One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

Exorcism Complete !!!

The ghosts of the New Zealand tour which seemed to have plagued the Indian batting have finally been laid to rest. Bishen Singh Bedi had said after our victory in the Natwest Trophy and the good display in the ICC Champions Trophy that, this team was peaking at the wrong moment. His words seemed to be coming true after watching the disappointing loss to West Indies at home, followed by the tour of New Zealand and then the first two games of the World Cup. Just when people had seriously started doubting the ability of our players in realising their potential, our bowlers showed some semblance of fight and bailed the team to victory against Zimbabwe and England. All the while the batsmen seemed to be recuperating. Well after the splendid performance against arch-rivals Pakistan, I am sure the world has seen this batting lineup, match and even better the heady heights we've been used to experiencing in the recent past.

Mark Nicholas (am I quoting him too often ??) had said after our victory over England, and I agree completely, that this Indian team represents Modern India in its makeup with Yuvraj, Kaif, Sehwag, Bhajji, Zaheer and Nehra providing the spunk that is required to be successful in the game these days, well supported by the genious of Sachin and Saurav, the solidity of Dravid and the experience of Srinath and Kumble. The mix of youth and experience, caution and aggression seems just perfectly balanced in this team and if they can conistently play as they have played today, the sky is the limit for their achievements.

What I liked most about today's win was the manner in which the Pakistani's were caught off-guard by the explosive start to the innnings. The sheer brilliance of the master and his erst-while clone lay their plans in tatters as 50 runs were scored of just 5 overs, and mind you the 5 overs included 3 from Akram and one each from Shoaib and Waqar. I am sure nobody, not least the Pakistanis, expected such an intense fight back. It was in-your-face aggression from the openers and Sachin looked very much like the free-stroking, awe-inspiring, bowler-dominating Sachin we have all come to love. It was like paying Pakistan back in their own coin, meeting fire with more fire, and I am sure Pakistan suffered most because of the surprising nature of the assault.

After Sehwag perished while trying to drive uppishly through the offside, Waqar used all his experience and guile to out-fox his counterpart by employing 3 slips and bowling a ball that came in to the left-hander and hit him high on the pads. Waqar appealed successfully but I think Ganguly can consider himself a touch unlucky as the ball might have sailed over the stumps. The promotion of Kaif up the order saw the desired result being met as he ran well between the wickets and the in-form Sachin kept getting the strike back, much to the agony of the Paki camp.

The Pakistani shoulders were down even when Kaif, quite against the run of play, inside edged an Afridi delivery onto his stumps. The Pakis got a slight whiff of victory, if any, when Shoaib bowled a brute of a delivery which just spat off the pitch and the severely-cramping Master was out for 98 runs in just 75 balls. The game seemed to have opened up suddenly and the Pakistanis were in the hunt for a couple of wickets which would have exposed the Indian tailenders, but they suffered due to the unimaginative and unattacking field placings employed by Waqar as Dravid and Yuvraj mustered together another match-winning partnership.

When Dravid pulled Waqar to the square fence for four, the whole of India burst into cheers. People were on the streets celebrating and it was carnival time. Moreover when Sachin rubbed it into the Pakistanis by reminding them that their no-win record against India in World Cup games was kept intact, the roar from the crowd was deafening and the joy (although sadistic to some extent) unparalleled.

For many in India and Pakistan, the World Cup started and ended today. We in India are bathing in national pride, courtesy the performance of our heroes on the (battle) field and hence I have no hestitaion in proclaiming that ...

We are the champions,my friends
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions
Of the world ...

Cheers All !!!

Vande Mataram

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