Indians won the world cup by defeating Sri Lanka in a closely contested match. The country was gripped in mass hysteria which is not possible to imagine for a non Indian. We, only we are privy to the secret of going into a frenzy of jubilation and also the opposite, to the depths of severe depression. The frenzy was for all to see, thanks to the electronic media and the whole country erupted in one great burst of joy.
I have on earlier occasion written about a small town youngster called M.S.Dhoni. He is the Indian team’s captain. This one man was primarily responsible for the win. The fearless exhibition of leadership is worth emulating by our politicians and beurocrats. After hitting the, where did he go when his teammates were celebrating? He went to get his head shaved to keep a vow he had taken!
Of course it was a team effort, there were many heroes, but much hyped Tendulkar was not one of them. It did not matter, the country and the team love him and they all dedicated the trophy to the veteran cricketer. Our politicians are very free with the tax payers’ money. I read and saw that each player will be richer, by rough estimates, by ten crores of rupees. This is for a team that is already rich beyond ones imagination. I don’t say effort should not be rewarded but this kind of largesse is vulgar in a country where most people are poor and other sports are severely hampered for want of resources. Who would want to be a basket ball player when there is no money or prestige? So is with Hockey which was once considered as our national game. We were once unbeatable in this game. Today we don’t even make the qualifying rounds. Is there dearth of talent? Far from it, we are ideally suited to play this game. what is lacking is the support base and the talent pool which is drifting towards cricket.
Having said this, what did I do? I watched the game. It was a great pleasure watching batsmanship of highest standards by two. One from SriLanka. Mahela Jayawardhana’s chanceless century almost took the game away from us. It was an innings of rare class. Next to it was from our own Gautham Gambhir. He fell short of his century by three runs. It was another innings of class and character. Small built men go unnoticed. Both Jaywardhane and Gambhir are short men. Why is it that it is so much pleasure to watch them? Most of cricket history’s great batsmen in terms of correct batsmanship have been short. They rely on technique and timing and not on brute force and that is the reason why it is such a pleasure to watch. In my younger days there was this great batsman called Gundappa Viswanath. He faced the fearsome fast bowlers of that era without wearing a helmet. One would not even see the ball which sped and crossed the boundary when he hit it. Then there was Gavaskar, then came Tendulkar [who is s till there after 21 years of international cricket!]. Now we have Sehwag, Gambhir and Virat Kohli. The all time great, Don Bradman too was short.
But the man who took the award of man of the match was none other than the captain, Dhoni. He came to bat at a crucial time when the game was tilting towards SriLanka. India were three wickets down and the captain chose that moment to promote himself and did not send Yuvraj Singh who normally came in to bat in that position. Dhoni was not in the best of batting form and to come in at that juncture was pure madness or so some thought. But he had his own reasons. May be he thought he could stand the intense pressure better than others. How right he was. In the next hour he had taken the game away from SriLanka and in the end remained unbeaten. His innings did not have the class of Jayawardhane or Gambhir but it had great character. Only when it became certain that India will win, that he went for his strokes and the last fifteen minutes we saw his power hitting.
The winning stroke was a massive six with the ball disappearing into the stands. I can never forget the expression on his face when he followed that ball. It was one of pure pleasure.
Now comes the serious job of living up to the reputation of world champions. Let us watch and see how they do it.