Dhaka: Every story that has a fairytale ending doesn’t necessarily involve all the characters in it. Some are satisfied souls, basking in the afterglow of happiness; some recede to the insignificant lanes of oblivion.
The gulf that separates the winner from a loser is one which is bridged by ‘what ifs’. You can’t cross the bridge, you can only stand on the edge and look at the other end, thinking what if....
So while Sri Lanka’s six-wicket triumph in the World T20 final on Sunday was a perfect happy ending for Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, who thus retired from T20 Internationals on a memorable high, it was heartbreak for the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli.
Dhoni lost the World T20 final, lost the chance to be the only captain to win three World titles, lost the opportunity to be the undisputed king of the world of cricket by simultaneously holding three major ICC crowns...
At the end of all that, he can only ponder on what if the last four overs of the Indian innings produced more than just 19 runs? What if Yuvraj Singh didn’t waste 10 balls in that crucial period? What if India had won the toss? The list is long and Sunday night too will be a long one for Dhoni.
For Sangakkara, the sweet taste of victory was sweeter because he won the Man of the Match award for his 52 not out of 35 balls.
Mahela too chipped in with a run-a-ball 24 as Sri Lanka paced their 131-run target chase perfectly. They won with 13 balls to spare.
For Kohli, however, the case was like that of a singer who after recording the song of his life was told that the recorder wasn’t working.
Pity that India couldn’t win despite his 77 off 58 balls, almost 60 percent of the total that India got.
Lasith Malinga had hoped that someone from his team would bowl that one “good” delivery that would put an end to the “great” Kohli in the final. Rangana Herath produced that delivery in the seventh over, but Malinga himself dropped the chance at midwicket.
Thereafter, Kohli was flawless and was run out only off the last ball of the innings.
But Sri Lanka didn’t panic and courtesy some outstanding bowling at the death, they restricted the mighty Indian batting to just 130 for four in 20 overs.
The last four overs, bowled by Lasith Malinga (two), Sachithra Senanayake and Nuwan Kulasekara, saw Sri Lanka concede only 19 runs.
Not only did they cut down on the loose deliveries, the Lankans also ensured that the man in form, Kohli, faced just seven off the last 24 deliveries.
It’s needless to say that the Indian total could have been better had Kohli been on strike more.
Twenty20s are more about dot balls than wicket-taking deliveries.
The Sri Lankans followed that to the hilt as their pacers didn’t mind bowling yorker-length deliveries wide outside the off-stump and their spinners kept it mostly wicket-to-wicket with subtle variations of pace.
The Indian innings had begun on a sloth note after opener Ajinkya Rahane was out for 3 in the second over. Virat and Rohit Sharma (29) played watchfully.
Kohli opened up more once Rohit was dismissed because Yuvraj was finding it hard to find the gaps or get the big hits. Yuvi’s 21-ball 11 was very un-T20 like.
But it’s not that only Yuvraj struggled. Even Dhoni got only 1 of the four deliveries he faced. Batting wasn’t easy and it goes on to show how priceless Kohli’s knock was.
In hindsight, one wonders if Dhoni should have promoted himself or Suresh Raina ahead of Yuvraj.
Yes, Yuvraj played a solid innings against Australia, but he has hardly been his former self.
In the end, one was reminded of Darren Sammy’s prophecy after West Indies lost the semi-final against Sri Lanka.
Sammy had said that maybe God wants Mahela and Sangakkara to leave on a high. Sammy had heard God’s wish, it seems... If only the Indians heard Sammy, they could have been a bit more careful.
The fairytale ending could well have been Dhoni’s.
But given the number of his critics, one wonders if he could have lived happily ever after.