the trailblazing Yuvraj Singh failing after getting them so far in the tournament; despite Imran Nazir hammering quick runs in quick time, India beat Pakistan by five runs to win the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup.
<b1>Ergo, there was magic in the air. And you could feel it right through the day. It began early, when hordes of jostling Indians and Indian-origin fans, many of who had purchased tickets in black, for up to five times the original price, made it into the Wanderers, enthusiastically waving the tricolour.
This was a dream match-up, it was the first final of a World Cup that might rewrite the way cricket will be looked at by future generations. And it was India vs Pakistan. Everyone here knew history was being made and that emotional, pulsating crowd wanted to be an active part of it.
They cheered the teams as they walked on to the ground, sang Jana Gana Mana with full-throated excitement and made sure India’s Boys in Blue never felt they were away from home.
And as for Dhoni’s devils, the men they were rooting for, well, they just do not cease to amaze us.
When this day is done, when the parties are over, when the music has died down and the crowds have finally disappeared from the team hotel and all of us here head for home, each one of us who has been on this enchanted African safari, will have to wonder what comes next.
Logic says that being young and restless, confident and talented, will only take the Indians so far. After all, this is only T20. Luck plays a huge role; the margin for error is too little, so great teams have been felled because of one bad session and no time to make up. Could they repeat this in the longer formats?
But seeing this young India on the ground and off it, their enjoyment of the moment, the joie-de-vivre they bring to everything they do, their affection for each other and their gelling together as a unit has got to make you a believer. There is something about this band of boys that makes you want to laugh and cry with them, embrace them, if only for giving you hope for the future.
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