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ICC World Cup 2011

ICC World Cup Champions

World cup championsCongratulations Team India!! What a victory it was!! You made Indians around the globe feel very proud. Hats off to all of you!
ICC WC Finals:
Defeating Sri Lanka, the team that is most familiar with the sub-continent’s playing conditions, after they won the toss , after they posted a challenging total with their batting power-play fireworks and after they picked up top 2 wickets early on, wasn’t a piece of cake. But the Indian team showed lot of character under tremendous pressure of a nation’s expectations; even after losing the swashbuckling Sehwag and our greatest cricketing icon Sachin, who was in top form in the series, early in the innings.
It was truly an all-round effort. The fielding was electrifying, especially that of Yuvi and Raina who must have saved 15 to 20 runs diving left and right!!  Zaheer’s opening spell, with hardly any runs coming out of his first 5 or 6 overs meant SL couldn’t to a blazing start which could have led to a bigger target to chase.  And yet again, Zaheer provided the breakthrough in the middle to retain his go to man cap. When it came to batting, young lads Ghambir and Kohli not only absorbed the pressure of losing 2 early wickets but they also kept scoring at a steady rate, built a solid partnership and made sure SL had no chance to get back into the game.  What I like about Ghambir is that he keeps the scoreboard ticking without hitting big shots and without anyone noticing it. Kohli, I think is the youngest lad in the squad but he has been in tremendous form both before the WC and during the WC. Once a captain of the U-19 world cup championship team, he seems to have great talent.
Dhoni finally delivered with the bat and it couldn’t have come at a better time; when he promoted himself, got a big knock and a big partnership.  As the most successful Indian captain and as a great leader he deserved the big winning shot of 6 and the cup of course.  Yuvi chipped in to make sure no more wickets fell which would have given SL some fire in the belly to get back into the game. 
Exceptional achievements during the ICC event:
Sachin, by being the 2nd highest run getter during the course event stamped his significant contribution to the dream cup of his life and continued the tremendous form that he has been in during the last few years.  Zaheer, by sharing the top spot for most wickets lived up to the leading and go to bowler tag. Yuvi, by contributing in every game with the bat and/or ball truly exhibited an all-rounder role which was a welcome surprise to many because of his recent form. Although Yuvi didn’t steal the limelight as the man who hit six sixers, he did so as a matured player and was rewarded with 4 man-of-match awards and aslo the man-of-series award. 
While Dhoni rightly recognized the contributions of Sachin, Ganguly, Kumble and Dravid over the years to build the team of today, there is much to be said about Dhoni’s exemplary leadership itself.  T20 world championship, IPL championship and now one-day the world championship in such a short span of time shows his excellence as a captain.  Last but not the least, we must not forget Gary Kirsten as a great coach; he will definitely be missed but what a great time for him to leave the Indian cricket team’s coaching  job when it’s flying high in both formats of the game.  I am in a dilemma to wish him the best in his future coaching job for another country if he takes up one. I suppose I am just being selfish for my own country’s continued glory, and why not??
I sign-off wishing Team India to be leaders in both test and 1-day formats of cricket for a long time to come!!

The captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Dhoni - no locksIndia won the world cup 2011 in a memorable match on April 2 at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. It was an emotional moment for the players, the support staff and everyone watching inside and outside the stadium. Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat and made the statistics stack even more against India. Only 2 out of 9 world cup finals were won by the country chasing a score. Never has the host country won the world cup. The Dhoni brigade defied both the statistics and proved the numbers wrong. All through the world cup I have always referred to team India as Dhoni brigade as I think the resurgence of India as a cricket superpower after the disastrous world cup showing in 2007 is part due to Dhoni’s leadership and part Gary Kirsten’s coaching. Team India was always known as a team of individual star performers and drama players. Dhoni’s leadership has shown us how to lead and how to play as a team. Sachin paid the highest tribute by saying that Dhoni is the best captain he has played under. Seeing team India play in quarters, semis and the finals reminded me of Australians under Steve Waugh. Well, I could see a lot more in Dhoni than Steve Waugh, here’s my list.

Mr Patrick Jane of Mentalist - Like the protagonist of my favorite serial The Mentalist, the plain speaking captain does not mince his words and says exactly what he sees. He has a similar analytical and logical bent as Jane. He thinks for the team, thinks outside the box and his decisions are very logical. His post match interviews gives a brilliant insight into the absolute logic of the man’s decisions. After his public chiding of his batsmen to stop playing for the crowds and start playing to win, saw a sudden reduction in ridiculous loose shots. The number of sixers by the team reduced drastically. Even in the euphoria of winning the world cup the leader didn’t forget to remind Gautum to remember to play it for winning instead of trying for a spectacular 4 to complete the century.

