Tuesday, April 8, 2014

T20 World Cup for the Men in Blue.....darker, firmer shade

I was on my way back home, driving from Pune to Mumbai.......& I was driving hard to reach as early as possible.... T20 finals between India & Sri lanka....based on current form...the best two teams in view...both the teams..."Men in Blue".....brighter vs the darker shades....vibrant & undefeated in this edition vs the jinxed but determined...... absolutely mouthwatering as a contest.

By the time I was getting off the expressway, the match had started. Tuning in the radio, I heard India lose the toss & put into bat, & immediately premonitions started clouding the mind.....somehow, this team is better at chasing, I said to myself....and when Rahane got out in the 2nd over with just 4 runs o the board, I was already thinking of the worst. Switching away to music I drove frenetically......needed to be in front of the TV & cheer (as if everything depended on it !!!). By the time I reached home, India was already in doldrums....17th over & just 115 runs on board....Yuvi struggling & Virat at the other end muttering profanities in frustration. 
Eventually, India ended at 130 runs, a good 20 odd runs short of a competing total for a final.....& everyone around cursing Yuvraj..... a sad, patchy 11 runs off 21 deliveries.

The Lankans, buoyed by a rather paltry total to chase, got their acts right & despite losing four wickets, rode the big match temperament of Sangakarra to cross over the line, with Thisera Perera hitting the winning six....it was indeed a thumping victory for the Islanders.....fifth time lucky....finally breaking the jinx of being losing finalists for the last four times. Sending Perera ahead of Mathews in the 13th over was a master stroke....he is a fearless hitter in the Darren Sammy mould, & he clobbered 21 runs in 14 deliveries to romp home, with 13 balls to spare.....Sanga was the deserving Man of the Match for a classy unbeaten 52 off 35 deliveries. 
Earlier, despite a belligerent 77 off 58 balls by Virat Kohli, coming in at no 3, inability to convert a steady start into slog overs hitting for a formidable total cost the game for India.....& almost everyone making Yuvraj the culprit. It has been a forgettable tournament for someone known to be one of the best exponents in this format of cricket over the years. In the last 4 overs India could muster only 19 runs...Malinga 7 Kulasekara foxing the dreaded Indian middle order by bowling some beautiful yorkers slightly outside the off stump, cramping Kohli, Yuvraj & Dhoni  all alike. The wild swipes et all failed to clear the ropes. 
While Yuvi was completely out of sorts, even Virat & Dhoni struggled to get a move on....the Lankans had clearly bowled to a plan & the Indians had not factored a plan B !!! Sending Yuvi at no 4 is questionable, especially, when India had put on just 64 runs in the first 10 overs.....Dhoni should have come himself to up the ante.....Raina was more suited, in form & capable of cameos...even Jadeja could have come in....& even if Yuvi was sent, a message should have gone for him to slog or get out, allowing the next man in to get some big hits. 
Also, the belligerence & excess show of emotions from Virat, could be good for him, but at times detrimental for the team, as he cringes others rather than motivating them.....harsh words for the Man of the Tournament, but I reckon, he will burn out soon, if he does not control himself. In his mid twenties, he has the talent to go the distance & be the pivot of Indian batting line up ahead, but he will have to curb his expressive & furious gestures. 
Dhoni, was unflappable as usual, & defended Yuvi's one bad day....thats what a Cool Captain is !! Also heartening is to notice that ex players like Sachin & Saurav have come out in support of Yuvi...one should not forget his immense contributions over the years in winning T20 World Cup in 2007 & ICC World Cup in 2011....he was the 'player of the tournament' then....

In contrast, the Lankans planned well, & despite having Lasith Malinga as the Captain on paper, it was Mahela & Sanga who were marshaling the team. The only blip being Malinga dropping Kohli in the 7th over off Herath, with the batsman just on 11 runs at that stage....going on to belt the Lankan bowling for a majestic 77 runs, run out on the last ball of the innings.

For the Lankans, it was the perfect send off gift for Sangakarra & Mahela, who had announced their retirement before the tournament...it had been a long time coming.....it took them 5 finals to taste a World Cup victory......The Men in Blue.....the darker, firmer shade....the time of reckoning for them...