It?s A Day: India shocked and awed
They came in thousands, dreaming of a World Cup win at the Wanderers on Sunday. And millions more glued to their TV sets back home must have also hoped that India would beat Australia and become the champions of one-day cricket.
It took just a few overs on Sunday morning, and just one over in the afternoon for that dream to be completely soured as the final became a nightmare of sorts for the Indian team and their fans.
The Australians put up a ruthless display, mixing flamboyance and precision in a perfect cocktail to literally pulverise India into submission --- by 125 runs. To borrow from boxing jargon, it was a knock-out, with the floored man not having the energy to even ask for a mandatory count.
It's not often that you can describe what went wrong for the losing side through one single over. That was the very first over of this game. Zaheer Khan was the bowler and Adam Gilchrist the batsman. The crowds were slowly filing in and the mood of the moment was bewilderment after Sourav Ganguly's decision to field first. The wicket had appeared flat from a distance, but there had been overnight rain, and at the moment of the toss, the sky was completely covered by clouds.
Ganguly probably thought that letting Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath loose on the Indians in these conditions would be inviting disaster. He may have also believed that his own battery of medium pacers could use these conditions well and a few early wickets would put the Australians under tremendous pressure.
What one can safely say is that he will probably rue this decision every time he looks back at it and will find it hard to defend the decision.
The first over of the match, though, did show that the wicket not only had a lot of bounce, but was also helping seam. There was a lot of swing too. Bowling first may not have been all that bad a decision but Zaheer and his fellow pacemen let the team down badly.
It was an over in which Gilchrist played and missed a few, edged one ball towards third slip, got a few wide deliveries and smacked one brutal cut to a short ball. It was an over in which Ganguly strengthened his slip cordon from two to three and it was also an over in which 15 runs were conceded. Except for one odd good ball, which might have fetched a wicket had there been a third slip, it was a terrible over.
It also set the pace for an Australian innings that began with a storm and ended with a hurricane.
It was strange to watch the ball jag and seam off the wicket, swing in the air and even turn a lot and yet watch the batsmen smash the bowlers around. That should give you an idea of how badly India bowled.
The pressure of playing the final probably made the bowlers very tense and in an effort to make every delivery matter, they did too much and forgot one basic rule --- to stick to the fundamentals of line and length.
Gilchrist was brutal in his attack. Damien Martyn, in comparison, was almost soft, while Ricky Ponting mixed the two strands to stunning effect. The run-feast was laid out in such a professional, disdainful manner that one hardly noticed the effort behind the shower of fours and sixes put in by the batsmen. It was a staggering display and the Indians had no place to hide.
Did India have a chance to score 360 for victory? The answer came in the first over of the Indian innings. Sachin Tendulkar pulled McGrath to the fence and, in trying to repeat the shot, top-edged it instead. The bowler took a simple catch and the Australians came together in a gleeful huddle. As a contest, the match was over.
There were a few bright moments for the crowd to enjoy. Virender Sehwag, all at sea to begin with, played with aggression, as did Ganguly for a while but there was never any way the Indians could get to their target. Three hundred and sixty is a score that would probably have been beyond the reach of the Australians had they been the ones doing the chasing.
However, the most joyous moment came about when it briefly rained in the afternoon and there appeared a possibility of a wash out and a replay on Monday. When the match was stopped the crowd erupted as if India had won the Cup. But the joy was short-lived. The match began again and Australia went on to be crowned one-day kings.