Dhoni - long locksCaptain Cool -  Captain Dhoni is cool in every way. Cool as in stylish cool as well as cool as in iceman cool under pressure. He has a calming presence on the team. Many a times after a controversial call, one can hear the wicket keeper Captain tell his team “Jaane De” or let it go. The toss was first won by Dhoni but due to the hearing loss of umpires there was another toss and Lankans won the toss. You couldn’t tell a thing from Dhoni’s face if this perturbed him. His knock of 91 not out exemplifies the iceman under pressure. As for the other cool as in stylish, the man looks good in long locks and with no locks.

Dhoni at awards ceremonyMr Edison  - experiment  and learn
Dhoni used the pre-knock out matches to think out side the box then experiment what worked and what did not for the team and used it during the knock out matches. And boy, were our knock outs tough or what ; both against stalwarts like the mighty Aussies and our long term rivals the Pakis. His decision to use Nehra against SA gave him the necessary  practice that served us well against Pakistan. If he hadn’t been injured, Nehra would have served better than Sreesanth. Dhoni tried to call in the powerplay before the final overs to see if it gave additional slog overs, but in both the instances the powerplay had the opposite effect with us loosing wickets. In the finals, Mr Edison having learned the lesson, didn’t call in the powerplay.

Mr. Servant Leader - I can’t say enough about this servant leader. I know this is the “in thing” in leadership style, but the man shows it in his actions. Yuvi has a problem against spinners, and Dhoni coming in early before UV was very good for the team and protective for Yuvi. We had Yuvi to face the pacers in the final overs. The whole stadium was praying Malinga to finish his overs, but Dhoni showed the right attitude by attacking Malinga getting more than 8 runs in the crucial 48th over. He stepped up and led the team from front when needed and then was equally comfortable staying in the background to let Sachin be the center of celebrations. Nothing wrong about SRT being the center of the adulation after all the whole team, the nation and the world has immense respect for the legend and the team rallied for the world cup in a lot of ways for him. It was heartening to hear Virat Kohli who is 22 years say “Sachin has carried the burden for India for the last 22 years the least we can do is carry him on our shoulders.” But I digress, I think Dhoni was very gracious in making sure his team took center stage. You may stand on the edge during the photos but Mr. Captain you are in the center stage of many a million fans’ hearts.

Yuvraj the match winner .. again

YuviThe second quarterfinal of the ICC world cup between India and Australia will go down as one of the classic matches between the two great teams. Ultimately, India, came out on top and has effectively ended Australia’s reign as the world champs that lasted for over dozen years.

This match had all the right ingredients to be a classic match. The rivalry between the 2 teams has been legendary second only to that of India versus Pakistan. Both teams have legendary batsmen like Sachin and Ponting, both of them potentially playing in their final world cup and out to create a legacy for themselves and for their teams. Both teams out to prove a point and highly motivated to win.  Sure enough this turned out to be a match that will be remembered and talked about for a long time.

After winning the toss Australia chose to bat on a dark brown looking wicket. They found out in the first over itself that the batting was not exactly going to be easy on this wicket given the turn it produced right from the outset. The openers Haddin and Watson started cautiously and put up an opening partnership of 40 runs before Watson lost his cool and tried to slog sweep Ashwin only to lose his wicket. Ponting looked really determined as he walked to the middle his beginning was very subdued compared to his previous innings against India particularly it was completely different Ponting compared to the man who literally batted us out of the 2003 World Cup final with his punishing inning of 140. It turned out to be slightly different story today. Though Ponting ended up scoring his 5th Century in the world cup and 30th ODI century it was not as well supported by his team members as was done by Aussie juggernaut in 2003 finals. Indian bowlers led by Yuvraj, Zaheer, Harbhajan and Ashwin held their nerve and got the necessary wickets at regular intervals. Indian bowlers were supported excellently by the fielders. Raina, Kohli, Yuvraj and even Harbhajan would have saved 15-20 crucial runs with their fielding. Australia lost 3 wickets for about 50 runs in the middle of the innings and was 190 runs for 5 wickets in 42nd over. David Hussy played a superb knock of 38 runs in 26 balls that allowed Australia to reach the score of 260. Given the wicket 260 would have been a fighting score and I am sure Ponting and Company would have smelled another victory against India.

