Dhoni’s team won because it did not fear defeat
The ticker tape welcome was reminiscent of 1971. The generous showering of money and gifts is a throwback to 1983. To the two great years that are written in red letters in the history of Indian cricket is added another year – 2007 that is now to be bestowed equal status.
Team India deserve every encomium, gift, money, land, spiffy sports car and everything else comes their way. They were also quite prepared for the unique Indian welcome, with that touch of chaos to the motorcade in Mumbai. Of course, the boundless enthusiasm of an emotional people represents a greater order in momentous times.
Team India exploded a few myths on their way to a triumphant march in the T-20 world championship that was fashioned primarily by the ability to put away fear of defeat. They then took on each game situation to the best of their ability.
The euphoria should not hide the basic weaknesses of Indian cricket and Team India. But addressing those issues can wait while the nation savours one of those rare moments in which a title is won, that too at the expense of Pakistan, traditional arch rivals whose very presence adds unique frisson to the contest.
Putting it across our friends from across the border in a thrilling finale of a world event probably beats even the distinct flavour of the four wins in World Cups, although one suspects the win in Bangalore in a quarter-final was equally momentous when it happened in 1996.
The similarities to 1983 are stunning. There too we had a reluctant Indian team traveling to a World Cup with little hope of winning it. A leading member of the team had even planned an itinerary for some hit and giggle exhibition cricket in the USA, confident that India would be knocked out in the preliminary league.
Team India went without the triumvirate. For close to 20 years, Sachin has battled in India colours without so much as tasting triumph on the world stage. His great chance came at the Wanderers in 2003 when he hit a tame return catch in the first McGrath over. Skipper Ganguly and keeper-batsman Dravid were also fellow combatants that night at the Wanderers when India were overwhelmed by the blitzkrieg of Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn.The triumvirate might not have too many chances left at limited-overs glory on the world stage. They had, however, done much in setting India up with a platform of 220 for three by the 42 nd over in the ICC Knockout final in Nairobi in 2000 only to see a limping Chris Cairns guide New Zealand to victory in the final over. Anyway, it was gracious of them then to have stepped aside ahead of the young man’s T-20.
There is no disputing Sachin would still have made an impact with his hitting ability that he can step up several notches when he wishes. Even so, the three had to take a bow on a matter of principle so that the youth brigade may go to the T-20 without any of the emotional baggage of champion cricketers who never saw the ultimate glory that comes from winning a world championship, be it in any format.
Gawky youth who may not even know how many zeroes there are in a million, be it in rupees or dollars, unless they are told by their agents will now be reaping the rewards. There is a touch of the leveler to all this since the so far little rewarded performers of domestic cricket are getting to enjoy the fruits of the triumph they created in a more egalitarian Team India.
The spirit of the cricketers who got this shot at glory was best represented in the little hand that Yusuf Pathan (Irfan’s half brother) played, striking 15 runs off six balls on appearing straightaway in a final. Let’s face it, those who went to the T-20 either went without fear of failure, or learnt at the hands of their feet-firmly-on-the-ground captain not to fear it.
Yuvraj Singh’s success in that turbo-charged blast of 36 in an over could have been anticipated. He had the exposure and the experience to explode as he did. Most other successes of the team were players with less than three years in international cricket.
Maybe, it was their battle freshness that enabled them to play without fear. They won without too much of a contribution from the bats of Yuvraj and Dhoni in the final. Battle-scarred veterans have failed in such situations. Fear of failure is a very strange sporting phenomenon.