Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chak De..India..!!

Blue Billion..that was the name of the support campaign for the Indian cricket team before the 2007 limited over(50) cricket world cup in carribean. Filmstars, pundits, not-so-noteworthies, everyone chipped in with their signatures and one-liners..wishing their best. And a team, led by an insipid captain, coached by a horrendus individual, boarded the plane for carribean...

We all know what happened in the islands of central america. Indian cricket have not seen bigger disaster, a nation did not show bigger rage. India lost to Bangladesh, surrendered against Srilanka, came back home within a week they played their 1st match. The blue billion became pale, the cafe-corner junta's demanded the head of the players, specially those who failed to perform.
Fingers are raised and pointed to several individuals, the opportunistic racist coach started to swing his willow. Greg Chappel has finally succeeded in destroying Indian cricket. Thats what he came for. After finishing his job, he left the post before being sacked by BCCI. A lot of speculations prevailed, who didnt do their job, who wanted to catch fish in dirty water...

After effect..shewag sacked, harbhajan sacked, Irfan pathan sacked. Sachin and Sourav "rested" from the ODI team. India travelled to Bangladesh to get a "revenge". Well this article is not about the aftermath of world cup disaster..but these events are needed to be mentioned to put things in perspective.

The upward curve of Indian cricket after Greg Chappel left. India defeated Bangladesh 2-0 in ODIs , 1-0 in Tests, defeated South Africa in aODI series in Ireland 2-1 (1st time such thing happened), defeated England in test series 1-0 in England(1st time after '86). But still something was not right. I am telling you what is not right. THE CAPTAIN..!!

Thankfully Rahul Dravid stepped down at the right time. After India lost to England 3-4 in the ODI series, and came back home. Rahul Dravid ended the two tortorous-eventful year at the helm. Some capabilities are natural, and cannot be polished with hard-work. For example, captaincy for Sourav Ganguly, batting for Rahul Dravid. Do what you do best, and do what the team needs you for. The overindispensable feeling of Sourav Ganguly and momentary greediness from Rahul Dravid has chopped India off several glory, cost India a building process.

But never mind..life must go on..and we..the blue billion..can adjust to life very well. So here comes the 20-20 world cup, the new brainchild of ICC in international circuit. 20-20 cricket started in South Africa in 2000, and started in the gully-moholla's of Pakistan in 1970s. This format stopped the non-cricket playing nations accusition of cricket being a boring long game.

It takes about 3-3.5 hrs to finish a match, same time a baseball, american football, basketball match takes. The 50 over games shrinked by 40%, with all the rules and powerplays, and everything. The ground-size is not shrinked, nor the members in team.
It is hard for the puritans to accept it. Same was the case when Kerry Packer started world series of cricket down-under in 1977, flood-lights, colored dress, white-ball, excitement. New things takes a while to be accepted. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, english counties play a lot of 20-20 cricket, so does south-african clubs, Pakistani players. The format is not well established in India , and not taken seriously in Australia.

Ya right, you heard it correctly, Australia. The nation that has won almost everything in cricket in this decade so far. 2 world cups, many more ODI series. Australia, the nation who wants to dominate the sport of cricket. Australia, the nation without emotion and with a lot of bad intent. Australia a nation with utmost power unleashed in cricket field. A nation build on by 2nd generation english prisoners and 2nd generation tribal aboriginals, devoid of mass education, devoid of respect towards human race. Players from all over the world became victim of racial chants in australian cricket grounds. Why? because those individuals have no respect for other people.

Now this is too far-fetched generalisation. There are tons of aussies who are exactly opposite of this picture, but as you know exceptions only can prove the rule.Now back to the cricket ground. India all in all played one 20-20 match in SA. Australian team said they dont take this tournament seriously. Everyone tipped South Africa to win this tournament at their home.Life only goes so much according to the prediction.

