Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar run between wickets during the second semi-final match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 between India and Pakistan at The Punjab Cricket Associaton (PCA) Stadium in Mohali.
Sometimes, a team does not play well, yet they manage to do enough to cross the line. That was the case with India on Wednesday. Their game-changers like Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni all looked below par, yet they pulled their weight to get to a decent total and then went about scraping together a good enough bowling performance to get past Pakistan. It was not brilliant or pretty, but sometimes, when you win even though you are not at your best, it gives you immense confidence.
The innings that changed the game and set the tone for India was certainly that of Virender Sehwag's. His was a short, blistering cameo, but such was the power of his drives that he destroyed Umar Gul's confidence. The latter was one of the star performers in the tournament, but one 21-run over changed all that. Sachin used to play a couple of those around a decade ago, and very often they set the tempo of the match and also gave the rest of the batsmen time to settle.
It was an unusual knock from Sachin, and dare I say the man was looking a little under pressure as he crossed 50 and was heading towards a 100th century. I remember predicting that it was possible for him to climb this mountain, in an article around seven years ago. However, even a champion like Sachin seemed to get tense as he reached this Bradmanesque milestone. The paddle sweeps and footwork were simply not on show against the Pakistan spinners, and it was a tentative Sachin who eventually made his way back, but only after making a significant contribution.
Issues to address
A script writer could not have written a better story for Sachin as he gets to play a World Cup final in his hometown. History beckons this India team and now only a couple of issues could change the game for them. First, it must be ensured that Sachin's presence or the fact that this could be the crowning glory that has eluded him, must not distract the team. The feeling of euphoria that India are feeling after beating Pakistan needs to be relished and then kept aside quickly. Sri Lanka are a formidable opponent, who are as much at home in these conditions as India.
Kumar Sangakkara has barely put a foot wrong in this tournament and he looks in complete control. They were tested a little in the semifinal, but that might have actually helped them. Tillakaratne Dilshan has been the other player who has been impressive.
Once again, it will be a pressure game, and Gary Kirsten and MS Dhoni need to keep calm.