Apr 3, 2011

Final : India V Sri Lanka

Tendulkar has finally become the most decorated player in World Cricket. After having the hefty tag of ‘God’ attached to him for close to a decade now, World Cup was the only thing that was missing from him. If it was him who carried the hopes of the cricket fans in India, then today it was payback time for him. The generation of players that were inspired by him bought home the cup. Nothing encapsulated this better than what Kohli said. He said “ He carried the burden for 21 years, now is our time to carry him”

The match itself started off in a misleading manner as the captains were not sure of what the other meant to do and were steadfast in the belief that they won the toss. In the end, the referee wanted the toss to be conducted. In what has been a superb turnaround from 2003 final, Zaheer started this final in a superb manner- he bowled three maidens on the trot. On the other hand, the surprise selection for final, Sreesanth endured a tough time- exactly the way he started off the tournament

By the time the spinners were pressed into the attack, Sri Lanka were having a slow start and with Dilshan somehow contriving to get bowled round his legs, it seemed as if India were tightening the noose. They would not have reckoned with a couple of players who have almost played all their cricket together, Mahela and Sanga. It was Mahela who started to attack as he pinched the singles and hit the occasional boundary. Just when the partnership was achieving ominous proportions, Yuvraj broke through as he got Sangakkara to edge to the keeper. Jayawardene was unfazed by the dismissal and went about his work. He stitched together invaluable partnerships with Samaraweera and Kulasekara

It was perhaps a tribute to him that a English writer tweeted “A century without getting off the first gear”. He was elegant and it was not until he reached 96 that he played a forceful shot. Memories of his late cuts, intended steers to third man boundary, sizzling drives to cover will always be carried by those who witnessed the final. That Kulasekera made the runs he made was a tribute to him as every nudge or a shot was followed by a tap on the helmet. Perhaps that was what encouraged Thisara also to give his best shot

After starting the final on a superb note, there was a tapering down in intensity by Zaheer Khan. When eighteen runs were looted of his final over, the first thing that came to mind was the 1987 semi-final between Pakistan and Australia. From a slow start, Sri Lanka posted a competitive total, thanks in no unmean terms to Jayawardene

When the Indian innings started, it was rocked early as Sehwag was caught plumb in front of the wicket. Tendulkar then proceeded to uncork some vintage strokes, none better than the on drive that he played with minimal follow through. The excitement lasted only for a little time as he was drawn forward in edging a ball back to the keeper. At that moment it seemed that the World Cup hopes of India died a natural death

Gambhir though had other ideas in mind. He played the part that Jayawardene played for Sri Lanka. He had partnerships with Kohli and Dhoni that altered the course of the match. He and Kohli concentrated on rotating the strike thus, not allowing the bowler to settle down on a line. When Kohli went back to a superb return catch by Dilshan, it was a surprise to see Dhoni emerging out of the hatch rather than Yuvraj

After taking his time to settle down, Dhoni absorbed the pressure and then converted it into a positive as he scored 91 out of the 161 runs that were required when he came to the crease. The batting of both Gambhir and Dhoni unravelled the basic tenet of the game: Its better to be effective rather than be flamboyant. When Dhoni got the signature shot of his going, not the helicopter shot but the drive of the backfoot to sweeper cover, it was more or less certain that he was getting the confidence back in the biggest match of his life

It was unfortunate for Gambhir that he missed his century by three runs. He unnecessarily came rushing down the track and inside edged a ball onto his middle stump. So it was perhaps fitting that the Man of the tournament, Yuvraj was at hand to complete the formalities. It was perhaps even more fitting that Dhoni hit the winning runs

Spare a thought for Muralitharan too as he finished on the losing side and it was really a good speech by Sangakkara at the podium

When the Indian team started to celebrate, Shane Warne’s quote came to mind when he said “Let’s party together as hard as we can, we wont know if we all would be a part of the group the next time”

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