India erupts at the stroke of six

2011-04-04 00:00

FIREWORKS crackled deep into the night and the air was full of hoots, songs and shouts emerging from lines of cars, motor bikes and scooters moving up and down Marine Parade in Mumbai. Elsewhere in the city, and across the country, exuberant celebrations began the moment Mahendra Dhoni clouted a drive into the stands. It was a fitting end to an unexpectedly successful and mostly clean tournament.

Appropriately the final was a superb contest full of twists and turns and dominated not by power but by skill and temperament. Neither of the great old stagers, Sachin Tendulkar and Murali, contributed significantly, the batsmen falling in the course of a blistering opening burst from Lasith Malinga and the tweaker finding the combination of dew and dicky groin beyond him.

Nor did Virender Sehwag score a single run.

Instead Mahela Jayawardena and Gautam Gambhir stroked the ball around adroitly and calmly, advancing their team’s cause with neat strokes played into inviting gaps. Jayawardena was as magnificent as he was discreet and deserved to finish on the winning side.

He had never before scored an ODI hundred and lost and his innings contained many virtues.

If Gambhir’s contribution was not quite as attractive, it was every bit as valuable and played under even more pressure. Lodged between the stars, he fulfils the same role and bats in the same style as did Larry Gomes for the mighty West Indian sides. Virat Kohli also played his part, another fierce competitor, another member of the new generation of Indian batsmen, bold, confident and proud.

Afterwards Kohli, widely regarded as a future captain, helped to carry Tendulkar around the ground and explained that “for the last 21 years he has carried the burden of the team. It was time we carried him on our shoulders”.

Yet the day belonged to Dhoni. Like Jayawardena his form had been scratchy, but he was able to put that behind him. Indeed he dared to push himself up the order, emerging at third drop because two off-spinners were bowling and he wanted to keep a right and left-handed combination at the crease.

Nor did he falter, scampering between the wickets, taking “ones and doubles” as he calls them, guiding his partners, clubbing anything dropping short and finally opening his shoulders to complete the victory.

Afterwards Dhoni explained that he had been anxious the entire tournament and in the final had thought he had better get some runs as otherwise critics would ask about his reason for ditching a capable spinner in favour of an expensive speedster and batting in front of Yuvraj Singh, the cricketer of the tournament.

In the critical hour, and despite modest returns, Dhoni dared to back himself. That is leading from the front.

India’s error in omitting Ashwin and playing Sreesanth was minor. The Lankans changed their side lock stock and barrel, ditching two spinners and a struggling batsmen, adding a tweaker to the squad on Friday and a brace of speedsters able to swing the willow, but not the ball.

It was a startling strategy caused partly by Angelo Matthews’s injury, partly by the pitch with short boundaries and partly by India’s skill against spin. The changes disrupted the team, denied successful players the opportunity to appear in a final and seemed designed to counter weaknesses not to support strengths.

Even the toss was a strange affair because both captains seemed to think they had won it and neither commentator nor match referee was able to offer any illumination. Beforehand Jeff Crowe had asked the visiting captain to call loudly owing to the cacophony in the stadium. If his call was correct, it was magnanimous of Sangakkara so readily to agree to a second toss.

Convinced he had won and delighted to be batting, Dhoni looked displeased by the reversal. Afterwards his counterpart apologised for mumbling. It was an unsatisfactory episode.

In the end the toss did not matter. India’s batting was too deep and strong for a weakened visiting attack. The Lankans played with gusto, but relied too much on Malinga to take wickets. Although the umpires regularly changed the ball, the paceman could not find any reverse swing on a dewy night and none of the rest posed a threat.

No home side had won a CWC before, but India did not blink. Overall it was a happy and entertaining occasion assisted by outstanding umpiring in Aleem Dar, and spoilt only slightly by somewhat heavy-handed security. It was a fine World Cup, the best for 25 years.



Sri Lanka innings

U. Tharanga c Sehwag b Khan 2

T. Dilshan b Harbhajan Singh 33

K. Sangakkara c Dhoni b Yuvraj Singh 48

M. Jayawardene not out 103

T. Samaraweera lbw b Yuvraj Singh 21

C. Kapugedera c Raina b Khan 1

N. Kulasekara run out 32

T. Perera not out 22

Extras (b 1 lb 3 w 6 nb 2) 12

TOTAL (for six wickets; 50 overs) 274

Fall of wickets: 1-17 2-60 3-122 4-179 5-182 6-248

Did not bat: L. Malinga, S. Randiv, M. Muralitharan

Bowling: Z. Khan 10-3-60-2 (1w), S Sreesanth 8-0-52-0 (2nb), M. Patel 9-0-41-0 (1w), Harbhajan Singh 10-0-50-1 (1w), Yuvraj Singh 10-0-49-2, S. Tendulkar 2-0-12-0 (3w), V. Kohli 1-0-6-0

India innings

V. Sehwag lbw b Malinga 0

S. Tendulkar c Sangakkara b Malinga 18

G. Gambhir b Perera 97

V. Kohli c & b Dilshan 35

MS Dhoni not out 91

Yuvraj Singh not out 21

Extras: (b-1, lb-6, w-8) 15

TOTAL (for four wickets, 48.2 overs) 277

Fall of wickets: 1-0 2-31 3-114 4-223

Did not bat: S. Raina, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, S.

Sreesanth, M. Patel.

Bowling: Malinga 9-0-42-2 (2w), Kulasekara 8.2-0-64-0,

Perera 9-0-55-1 (2w), Randiv 9-0-43-0, Dilshan 5-0-27-1 (1w), Muralitharan 8-0-39-0 (1w)

Player of the match: MS Dhoni (India)

Player of the tournament: Yuvraj Singh (India)

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