| Indian players celebrate their win in Colombo on Sunday
Colombo: Greg Chappell turned 57 on Sunday and, really, couldn’t have asked for a more pleasing gift than Team India making the IndianOil Cup final.
Chappell, however, must have felt like 67 when the underrated and understrength West Indies weren’t very far from pulling off a second upset inside 24 hours.
The previous night, the West Indies stunned hosts Sri Lanka and, then, got to within eight runs of one of the more remarkable results of recent times.
At 112 for six, the West Indies were about to be counted out, but Runako Morton (who played only because Shivnarine Chanderpaul couldn’t) and Denesh Ramdin helped them to 255 for nine, close to the target of 263.
If MoM Yuvraj Singh (110) and Mohammed Kaif (83 not out) wrested back the initiative in the first session, seasoned Anil Kumble (three for 38) and Irfan Pathan (two for 34) did the star-turn under lights.
Kumble wasn’t in the XI for the first three matches.
One can’t forget Ashish Nehra, either ' he conceded just four in the high-on-pressure 50th over. Nor, for that matter, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who lashed an innovative unbeaten 28 from a mere 13 balls.
The purists may have buried their heads, but effectiveness matters. And, eventually, Dhoni’s knock made the difference.
“There are times when appearances can be deceptive... I looked calm, but... As for my not telling Ashish much before and during that last over, well, he knows more about left-arm bowling and is experienced,” remarked captain Rahul Dravid.
Dravid didn’t show much emotion, but Tuesday will be a big day: He isn’t standing-in for Sourav Ganguly and the captain for Zimbabwe is to be named later in the week.
Returning to the virtual semi-final, Dravid acknowledged that the West Indies’ recovery “surprised” him. Also, the struggle to get the lower order was cause for some “worry.”
Incidentally, Dravid believes a “tight finish” before a final has positives.
Earlier, at 51 for three and Sourav off to hospital for an x-ray, things looked bleak. That’s when Yuvraj and Kaif joined forces, like in the summer of 2002 NatWest final, to send the match spinning on its head.
For much of his career, Yuvraj has been vilified for being inconsistent. It has even been held that he has bowled more maidens (off the field) than runs scored.
Whatever, at the Premadasa, Yuvraj produced a sizzling century ' his first since January 2004. He got pretty emotional and appeared to point at somebody in the dressing room.
Later, Yuvraj explained: “Basically, I was angry at myself... Angry that I’d been getting out in the 20s and 30s...”
Asked by The Telegraph whether he remembered anybody in particular on looking up, after the century, Yuvraj replied: “Jee haan... I thought of Baba Ajit Singhji and Baba Ram Singhji... I worship them...”
Whenever possible, Yuvraj makes the hour-long drive from Chandigarh to pay obeisance.
Footnote: Chappell, by the way, had to cut two cakes in the dressing room ' before and after the match. He didn’t mind.