In the end, it turned out be a battle of nerves. And India, often blamed for succumbing under pressure, won the mental game in style against Australia, who were not willing to give up despite having looked below their best in the tournament.
The pressure on the Indian team has only grown
with every season and tournament they have featured in. And in the end, it has all been about managing the hopes of the billion-plus fans.
And none has exemplified this in the Indian camp than Yuvraj Singh. After taking two wickets with his left-arm spin to gently pull back the Australian innings, he top-scored and held the innings together to guide the hosts home along with inspired selection, Suresh Raina.
After collecting his fourth 'Man-of-the-match' award in the tournament — and undoubtedly the most precious — Yuvraj agreed with skipper MS Dhoni that more than continuing to display his outstanding form, he was more relieved to guide the team home.
“I don’t know about the purple patch, but the pressure was something!” he said. “I just concentrated on hitting the ball down the ground and finding the gaps.”
Gautam Gambhir ran himself out in an awful mix-up, but Yuvraj was in a forgiving mood. “I told Gautam I’m not Virender Sehwag to run like that,” he said. Yuvraj, often criticised for his attitude and not justifying his talent, is enjoying an amazing run and said it was the result of some introspection during a low patch last year.
With Pakistan next up on his home turf, Mohali, can it get any better? Yuvraj revealed his mind again, saying the semifinal can wait. "Beating Australia, the three-time champions, is very special; very special for me and the team."
Eight years ago, Yuvraj was one of the players who was left gutted after Australia crushed India in the Wanderers final, but revenge was hardly the tone in the Indian camp.
Dhoni was beaming, after a memorable 100th match as ODI captain. “More than the technical skill, it was about managing the pressure.”
Was he confident, India would pull it off after Tendulkar and Gambhir fell? “I knew if we played (till) the 50 overs with Yuvi there, we would make it."
Pakistan is already in the captain's mind. "It can't really get better in a World Cup hosted by the sub-continent. But for us, Australia or Pakistan, every game is the same. It is a tough job and we have been managing the pressure very well.”
For Ponting, it was so close with his own form, but so far as far as his future as a one-day player and skipper is concerned. He looked a defeated man in the end, knowing it eventually wasn't enough against a determined home side. “We played hard. We though we were in with a chance, but with 15 overs left, it was touch and go and Yuvi and Suresh Raina played well.“We played a reasonable game but were not good enough,” he signed off.
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