India and Pakistan both needed to do well in this tournament. Albeit the shorter version, this is a world cup. And world cup in any sports is of huge magnitude, even if its a world cup of 3-a-side soccer, it gets media attention all over the world. So why not 20-20 cricket? India and Pakistan , both indispensable to the ICC for cash-accumulation, needed to reinstate the flavor on the cricketing world, specially after their early exit from world cup of longer version earlier this year.
And what a way they began. They played a tied match and India won 3-0 in a bowl-out. On the other groups, Zimbabwe stunned Australia, Bangladesh sent WestIndies packing. The sixes started flowing, crowd started dancing, the fireworks making noise. Yes, cricket is back, the excitement is back, the subcontinent is back..should I say the exciting part of the subcontinent is back.
Let me know generalise the matches a little bit. A score of 175-180 is considered to be good score in 20-20, an economy rate of 7 in 4 overs of bowling considered to be good. Now you are thinking 20-20 is batsman's game. Not quite. Yes indeed batsmen are hitting more sixes and four they used to, but there is the catch phrase. They are expected to hit more sixes and fours. This makes bowlers job easy. If a bowler can bowl full, bowl good yorkers, it is hard to just swing at those deliveries. The mind games take priority here. You have to out-think your opponent. Fielding is an important part of the matches, as it always been. No time for making-up, its just 20 overs.
After the initial hickup, Australia made it to the super-8, but they again lost to Pakistan there. Pakistan gained up the momentum superbly after group stage, they defeated Srilanka as well. Pakistan have players who can hit the ball naturally to a long distance. Imran Nazir, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq. Misbah ul Haq applied himself brilliantly, and shoaib malik and younis khan played natural cricket. Umar Gul boled awesome yorkers in the middle over, Md Asif provided initial brakthroughs, and Pakistan matched on to the final winning all the matches in super 8 and beating NZ in the semifinal.

Oh, NewZealand, not again. Again losing a semifinal to a subcontinent team. They never get past semifinal because they are the best mediocre team I have ever seen. Daniel Vettori displayed some superb spin bowling, but nothing much to remember off. Some big hits by Craig Mcmillan and Jacob Oram here and there. The lost drably to Pakistan in semis, lost to SouthAfrica in group stage.

Yeah, lets talk about South Africa, and group B in super 8 in general. India lost the first match to NZ, and then SA defeated Eng, NZ defeated England, and the equation became complicated. India , suddenly, losing just one match to NZ, are on the brink of elimination from the tournament. No one noticed the cricket of India that much, till that point. Then India faced of England in a must win match. In came Yuvraj Singh, blasting 6 sixers in a Stuart Broad over. Game on, suddenly the tri-color flags started flapping in the crowd more vigorously. India defeated England by only 18 runs though, 218-200. Bowling remained a question, Joginder Sharma's low medium pace being main concern.

But slowly one can sense, India gaining momentum. Gautam Gambhir batted very well throughout , Uthappa is providing good innings, and now Yuvraj. Yuvraj;s natural hitting ability is never in question, but what he lacked always is the license of hitting freely whenever he wanted. This format of cricket provided that to him. And his shots were not slogs by any means. Good, clean hitting, good classic big cricket shots.

So came the crucial match, India against SouthAfrica, with all its permutation and combinations. India can win the group, India can just qualify for the semis, India can be out of the tournament. Same is true for both SA and NZ. India batted first, Yuvraj was out with tendinitis, and managed 153/5. Decent score from 32-3. Dhoni and new-found Rohit Sharma played calculatedly. Rohit Sharma showd immense maturity in pacing his innings in this format. You hardly pace an innings in 20-20, you just go and hit, right? Ya, you wish. No, as I tried to emphasise earlier as well, this is natural game of cricket. The intricacies and delicacies of regular game of cricket is not lost altogether here. Batsmen still can pace his innings, still can rotate the strike, bowler still can bowl a classic outswinger to beat the edge of the bat.

