Wild scenes of celebration broke out all over the country as we beat Sri Lanka in the finals. For me some of the best footage included Gary Kirsten jumping up with arms out stretched with the broadest of smiles, when Dhoni hit the winning six over long on. That sure was a change from his taciturn image and generally controlled applause for individual or team successes .It was good to see him being chaired by the Indian players and the words of appreciation he received from the team members and ex-champions alike .Sachin being carried around the stadium on the shoulders of his team mates was another great sight; as was a beaming Sachin with his daughter and son with him ,as the team did a lap of honour on the field .It must have been immensely moving for him to have his kids share the joy with him. Also very moving was the sight of several of the team members with tears of joy and relief in their eyes.
The newspapers and TV channels had nonstop coverage of the celebration and interviews with the players, Bollywood stars, political bigwigs and the cricketing stars of yesteryear. The news bite that caught my eye, was mention of a quiet team get together in the early hours of the morning ,where the team and support staff spent time together alone, letting the triumph sink in fully and reliving the highs and lows, tensions , anxieties and the hard work and preparation, over the past year of so. Also good to read was the grand reception the Sri Lankan team received when they got back home and so too I believe was the appreciation and reception for the Pakistani team. That is simply wonderful .The players do their very best and battle it out under high pressure situations; they surely deserve appreciation and applause for a fighting show, even if they end up on the loosing side. It was good to see the applause from the crowd that the Sri Lankan players got at the awards ceremony and very significantly the huge ovation that Simon Taufel, the umpire, received .Even he seemed visibly surprised.
On the morning of the Indo- Pak semi finals, I felt a calming voice inside me telling me that it was not important that India should be the winner .That would be welcome, but the team that came up with the most inspired individual performances on the day needs to taste the heady broth of success. So when the much media hyped match commenced, I was truly keen on seeing inspired performances from both sides and a closely fought cricket match.
We saw great bowling from Wahab Riaz, who bowled splendidly and took five wickets .It was good seeing him kneel and press his forehead to the ground in thanks giving .Likewise it, was good seeing spirited bowling by Sayed Ajmal. Sehwag went hammer and tongs at Umar Gul, the tournaments best pace bowler, as only he can in his inimitable style, and completely upset his rhythm .Umar Gul ended the match with his worst bowling figure of the tournament. Sachin struggled and was given four or five “lives” ,something that seemed to embarrass him no end .But as one commentator said , it’s one thing to get runs when you are in good knick but quite another to battle it out and get runs when you cant seem to find your rhythm. Sachin ended up making 85 runs, short of the magical 100 international hundreds .But in many ways it’s good he didn’t achieve it on that day for his hunger to go on will continue .For India there was a terrific innings from Suresh Raina ,which made all the difference between ending with a total of 225 instead of the eventual match winning 260.Suresh Raina , as at least one commentator said, deserved the man of the match award ahead of Sachin.
It was also good seeing the fighting spirit Umar Akmal showed, as he went about attacking the Indian bowling .He looked so palpably dejected when a beauty of a delivery from Harbajan knocked back his off stump. Likewise Afridi looked determined but was out foxed into an error by Harbajan, who didn’t take many wickets through the tournament but was sensational when he struck these too very important blows through guile, rather than the batsman’s error .The India bowling came good on a difficult wicket and so was the fielding, leaving India a worthy winner .I was happy that India won but was even more happy that it was a closely fought match and either side could have won .
Likewise the Sri Lanka –India finals was a treat to watch and truly befitting the finals of a wonderful tournament. Superlative batting by Mahela Jayawardene and out standing fielding by India, were the features of the Sri Lankan innings. Gutsy fighting knocks under pressure by Gautam Gambhir, Dhoni and Virat Kholi ensured India’s win, sparking of celebrations of a kind not seen for a long long time. For our foreign guests this must have been an amazing and sobering experience. Dhoni as the leader was out standing and I am sure a topic of study in effective leadership qualities in management schools and business houses.
The last world cup triumph in 1983 ,lead to huge changes in the mind set of the Indian sports persons and our competitiveness on the world scene .This win too will make a huge contribution to the sporting ethos of the country with an increasing number of the youth from all social backgrounds and from the nooks and corners of the country dreaming and aspiring for similar glory .With the political establishment and the corporate sector striding forward to participate and support this movement, with it’s far reaching ramifications towards being a global super power, India is on it’s way once again .