The most potent weapon that Yuvraj Singh brings to the crease is not his broad bat, nor is it the brawny frame he uses to wield that willow to spectacular effect.
It is, instead, a mind as clear as the finest crystal. How else do we describe the disdain he has shown the game’s finest bowlers these past two weeks'
Yuvraj put that mind to succinct use to capture the essence of the ICC World Twenty20 final between India and Pakistan at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday.
“The whole world will be watching,” he said, and left it at that. What else did he need to say'
Take it from a neutral: Yuvraj is bang on the money. If the whole world wasn’t that keen on this Twenty20 lark before Saturday night, it is now.
India’s breathtaking win over Australia in the semi-final in Durban has changed the game we thought we knew.
“Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” That’s not Yuvraj, it’s Oscar Wilde. And it sums up what happened at Kingsmead: the very consistency that has been this great Australian team’s hallmark for years was swept away by the sheer force of India’s creativity.
Yes, the format lends itself to uncertainty and upsets. Yes, there is near chaos on the field most of the time and events seem to be overtaken almost before they have happened.
But there is no denying that the Indians have lost just one of their six matches, and that they have emerged with their sanity intact despite the magnificent madness that has accompanied every game.
Today they face the Pakistanis, who have walked a similar path, which of course makes them doubly dangerous opponents. But if the Indians win they will have done so largely because they understand the power of their own imagination and how to harness it better than the Pakistanis, who have tended to rely on their instincts.
Even in this form, cricket is a thinker’s game and the Indians have thought better than any other team in the competition.
Perhaps that process has been helped by not having to put up with the meddling of a coach. Perhaps the presence of the Big Three, and the prejudices they may have shown towards the format, would have inhibited their less jaded teammates.
Perhaps Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s time as a leader has simply come. “You have to be calm when you make decisions that will have a big impact on the game,” he said yesterday. “If you are calm, you have more chance of making the right decisions. But having several teammates who have played over a hundred international matches really helps, too.”
Dhoni had said after the semi-final triumph that he and his team refused to take pressure on board. On Sunday he tempered his words, but just a touch.
“We have been under a lot of pressure, but you learn to deal with it and we are getting used to it. So we will treat the final as just another do-or-die match. You need to go onto the field and give 100 per cent and not worry too much about the outcome,” he said.
“You can’t predict much about either us r Pakistan, and that’s why the leading teams in world cricket are scared of us. They don’t know what to expect and hopefully that will make for an exciting final. ”
If the Pakistanis have an advantage, it is that they beat Sri Lanka and Australia at the Wanderers. In their only match in Johannesburg, the Indians went down to New Zealand.
But Shoaib Malik wasn’t about to claim that edge. “I keep saying the combination is the main thing, and our combination is going very nicely,” he said when asked the question directly.
Shoaib spent most of his time with the media yesterday resolutely defending what he was really thinking from our prying eyes and ears.
Dhoni, by contrast, was open, inviting, playful, having fun. This new world is indeed brave. Just like Dhoni and his team.