Two teams, one story?
Six months ago, India and Pakistan made early exits from the World Cup; now are clashing with each other for the Twenty20 world cup, writes Kadambari Murali.Updated: Sep 24, 2007, 18:19 IST
On Monday, it will be six months and six days to the day Bob Woolmer died and Pakistan and world cricket was plunged into chaos. The Pakistan team, which had just been shocked by Ireland in their World Cup encounter, was in disarray. The conspiracy theorists thrived in a feverishly heated atmosphere and hinted at dark deeds and made predictions of disaster.
The one thing Woolmer's unexpected death did though, was take away the maniacal edge that an early World Cup exit would normally engender among fans. The people of Pakistan, equally bewildered, largely let their players be.
Across the border in India though, the loss to Bangladesh and an equally early exit from the Caribbean World Cup caused unbelievable chaos, as the cricket world's largest market took out its fury on the men who should have been kings. When you factor in a high profile coach, Greg Chappell, who courted controversy like he was born to it, and the chaotic circumstances of his exit, it makes for a queerly similar story.
What we had six months ago were two beaten, miserable teams, a number of individual stars who were pronounced as "finished", talk of groupism and a team divided on both sides of the border, bitterness and acrimony, a feeling of loss, even desolation, as the doomsayers talked of the beginning of the decline of cricket in the sub-continent and the admen began to look for other places to spend the megabucks.
So against this backdrop, Monday, really, will be a quite fantastic day. India vs Pakistan in the final of a World Cup for the first time ever made that much bigger because six months ago, everyone was singing, "it's all over now". No one expected this, how could they — both teams are floundering in the middle of the ICC one-day rankings; both are in the process of rebuilding; both are being led by young captains and are missing their top three stars.
The difference probably is only in the fact that while the Indian trio decided (wisely, in hindsight) that Twenty20 was a game for the future and stayed away.
Monday therefore, will be a story of two teams, of fates that, every now and then, seem to run a course that is uncannily similar. It will also be the story of a game that might or might not live up to the hype, though the madness of the bowl-out of the group stage will be difficult to replicate.
We shouldn't expect too much of them as yet. Celebrate the game and the youngsters who have given us several magic moments. Be entertained. Enjoy the moment. But when you wake up on Tuesday morning, do remember that the moment passes. Up ahead are South Africa (in Pakistan) and Australia (in India). The real test might well begin then.