SouthAfrica choked again, and choked bigtime. RP Sing provided an awesome combination of swing and pace-bowling, SA tottered 32-5 at one stage, and finally even failed to score 126 runs they needed to qualify for the semifinal. India topped the group, and booked a date with Australia in Durban for semifinal.Indian fielding have risen to a new level. Karthik's catch of graeme Smith and Rohit Sharma's run out of Justin Kemp are the best examples.http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aXMiwzJLUI, http://http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=LztfjZUH1oo

India vs Australia at the semifinal. The two ignorant teams in the semis. The experienced teams in this format like SA and England are out. What does this prove? This proves that it doesnt depend on the format, it depends on how you play it. If you play proper cricket, bowl well, field well, you will win a match in 20-20 no matter who is your opponent.

Not a lot of people think that India can go to the final beating Australia. India started off with mediocricity, reaching 41-2 in 8th over. Here comes Yuvraj again. Flicking Lee for couple of sixes through square leg, he gathered his momentum. Gilchrist tried to slow things down by introducing Symonds, Yuvraj whacked him outside the ground. Then he delicately lofted some low full-tosses from mitchel johnson over the cover for boundaries. Finally when he fell to Clarke in 18th over, India are well placed at 155-3. Dhoni was still at the other end, and used his brutal power to lift India to 188. Not staggering, but very good total. If you bowl well, aussies will find it tough chasing that under the lights.
Gilchrist and Hayden started in their natural ways as they always had. Hayden in particular smashed things hard. Gilchrist fell to Sreesanth, but hayden continued the sixes and fours. 134-2 in 14th over. 55 from 6 overs with 8 wkts in hand. A cakewalk in 20-20. Pathan and Harbhajan had other ideas. First Sreesanth bowled a scorching yorker to knock off Hayden's stump. Then pathan and harbhajan bowled 3 tidy overs, allowed no room to hit. Pathan bowled Symonds, Harbhajan bowled Clarke, and Australia suddenly was pushed hard to backfoot. They neede 21 in the last over, Joginder Sharma gave away just 5 and took 2 wickets. Joy erupted, fireworks exploded, Indian players dancing on the pitch. Yes, Australia, the mighty-all conquering Australia is eliminated from a world cup. Other than aussies, I guess everyone erupted with joy. This is an welcome break from the monotony. Then people realised what just happened due to Indian victory in the semifinal over aussies.

It is an India vs Pakistan final. A dream come true. Two nations, divided by british, two nations, filled with so many emotional crazy people, two nations, exiting early from the world cup, two nations, whose players stardom switch from zero to hero and vice-versa in seconds, are in the final. Such is the intensity of rivalry, such is the history of cricket, such is the fan-following of these two nations, such is the flavor and excitement these two nations bring, that, the final of this 20-20 worldcup instantly became the most-awaited event in cricket. Never in an world cup final before, India and Pakistan met. Cricket enthusiasts all over the world felt that this is going to be the match, for ages. This is going to be an epic by itself.

Yes , what a match it was. Any adjective will fall short to provide proper description, so I am not using any. Just suffice to say, it is indeed the match for the ages, it is indeed the best final in any form of cricket have seen so far. India won the toss, batted first. Yusuf Pathan, Irfans older brother opened the batting with Gambhir in Shewags absence. He hit Asif for a six in the 1st over. Gambhir played superbly, kep the scoreboard ticking and picked up boundaries as well. Pakistan did their homework on Yuvraj. Yuvraj was not given pace to work with, and he never felt too comfortable against spinners. Dhoni also failed to score big, and Umar Gul strangled India in the middle over. On a sunny day, a flat Jo'burg pitch, everyone felt anything short of 175 will fail to challenge Pakistan. India were 120 in 17 overs. Rohit Sharma provided the late fire-power and India managed to reach 157 in 20 overs. Gambhirs 75 was the main pillar, and Sharma's 30 n.o. provided the late impetus. Runs on the board. Though 157 is well 20 run short of expectations, chasing 7.9 runs an over in a final cannot be a cakewalk. India been bowling well for last few matches.

