Just about a few hours from now India and Sri Lanka will play at the Wankhede to decide the Champions of the World Cup 2011. It has to be said that these are the two teams that deserved to be in the finals on back of some solid all-round performance and most importantly showed the temperament needed to raise the game when the stakes are high.
These two teams started as tournament favourites and did not do much wrong in the qualifying stages, barring Sri Lanka’s loss to Pakistan and India losing a high pressure game against SA. Indians sorted out their problems with the bowling unit as the tournament progressed, and Lankan top order did more than enough to take the pressure of a weakish (if not weak) lower middle order. The Lankans relied on explosive and consistent starts provided by their openers backed up by a promising bowling attack, Indians showed the desire to rise above their weaknesses under the solid leadership of Dhoni.
In the knock-outs Lankans blanked out New Zealand and England with the precision of a surgeon. Their bowling was top notch and restricted the opposition to less than competitive scores. Dilshan and Tharanga, the best opening duo of the tournament then made easy feast of the smallish totals. Their entry into the finals can be summed up as quick and easy, almost painless.
Indians had to play out of their skins at Motera to keep aussies out of the hunt. Yuvraj led the chase solidly and kept the nerves at bay to see India through. Sachin’s much discussed, charmed but not so pretty knock of 85 against Pakistan saw to a competitive total. Indian bowlers bowled out of their skins and fielders fielded like their life depended on it. The quality of Cricket may not have been exceptional, but the game had several moments of magic and Indian came out winners owing to their ability to handle pressure situations better than their temperamental rivals. In essence, Indians have entered the finals after being through several tough games.
The finals is the biggest stage. For India it is the chance to recreate the magic of 1983 in front of doting crowd and pitch conditions that will suit their kind of play. Competitive batting against Lankan spinners and keeping their top order in check will be key on a surface that may exactly be a batsman’s fantasy. Besides, the experience of handling tough oppositions and tough games will be vital in a final of this magnitude. It serves India well that all of their batsmen have had a good knock and bowlers are brimming with confidence.
In quarters it was Sachin v/s Ponting. In semis it was supposed to be Shoaib v/s Sachin, in the finals it will be the legend of Sachin v/s magic of Murali. It has to be seen what makes the sweetest sound- Sachin’s bat or the Lankan Murali. This is one final script that even god will have tough time writing, as both these men have been exceptional icons and ideal human beings. Both will like to make this the most memorable win of their lives.
For the billions of Indian supporters, a dream is slowly unfolding in the mind’s eye- Dhoni will be the next Kapil, Yuvraj to be the next Champion of Champions, and the century of centuries that the nation awaits with a baited breath and prayer on the lips.
The final frontier is here. One small step, reassured, calculated, and determined, with eyes focused on the target. Go for t Team India. The entire nation is with you. And so shall be the almighty. Amen!