Congrats, icons Small town is no longer small

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  • Published 3.04.11

What a glorious night at the Wankhede Stadium. Indian cricket was done immensely proud by a bunch of motivated cricketers.

They did what they had promised.

The World Cup triumph was a tribute to their commitment and confidence. I felt proud. Just as every supporter of Indian cricket!

I had said that all captains had contributed to their team’s victory and here was Mahendra Singh Dhoni leading from the front. He took on the responsibility, pushed himself up the order, ran well, was not afraid of going after the bowlers. In the process, he won the Cup. It was a wonderful team effort with Gautam Gambhir playing the innings of his life.

I was confident that if one of the top four batsmen stayed at the wicket, India would win. It was Gambhir’s turn to play the critical role. It would have been great if he had got his century but this innings was better than any century he would have made. His confidence was infectious and Dhoni showed the way by forging a partnership that swung the match India’s way.

When Virender Sehwag got out and then Sachin Tendulkar, I thought it could become tough but Virat Kohli, Gambhir and Dhoni eased the pressure with their sensible batting. Sri Lanka’s domination was only in the last five overs of the Indian innings. It was India all the way. The team looked like champions and played like champions.

Mahela Jayawardene played one of the finest innings I have seen. I had always known that Mahela was a classy batsman and this innings only confirmed that he belongs to the highest category. His timing and patience reminded me of some of the past greats from Sri Lanka.

What I liked most was that Mahela at no point tried to hit the ball hard. He was happy to caress it and excelled in guiding the ball between the gaps. It was just the way someone like Aravinda de Silva or Roy Dias would have batted. They were short in height but big in stature, just as Mahela.

At the halfway stage, I must confess I thought Sri Lanka would not progress beyond 235. The wicket was slow and the ball was stopping too. It was not an easy wicket to play your shots on but Mahela’s wristwork ensured that the runs kept coming. No wonder he is one of the leading batsmen in the world. The way he carried the innings on his shoulders spoke of his awesome potential.

The drama began with the toss. If the match referee had not heard the call, then obviously there was no choice but to have a fresh one!

India would have loved to bat first but then you can’t always make the choice in these matters.

India began superbly. The fielding was exemplary. The team must have saved at least 20 runs in the field. Zaheer Khan made a dream start with three maidens in the final. He moved the ball appreciably and barring the last three overs, I thought Zaheer was fabulous.

The stadium presented a fantastic sight and was a complete transformation from the old Wankhede Stadium. I am sure the players would have appreciated the breeze that must have blown across the field. It suited India and the seamers were on the job. S. Sreesanth was picked because the team management would have been guided by the inputs from the curator. In any case, Sri Lankans are considered good players of spin so preferring a seamer was not off the mark.

In the end, the Lankans failed against a highly charged Indian team. Hats off to India and Dhoni. This new breed of confident Indian cricketers is something that Indian cricket needed. We did not have such confidence. Sourav Ganguly began the trend and Dhoni gave it the fitting finish.

I would say bad luck for Muttiah Muralidharan, a great icon of the game. But then he lost to a team that played better cricket and showed strong character.

Sachin Tendulkar’s dream of winning the World Cup came true at his home ground. I wish he continues to serve Indian cricket. He is considered the god of Indian cricket and I would say let the god decide what he wants to do.

India were worthy winners tonight. I would like the team to rest now. The triumph in the T20 World Cup and this World Cup confirms the belief that small town aspirants are the new icons of Indian cricket. Dhoni and his team proved it in the most convincing fashion at the Wankhede Stadium.... CONGRATULATIONS.