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Sunday, September 23, 2007

India in the Twenty20 World Cup FINALS

Nobody in their wildest dreams would have expected that the finals of the first Twenty20 World Cup would be contested by two teams of the Indian subcontinent (who did not reach the second round in the ODI World Cup)- only proving that this version of the game is more unpredictable than any other. Does it mean that these two teams got into the finals by luck alone? The answer is a definite NO. Both the teams have played well on the critical points, performed consistently and in fact, gone by the basics of ODI cricket. The advertising men have been caught unaware by this pleasant turn of events. They will be working overnight to ensure that they capitalise on the finals at the least. The Indians have got off to a sedate start, not losing many wickets in the initial overs thereby laying the platform for their latter batsmen to capitalise on the later overs - is it any different from how to approach an innings in the ODIs? A look into each of the individual players of the Indian team shows that it is a complete team effort that has taken the Indians to the finals.

Viru Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have given the team decent starts, occupying the initial 4-5 overs with a reasonable start. This is unlike the other teams who have always targeted run-rates of more than 10 at the 5-over mark. They have sized up the pitch very well, giving the "license to kill" to the subsequent players in the squad. Sehwag was expected to do more bowling than he has actually done, but looks like Dhoni's strategy is to assign the 4 overs to his main bowlers alone. The sole over given to Sehwag in the semi-finals proved to be costly (though one has to factor in his thigh strain during the match).

Dinesh Karthick has had his moments of glory on the field - especially his match-turning catch of Greame Smith in the final league match. He has had problems with his batting - getting low scores whenever he has been given a chance. But, his greatest strength has been his cheerfulness, keeping the team together with amazing energy levels and also advicing his captain at all critical junctures.

Robin Uthappa had a memorable match against Pakistan but tapered off during the later matches. He has been getting starts but not able to build on the same. He has the capacity to become a good ODI batsman (to start off with) with his big-hitting capability. He played a responsible innings with Yuvraj Singh against Australia. His fielding has been outstanding, especially his throwing from the deep.

Yuvraj Singh clearly has to be the MVP of the tournament, no matter what happens in the finals. After a slow start, it has been his way during the critical matches (England and Australia). The bowlers have no clue on where to pitch the ball to him, for he has shown the knack of picking the length early and bludgeon them to all parts of the ground. His strokes have been clean hits and not ugly hoicks, for the sake of a slog. He has realized that it would be better off not to bowl in the shorter version and concentrate on his strengths - which would mean TROUBLE for the opposition bowlers.

Rohit Sharma was impressive in his short stints at the crease. He made a fifty against the Proteans with some majestic shots - obviously a player to watch for, in the future. These knocks will definitely boost his morale for future knocks. He has also contributed to the overall improvement of the Indian fielding standards.

Irfan Pathan has made a good comeback, showing the value that he can bring to the team - with his big hits and disciplined swing bowling. Though he has suffered some times at the hands of the marauding batsmen, he has shown a cool head to come back with critical strikes.

Joginder Sharma has improved in confidence, with Dhoni's support and encouragement. Especially, the last over that he bowled against the Australians would have given him a confidence of a five-wicket haul. Limited in ability, he has shown that he can keep a cool head when required. Of course, he has shown that he is a better bet compared to one Ajit Agarkar in this tournament.

RP Singh has been the standout performer in the bowling department, just like Yuvraj Singh in the batting. He has been impressive in the initial bursts as well as at the death. He has been economical as well as taken wickets in this tournament - a deadly combination that can only mean advantageous to the Indian team.

Sreesanth has been erratic for most of the tournament except the semi-finals, where he choked the Australian batsmen (Hayden, in particular). If he retains his consistency, he will be a handful for the opposition batsmen.

Harbhajan Singh has provided breakthroughts regularly during this tournament, which is what his captain would have expected. He has shown that he is enjoying his new-found responsibility of being the senior-most bowler in the team.

MS Dhoni - what can one say about him? His captaincy has been just "cool". He has retained his composure at all times, even when the match looked like going away from the Indians. His bowling changes have been spot on - notice how the last overs each of Sreesanth, Pathan, Harbhajan, Joginder got wickets against Australia, eventually derailing them. He has been instrumental in maintaining a good atmosphere in the dressing room, that has resulted in the team "enjoying" itself during the tournament. His batting has not been as explosive as it can be, but that is only because he has taken over the role that Rahul Dravid typically does - shoring up one end to ensure that the batting does not lose its way. The players also seem to be revelling under his captaincy, the seniors providing their thoughts whenever required, the youngsters exceeding the expectations set about them. He has also shown the ability to provide his players with confidence that has enabled them to succeed - Joginder and Rohit Sharma being the significant examples.

Overall, the Indian team has been playing excellently - just like any champion team has to. It would be of no surprise to anyone if MS Dhoni can repeat what Kapil Dev did in 1983 - win the World Cup. They have tied the first match against Pakistan (winning it eventually by a bowl-out), coming back after posting a reasonable score on the board. They will have do a better job in the finals in all departments to show that they are capable of bigger tasks. Once again, Greg Chappell has been proved right - he once remarked that the Indian Management would do well not to ignore the youngsters in the country - is there any further doubts to anyone now?
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