The best part of Saturday’s final is that it’s the most keenly contested amongst the last four World Cup finals. That makes the triumph even sweeter for India. They played their best cricket when it mattered the most, and beat the best teams to win the Cup.
At 31 for 2, I could see most of the spectators thinking ‘game over’, but that’s when Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli changed the course of the game. Gambhir got boundaries at critical junctures, and young Kohli hung in there.
The left-hander’s exceptional ability to handle spin limited Muralitharan’s success. He, along with Kohli, neutralized the Lankan’s ‘doosras’, and denied opposition the wickets that made the difference.
Man of the moment
The brilliance of MS Dhoni that followed must not take away anything from Gambhir’s contribution. Midas Singh Dhoni, however, was the man of the moment. There are two kinds of leaders: one, who let the game change them and their decisions; and others who change the game with their decisions.
Dhoni has always had a sense of occasion, but he was simply exceptional on Saturday. He promoted himself to continue the left-right combination, and took on the pressure of a potentially game-changing situation.
This World Cup has changed the theory that wicket-keeper captains don’t work. Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara have shown that it’s all about leadership skills, not about the role one plays in the team. Coming back to first half , Sri Lanka, once again, looked too tentative. Like in 2007 WC final, they seemed intent on keeping wickets in hand. They remained quiet for too long, and that proved dear.
Fielding it right
Credit for this should also go to the Indians who were simply exceptional with their ground fielding in the initial overs. Zaheer Khan’s spell and fielding strangled the Sri Lankan openers. Since the quarterfinals, India improved their fielding with every game, and they were outstanding in the final.
If Sri Lanka got to 274, they had only the classy Mahela Jayawardene to thank. It’s an innings that did not belong to a losing cause. At the break I thought 300 was a good score, and 274 was just about par. The class of the Indian batting prevailed, and that they did it without relying on their superstar openers makes it special. This is where Team 2011 has shown progress from Team 2003.
This World Cup has underlined the fact that 50 overs cricket is alive and well. India’s win in the tournament will add to the popularity of this format and that is really the best news for me. Gameplan