Monday, 4 April 2011

Congratulations India

I was extremely pleased for India on Saturday and, in particular, for Sachin Tendulkar. It would have been a terrible thing for Sachin to have gone through his career without winning on the biggest cricket stage. That he didn't make many runs in the Final should not detract from Tendulkar's contribution to the Indian success.
The Final itself turned in to a captivating game of cricket. I think a lot of neutrals might have begun to favour India after the shenanigans at the toss. I dread to think what the fallout would have been like had Sri Lanka gone on to win after that kind of thing. The TV microphones seemed to pick up a call of tails when the toss was attempted the first time - for me it left a bad taste.
When the action got underway I thought Zaheer Khan produced a complete masterclass in his opening spell. His control of line and length, bowling to a good field, was really marvellous. The England bowlers could learn a lot from this - sticking to basics doesn't do a great deal of harm (after all, it rarely hurt Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock). The Sri Lankan top order couldn't really get going as the ball seemed not to be coming-on to the bat. Enter Mahela Jayawardene to play one of the great ODI innings. To have the ability to play it in a World Cup Final shows a rare temperament, and an even more rare talent. It was truly a joy. With the support from Kulasekera I thought Sri Lanka had posted something of a daunting total on what appeared a difficlut pitch, and India were going to have to chase under lights.
MS Dhoni had, by his own admission, suffered a poor tournament with the bat. It is a mark of the man that he should be able to find his form when it matters most. That is why he is Captain of India - a pressurised job at the quietest of times. Gautam Gambhir was India's hero early on but it looked like he was going to be fighting a lone battle until Dhoni joined him at the crease. It was a real shame that Gambhir couldn't see it through to what would have been a deserved hundred. Dhoni's big finish, with a massive six, showed that he still has a flair for the "money-shot!"

The World Cup has suffered the usual cricticism that it goes on too long, and there are too many one-sided encounters. Undoubtedly the first part of this is true, as the TV schedules are made more important than the pace of the tournament. Having said that, this was the best tournament since the sub-continent last hosted in 1996. The progress of two of the hosts, and Pakistan, undoubtedly contributed to the ongoing momentum of this World Cup - the stadia sold-out for the knockout games which might not have happened, perhaps, were India and co not still involved.
There can be no doubt that changes are required, but mostly to the schedule, rather than the number of participating countries. How can the ICC seriously consider a World Cup that doesn't involve the affiliate nations? Why should cricket fans around the World be robbed of the chance to see Ireland beating England? Why should people like Kevin O'Brien not get the opportunity to make a name (and a future living) for themselves by performing to the World? I hope the ICC sees sense, and listens to what cricket lovers want, before the next tournament in 2015.

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