The Bradbourne stadium came alive as India, the T-2o World Champions took on Australia in the much anticipated 20-20 clash between the teams. The South African atmosphere was replicated here with the hip music and dancing girls which added spice to the already curry-hot up series. If one needed more, yes there was: starting from cricket veterans like Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavasakar, and living legend Sachin Tendulkar, to Bollywood’s best and “lucky-charm” Shah Rukh Khan who came with Deepika Padukone in tow (if media reports are to be believed, she was the captain Dhoni’s guest).
With Australia winning the toss and batting first, I was wary: the only match in the T20 World Cup that India lost (against New Zealand) was one in which they chased. Although that match included Ajit Agarkar, the run gift-giver, and this one did not, anything could happen in a 20-20 match. However, that was not to be. The first over was full of excitement, with Gilchrist slamming 3 fours and R P Singh bagging his wicket with a beauty of a yorker. More Aussie action followed with in form Ponting flourishing and runs flowing, but Harbhajan pulled some back when he struck early to send Mathew Hayden back to the dug-out. The manner in which MS Dhoni handled the bowlers here must be lauded; that, and some good fielding restricted the Aussies to 166-5. Although the Indian fielding did not live up to the high standards that they set from themselves in the South Africa during the T20 World cup, some brilliant efforts like that of Yuvraj/Harbhajan running out Andrew Symonds and a few saves from Uthappa and Yuvaraj made the difference. Everybody did their part: the bowlers bowled well, the fielders for the most part did well, and the batsmen mauled the Aussie bowling.
There are many good things for India to take from this victory. Most importantly, it proves, as captain Dhoni said in the presentation, “… that World Cup victory (in South Africa) was not a fluke”. There was energy in the field, the fielders were pumped up applauding each others’ efforts, the batsmen belligerent, and the captain bravely innovative. Secondly, they played as a team and beat the opposition comprehensively; I’m tempted to say that they pulled an Australia (although this is 20-20 and India are ruling at the moment): when Sehwag failed, Gambhir and Uthappa shone, when Sreesanth struggled, Pathan, RP Singh and the spinners compensated. Attitude was key. In the batting, although Gambhir set the foundation and Yuvraj helped see India to through, for me, Uthappa was the pick of the batsmen; the way he danced down the track to hit out speaks volumes of the confidence that he and this Indian outfit share. When Dhoni hit the winning stroke for six, I felt a rush of happiness, pride, and awe. In Mahendra Singh Dhoni, I think, India have found a great captain: he is not fearful of the unconventional yet is capable of pulling out some almost boringly traditional stuff (like his innings from the Lord’s Test earlier this year) and most importantly, his game strategy is as fearless as his words. With some patience from the selectors, the media and the fans, this man could turn out to be one of the most successful Indian cricket captains.
Here’s to the new victorious India and to many more victories!