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My man, Mahela

Mahela on Tuesday scored a free flowing, briiliant and hugely significant century. His knock held the Lankan innings together and his strokeplay was immaculate.
By John Wright | None
UPDATED ON JUN 04, 2007 09:51 PM IST

There is a saying in cricket that in the end class will win out. Of the two teams that New Zealand has been beaten by in this Cup - Sri Lanka and Australia - it's fair to say that both had a depth in class across their ranks. New Zealand, no matter how honest and hardworking they may be, or as hard as they may try, just couldn't match them in that department. That's the pity of being a small nation. We in New Zealand are under four million people and it is rugby not cricket, that's the Number One sport.

Indian cricket should always remember that compared to the likes of New Zealand, no matter how bare the cupboard may seem of sheer playing talent (and I have heard that said often recently) India must definitely have the ability and the skill. The sheer weight of numbers and the passion for the game is all the proof you need. The challenge is to go and find it. It will be there, I'm dead sure.

As I watched Lasith Malinga hurling them down so superbly in the semifinal, the thought crossed my mind that surely somewhere, in some place, in some isolated village in big, bustling India, there has to be a someone like him: Different, unconventional, a freak who has a special talent either with the bat or the ball.

Mahela Jayawardene will be a wiser cricketer and a wiser man today. He grew up a bit on Tuesday. On the morning of a big match you look at yourself in the mirror and say, "I'm in charge today. This is the biggest game of my career as captain." Then when you get on the bus, you feel the pressure, and have to turn it on and walk your talk.

Leadership is all about performance. It's not the saying - it's the doing. That is exactly what Mahela achieved. What an innings his was, distinctive in class, structure, placement and momentum. He started so deliberately, surely, slowly and raised the tempo up a notch just when it was required. When a captain plays an innings like that he gains more respect. The players think, we cannot let our leader down.

Sri Lanka appear to be growing stronger in the most important region of their game - their heads. They have the belief that they can win the Cup. Even without Murali and Vaas, is this the same side that toured and lost an ODI series in India just a few months ago?

Another thing occurred to me as I watched the Black Caps' losing cause. It seemed to be the only thing that, at one period, appeared to help them in the game. Were the umpires wearing their hearing aids? Apparently it helps and it is the umpires, I've been told, who have requested them. It didn't help poor Chamara Silva though, after he hit the cover off the ball and had to watch in disbelief as Rudi Koertzen, like the Grim Reaper in a red shirt, slowly pointed his finger to the sky.

In my playing days if I saw an umpire wearing a hearing aid, I would be worried sick. No wonder they don't wear white coats any more. Perhaps they should give them a pair of binoculars to hang from their belts just in case. Technology, is it? I must be growing old.

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