The T20 World Champions prevail: India beat Australia by 7 wickets

October 21, 2007

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!

The 20-20 World Cup: a survey of the tournament

September 30, 2007

I was very skeptical about this tournament when it began earlier this month, curiosly prickled upon watching the innaugural match of the home side against West Indies and glued to it after watching only a few matches.

The T-20 has been called a lottery by Kevin Peitersen and although it may be called that at times, it is also a test of talent and grit. You can win/lose a T-20 match in just one over, a stark contrast to its 50 over sibling which allows the teams to  consolidate, change gears, re-think strategy, etc. I think the best thing that came out of this for the cricketing world in general is that it proved that the game can win in this format and true talent could outshine the bigger names. Good old fashioned cricketing skills: good batting, fielding, bowling, and standard strategy is all you need to succeed in this version. What seemed to be a batsman’s game turned out as much a bowler’s game. It’s not like you cannot pace the innings in a T-20 game; a classic example of this is how India batted their way to victory in almost every game. Slogging alone cannot take you through: Bangladesh and Sri Lanka might have learnt this the hard way.

Enough about the format, here are some quickies on the some aspects of this tournament:

1. Fearless cricket: Young and fearless goes the adage; India and Bangladesh stand out for just that. Many Indian fans watched gaping as the Bangladeshi top order fearlessly (though recklessly) ripped the South African bowling the dead-rubber game. Although they lost wickets quickly, their positive spirit was apparent; they only needed to perfect some of the basics to build a successful team. If Indian fans who watched the Bangladesh-South Africa match were wondering “Why are’nt our batsmen so fearless or attacking”, they were answered very shortly. In this tournament, India, I think are the perfect examples of fearless cricket with the right proportions of caution, recklessness, agility and last not definitely not least, “never-say-die” atttitude.

2. Batting: There’s no dispute that this was a batsman’s game. Strokeplay will reward, calculated risks pay dividends, and old-fashioned running between wickets can win matches. Some of the impressive batsmen from this tourament: Mathew Hayden, Mohammed Ashraful, Kumar Sangakkara, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle, Brenden McCullum.

3. Bowling: Wicket taking can win matches here, and this semblance to Test cricket made the watching the T-20 matches very thrilling. Good old fashioned line and length, swing and change of pace makes a huge difference. Best bolwing from this tournament: RP Singh, Mohammed Asif, Umar Gul, Daniel Vettori, Stuart Clark, Irfan Patan, Sreeshant.

4. Fielding: India, South Africa, and Sri Lanka did well in this department. Best fielding display: Karthik’s blinder of a catch at slip in the match against South Africa, Uthappa’s direct hit to cause the run-out of Imran Nazir in the T-20 Final.

5. Umpiring: was top notch for this tournament. I don’t remember seeing any controversial lbws, or any rightful appeal turned down. Best Umpire for this tournament: Simon Taufel.

6. Commentary: almost as entertaining as the games themselves. Best commentary range: Ravi Shastri, David “Bumble” Lloyd and Harsh Bhogle for excitement, Nasser Hussain for honest and fair commentary. Other noteworthy mention: Ian Chappel for his snideness.

7. Teams to watch out for: Bangladesh, definitely. This group of youngsters have talent; they only need more practice. India on the other hand seem to a new, positive face now; although this tournament may not be the best yardstick to judge a cricket team, success in this format surely must count for something. The new Indian team has given a nation faith that their favorite game will be in good hands after the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid trio bow out of the cricketing arena.

T-20 Final: Some great moments

September 29, 2007

Allright, I realize this post comes a little late, but I really can’t resist this. So here are some of my picks for great moments from the T-20 World Cup Final (in no-specific order). I rate these as great moments because of emotional appeal and/or match-swinging action so typical of an India-Pakistan match.  

1. Anthems of India and Pak being played
2. Yousuf Pathan walking out to bat for the first time in T-20
3. Yousuf Pathan’s 6 off Asif
4. Gul’s getting Dhoni
5. Sharma’s six in the death overs (it might have been a four, if it hadn’t been for the Pak fielder).
6. The first Pak wicket
7. Nazir’s runout 
8. Shahid Afridi’s wicket
9. Irfan Pathan’s double wicket over
10. Misbah’s consecutive 6s in the 17th over
11. Joginder Sharma being given the last over
12. Sreesanth’s catch to India’s sensational “almost not there” victory
13. Team India’s reaction to the victory
14. MSD gifting his shirt to a young fan: what was interesting here is how the media portrayed this later comparing it to Ganguly’s shirt waving on the Lord’s balcony after winning the NatWest series. This was not the adrenaline filled fist pumping action, but seemed to be a calm yet emotional moment for Dhoni. What was more touching was to see him help the lad put it on. A class act by a young leader!
15. Shoaib Malik’s apology to fans. (It seemed to be an honest and honorable one, but what I thought was unnecessary was the way he pulled the religion card. Pakistan still think they are a Muslim nation and that all Muslims belong there, don’t they?)
16. MSD’s bordering arrogant “We deserve a big celebration”. (But I guess he can be forgiven for he had just won the World Cup; however, I don’t think he would have even remote expected the celebration and welcome they were to recieve in Mumbai on arrival).
17. Ravi Shastri’s commentarry (the final over) and the teary eyed man at the presentation ceremony!