Imran Nazir started as if he is playing a 10-10 match, not 20-20. He blasted two cover driven sixes in Sreesanths 1st over that cost 21. RP Sing removed hafeez and Kamran Akmal in his 1st two over to keep things in check a little bit, but Imran anzir just carried on, he scoed 33 of 14, and Pakistan were 53/2 in the 6th over. Match is slipping away from India.

..and here comes the cliched turning point.Imran Nazir wanted a runner, but since he carried an injury to the match, umpires didnt agree to the request. Younis khan pushed a ball to the mid off region and called for a single, Uthappa picked up the ball and throwed to the strikers end. the throw beat hobbling Nazir to the crease, and 3rd umpire pressed the OUT button.http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7821150331115380257&q=Imran+Nazir+run+out&total=2&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

That seem to have change the momentum of Pakistan innings. Pathan came in and varied his pace beatifully. neither Shoaib Malik, nor Younis Khan was able to hit him, and finally Younis Khan was out to Joginder Sharma. In came Misbah-ul-Haq, the tragic hero of last India Pakistan 20-20 match in this world cup's group stage. Shoib Malik found it hard going on the other end, and in Pathans 3rd over (Indias 12th), both Malik and Shahid Afridi perished. Malik held on at mid on, and Afridi tried a non-existing heave on the second ball he faced, that landed to Sreesatnh on long off. Similar situation as the group matches. Misbah left with tail enders.And Misbah started it as the group match, started hitting sixes along with tail enders. First with Yassir Arafat, then with Sohail Tanvir. He hit 3 sixes on one Harbhajan's over, where as Sohail Tanvir hit 2 sixes to Sreesanth. Equation became 20 from 13 balls. But Sreesanth bowled Tanvir in that last ball of the over, and then RP removed Umar Gul early next over, to put Pakistan again under pressure. 17 required of 7 balls with only 1 wicket in hand.

Md Asif edged a full toss from RP towards thirdman boundary for 4. Again it swings to Pakistan. 13 of last over with Misbah on strike. Harbhajan was whakced by Misbah, so Dhoni called Joginder Sharma again. Joginder finished it off well against Australia in semis. But there 21 was required, here only 13. Joginder bowled a full toss in the 2nd ball, and Misbah whacked it for 6. 6 required from 4 balls. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. The world cricket have not seen more tense final before. The flags in the crowd are not waving. Which way it will go?

There is a proverb,"dont try to be too clever, you may be hanged". The fine leg was up indeed, but just playing with straight bat will have earned Pakistan victory. Misbah tried to scoop Joginders out-side-off stumo full delivery over fine legs head. Bad attempt, and he did not connect it properly, Sreesanth held the catch. It was over, the best final match in the history of the cricket was over. So the outcome..? India has won the inaugural 20-20 cricket world cup.

A nation errupted in joy. People just ran out of their home, fireworks started shooting up in the sky. The joy knew no bound. The escapades from the daily monotonus life been wide open. The only true religion in India has won today. Cricket has provided a billion people their moment of glory. All the Indians in every corner of the world felt special. "We are the world-champion of a sporting event." And what a way to win it...
In the ground, the players were ecstatic beyond words as well. These players, they faced criticism, their houses were attacked, their families were targeted when India lost in carribean.

The smile is back, the enrgy is back, the youth is back, the enthusiasm is back. The freeness, the liberty to express your mind is back. You are allowed to dance , you have earned the right to go for a victory lap with the tricolor flag and a world cup trophy in your hand.
Its a story of success, its a story of youth, passion, exubuerance, story of camaraderie, story of a nation , who after all, full of people with emotion..full of people who feel proud when the tricolor flatters in the sky..a nation with full of people who get excited when they hear the music playing in the background sounding.."Chak de...India.."..!!!

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