Indian innings was started by Sehwag and Sachin. Sehwag did not look comfortable facing the onslaught from Lee, Johnson and then Watson in the end and holed out to Hussey and square leg on 15 from 22 balls. Sachin on the other hand was in the great form again. On his way to a fluent looking fifty Sachin crossed some of the significant milestones among them - 18,000 runs in ODI and became the highest run scorer in the current world cup. He was out to a blinder from otherwise wayward Tait. Again today he knew he had nicked the ball and he started walking only to be stopped briefly by umpire to verify for the no balls. Gambhir playing at number 3 played a responsible inning and scored a patient 50. His mis-communication on running calls with Yuvraj finally costed him his wicket. Before that though India had lost Kohli who got a good start but in trying to accelerate scoring rate he ended up giving a simple catch to midwicket on a full toss delivery. India was 143 runs for 3 wickets and started to look vulnerable. But Yuvraj continued his majestic form with the bat and opened his account with a cracking boundary  on the very first delivery a sure sign of a man who has now gained his groove back. After the mishap with Gambhir,  Dhoni joined Yuvraj but could not last for long and was caught off the bowling of Brett Lee. It looked like Ponting’s bowling change was going to seal the deal for them and India had started truly looking down the barrel. After Lee, Pointing introduced Tait in the attack and India needed 72 runs from 67 balls with only the last genuine batting pair at the crease. On that last ball of Tait’s over, came the turning point of the match. Tait hurled one of his fastest deliveries and without blinking his eyes, Yuvraj cracked a tight one to the boundary over the point for four runs. Raina too must have got truly encouraged and motivated by that power shot. Lee continued to bowl at Raina his short pitched deliveries but it was Raina this time that dispatched Lee to the boundary with another very confident shot. Yuvraj too joined the party that same over and Lee went for 14runs. Once Lee was neutralized it was Tait’s turn and he too got severely punished and went for 13 runs in the 41st over. Those 2 overs brought the Ahmedabad crowd to their feet, atmosphere changed and so did the look on Ponting’s face. Yuvraj and Raina never looked in doubt after that and clinically batted to take India home to a memorable win that ended the Aussie claim on the world cup after 12 long years. Yuvraj in the interim completed his 4th fifty in addition to a Century in the last 6 matches. He has remained unbeaten for 3 times and each time has won the man –of – the match award in this world cup.

Now come India’s biggest challenge the in-form Pakistan team. I hope our guys continue in the same spirit, confidence and determination and then we can say “Mumbai itni door nahi hai”..

Go India ……..!! let’s not look back now, even South Africa has bowed out of the completion and only 2 more wins will get India the most coveted trophy in the game of cricket. Go India let’s not look back now..  

It was Yuvraj to the rescue again..

Yuvraj SinghToday India played her sixth and the last match in the preliminary round, against West Indies. It was yet again a very disappointing batting performance by the lower order.

It has now been over a month since the World cup was kicked off by the 2 hosts India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh, after humiliating performances against most of the major teams has crashed out of the tournament. India has made it into the knockout round but not exactly in a convincing fashion. In fact if you analyze the numbers the deterioration has been very evident. Against Bangladesh, India had scored its highest total of 370 for 5 but since then it has been a downward spiral. Since that match (when playing with major teams) Indians have found it difficult to bat through the 50 overs. While we got some really great starts by the top order and from one or two middle order batsmen, the lower order pretty much capitulated in every match. First against England, India lost the last 7 wickets for 33 runs in less than 4 overs. Against South Africa the debacle was even more dramatic when we lost 9 wickets for 29 runs in 9 overs. Today against West Indies too, we lost 7 wickets for 50 runs in 8 overs. This is just horrendous display of lack of professionalism on behalf of our players.

The silver lining in the last 6 matches has been seeing return to good form by Yuvraj. In the match against England, I felt that, he showed the first signs of a man determined to come back. He stood his ground, battled his mental demons and persevered those early nerves and in the end came out with a fighting fifty. Since then he’s never looked back and not relented either. He is starting to reap the rewards of his hard work. In the last 5 innings he has scored 284 runs which includes 3 fifties (2 unbeaten) and a fluent century today. His average of over 94 at a strike rate of 86 has been an example that other Indian batsmen need to emulate. He has been successful with the ball too. He has helped India with wickets at the crucial times and has so far bagged 9 wickets. He truly deserved man of the match today.

