Twenty20 final a night to remember for small town heroes
By K. Datta Sep 26, 2007, 10:17 GMT
It was a night to remember. Two sons of a muezzin from Gujarat who had prayed to Allah for their success in the holy month of Ramadan, a lad from a large Mumbai family of humble means who had sought Lord Ganesha's blessings for him, a stout-hearted son of an unknown 'paan' stall owner from the dusty town of Rohtak in Haryana who didn't have the kind of resources to buy him cricket gear, small-towners with fire in their bellies and better placed metropolitan dashers.
That was the kind of bunch that went into a huddle to vow to do their very best under a wicketkeeper-captain famous as much for his explosive strokes as his hair-style, a young man who himself was facing his baptism as the Indian cricket team's skipper.
The spirit of comradeship and the steely can-do approach could be sensed by millions of cricket fans glued to TV screens and not only by the more than 30,000 crammed inside Johannesburg's Wanderers Stadium.
Overcoming a hiccup or two, like the defeat to New Zealand or the earlier league-stage tied match with Pakistan decided through a bowl-out, the team had made their way to the Twenty20 World Championship final. No way they were going to miss the chance of taking the trophy home.
They not only did themselves proud but all those who reposed their trust in them when, three hours or so after they had gone into a huddle, S. Sreesanth safely pouched the ball scooped by Pakistan's last hope Misbah-ul-Haq off Joginder Sharma, that 'chhora' (boy) from Rohtak who unstintingly accepted to bowl the last nail-biting over.
Who are these men who unhesitatingly reposed their faith in Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the players he was to take into battle?
Undoubtedly, they are the men on the selection committee, headed by Dilip Vengsarkar. Generally, selectors make news only when things go wrong with a team. From regional bias to falling prey to pressures of influential people, enticements or plain ineptitude, any stick is good enough to beat them with.
For all the media speculation after Rahul Dravid's bombshell of a resignation as captain on return from the tour of England, it reportedly took a bare five minutes for Vengsarkar's committee to confirm Dhoni, already a vice-captain of the one-day international squad that toured England, as India's ODI captain for the coming home series against Australia and Pakistan.
Such clear-headedness itself builds confidence, as the world saw in the Twenty20 extravaganza.
India's shocking failure in the 50-over World Cup in the West Indies a few months ago has been wiped out of memory like a bad dream after the success in the Test series in England and now in the Twenty20 tournament, the latter one making the raging controversy sparked by the remarks of a state chief minister on Lord Ram and the differences over the proposed nuclear deal non-events, if only for one night of joy.
Let's hope the joy brought by Dhoni's team Monday night lasts through the rest of the season. But for that to happen there can be no resting on laurels.
Hard work and an even more determined outlook alone can help meet the challenge of the Australian cricketers, always out to show they are the best. They will be keen to erase the hurt of the Twenty20 semi-final defeat to India.
Without detracting from their contribution to the Twenty20 victory, Sreesanth and Joginder Sharma, for example, need to get back to the nets for some hard practice under the bowling coach. They need better control over line and length.
A positive feature of the Dhoni's side was teamwork.
There was little talk about star players. The stress was on team players. If they can be held together as a solid team there is no challenge that cannot be squarely met. Dhoni's leadership so far holds promise.
(K. Datta is former sports editor of The Times of India. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service