Today Virat Kohli also showed some determination. He had to come out early after Rampaul claimed Sachin with a beauty of a delivery. Sachin could have survived the shout and may be even the review but like a true sport he knew he had nicked the ball and was caught so he walked. There are only very few players left in the game who will do this anymore. Gambhir had the start today, but in trying to go after Rampaul he perished to silly looking shot. After Gambhir, Kohli and Yuvraj built the Indian innings with a 3rd wicket partnership of 122 runs of 143 balls. India at this juncture looked like they could get to a score of 280 plus runs. Dhoni for the most part too tried to play reasonably but he perished in 42nd over when India was on 218. Yuvraj in the meantime completed his maiden century in the world cup but was facing all sorts of problems because of Chennai heat. India could only manage to add 50 runs and were bundled out for 268 in 50th over giving Ravi Rampaul his first five wickets haul.

Ashwin started the bowling for India but West Indies inning started reasonably well. One of the inexplicable thing happened in the 4th over. Kohli had a direct hit at the stumps while Edwards was scampering to bowler’s end trying to complete a quick single. The replays clearly showed that he was well short of the innings but neither the players seemed too interested nor was the umpire in referring the direct hit to the 3rd umpire. In the end play continued without anyone realizing that they had missed an opportunity to get the first West Indies wicket. Edwards thankfully did not cause too much problems and perished in 6th over to a doosra from Ashwin which India had to refer to UDRS to claim the wicket. West Indies batting collapse was worse than their display against England. Until about 30th over they seemed like cruising to victory with an average of over 5 runs per over Smith their opener scored a fluent 81. Once he was gone on 157 the West Indies innings just unraveled and they folded their innings for 188 in 44th over. Zaheer, again delivered with older ball and reverse swings and claimed 3 wickets. Ashwin did not let down and got 2 wickets for 41. Yuvraj too claimed 2 wickets in his 4 overs.

I was happy to see bowlers came back strongly when they saw an opening after Smith’s wicket. Dhoni too showed some old spark and attacked the West Indian batsmen who did not get easy singles like England did and had to try and go over the top and in that lost the wickets. I am happy to see India win the match in the end by 80 runs and qualify for the Quarter finals on the second spot.

The next match for India is against mighty Australia in Ahmedabad. That game will decide if we deserve to win the world cup or not. This world cup is finally getting to interesting phase and I am looking forward to see how India fares against the top teams under do or die circumstances.

Keeping my fingers crossed and wishing for the best..... Go India .............!!

India loses to South Africa

DhoniIndia lost to South Africa at the match played in Nagpur on March 12 and Facebook was abuzz with condemnation of both Nehra and Dhoni for giving the last over to Nehra and conjuring a defeat from a sure shot win. Well guys I am going to support Dhoni for his daring and his experimental spirit. The real culprit of the defeat was collapse of our middle order batsmen. India lost 9 wickets for 29, come on batsmen earn your seat at the team. I give it to Dhoni for thinking out of the box in trying to use the power play before the last 10 overs to help the middle order batsmen. This was the second time that Dhoni had called in the powerplay early. Logically I can see all the reasons for calling in early when you have good batsmen to take advantage of the powerplay. Truly, what is the use of powerplay when the last order batsmen, our fine bowlers are forced to take advantage of the powerplay. However, it seems like both the times the middle order batsmen have not risen to the occasion.

Again Dhoni’s decision to try out Nehra instead of trusted Bhajji for the last over makes sense. We have secured our place in the quarter finals. A win or loss in the match would not jeopardize that. It makes perfect sense to test if Nehra was up for it, if he had the form and if he could rise to the occasion. Now if he had, Dhoni would have found another good bowler peaking at the right time in the world cup. It was disappointing that he didn’t but this was the perfect match to test. This wasn’t like the 1986 finals at Sharjah against Pak and the whole Chetan Sharma- Miandad saga!! Have a perspective, we are in a good position to take such risks as trying out Nehra. We need better and consistent performance from our batsmen. Score at least 30-40 runs each match before throwing your wicket to crowd pleasing shots!!!

My point is how will you know, unless you take risk. Take calculated risks, don’t be afraid to make mistakes or even fail, learn from them and use it to make sure you win the matches you HAVE to win.

Chak de India…bring home the world cup Dhoni Brigade!

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