Sunday, April 17, 2011

2 April 2011; A Victory Constructed & Deconstructed !

Attention Please: I am not responsible for the length of this post; the 28 years wait is. That is exactly 70% of the time I have spent on this planet. So those who wish to embark upon this journey are advised to exercise enormous patience. I sincerely believe it is a journey worth and would love it if some of you think so too. Kindly express your reaction. Like it or not, let me know it. Thanks for taking the plunge !
Most of us Indians, especially those who have seen and lived 25 June 1983 have been living to see, savor and attain salvation with an encore ! I can’t talk about those who have only heard of this day. Because 2 April 2011 must be a ‘This is it’ for them like 25 June 1983 was for us.
And then it happened !
DLF-IPL has come too soon for the ‘Real Thing’ to sink in. But it has finally sunk in. Having been negative throughout Team India’s campaign, I am the happiest earthling today. So happy, I have even decided to spend my hard-earned money to watch Sreesanth play for Kochi Tuskers. Why, I have decided to tolerate Sidhu and forgive Dean Jones. Winners have Responsibility !
Looking back at the victory celebrations and the players reactions, I caught hold of a small piece of statement by Viru Sehwag. He said, “We have been planning about how to play the final ever since we played a final in Sri Lanka about a year ago”.
Perhaps the journey started a lot earlier in 2008. Perhaps it was the Sydney Test that gave us the momentum and then this moment. But like Viru said, the actual preparation began in Sri Lanka.
Let me deconstruct the journey in a lazy manner. Chronology is not one of my strengths. So if it looks haphazard, it should be forgiven. Because this is one journey and one destination we will savor all our breathing moments.
The Road to Victory; How was it Constructed !
Summer of 2010: Yuvraj Singh loses Punjab Captaincy to Sangakkara and goes into sulking. His runs recede but the waist-line doesn’t.
July 2010: Suresh Raina makes a fabulous Test Debut and nudges Yuvraj Singh out of the Test Team.
November 2010: Yuvraj’s place in ODI Team too is jeopardized. Yuvraj Singh written off !
All through 2010: Virat Kohli almost seals the No. 3 / 4 position with very mature performances and centuries during one chase after another.
Throughout 2010: Gautam Gambhir struggles with niggles and then wriggles out at the fag end with a Captain’s show against Kiwis.
Most Important: Selectors finally decide to ‘rest’ His Highness Ravindra Jadeja and bring in Yusuf Pathan. We will know why the story would not have been so big without the big man !
Second half of 2010: Sachin Tendulkar, Virendar Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra take turns to get injured and be rested.
November 2010: Dhoni has taken enough battering in his hands and decides to rest and lets Gambhir make a come-back.
December 2010: Yusuf Pathan wins a match that was almost lost before the rains intervened. His hitting was so sensational, the seventh batsman theory was refurbished and buttressed.
January 2011: Suresh Raina progressively develops feet of clay and an acute shortness against short balls. He loses his Test spot to Che and ODI spot to Virat / Yusuf.
January 2011: Yuvraj struggles but does better than Raina and Gambhir’s Test form saves him for the big show.
January 2011: Munaf Patel snatches 4 wickets and a Man of the Match award from nowhere and elbows Sreesanth from contention.
January 2011: Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay disqualify themselves from World Cup berths even as Yusuf comes into the BIG picture.
17 January 2011: Indian Team declared. Sreesanth out and Piyush Chawla in. I was vociferous in criticizing this. Sachin, Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer, Bhajji, Praveen Kumar, Yuvraj and Nehra selected but still in different wards in different hospitals.
23 January 2011: Yusuf Pathan blasts a match winning 60 and then an incredible Century against South Africa even though India fail to win the ODI series. He then goes on to declare, “I can win matches from any position”.
February 2011: Noise worth 2389 Billion GB created over the World Wide Web debating the Raina vs Yusuf vs Gambhir vs Virat. My contribution: 3.4 GB.
February 2011: Everyone is fit for the Cup except ‘Pehelwan’. Praveen Kumar calls Dhoni the ‘Obama of Cricket’ [How Prophetic !] and then picks up what turned out to be the costliest injury in the history of Cricket. Hence Sreesanth makes a back door entry. Dhoni declares Sreesanth has to irritate opponents and not his own team-mates.
13 February 2011: Piyush Chawla replaces Jadeja as the ‘Latest Blue Eyed Boy’ of Indian Cricket. Dhoni roots for ‘The Leg Spinner’ who brings in the variety. He has quite a lot of variety. The full toss, the long hop, the short one, the sitting duck and the dead duck balls. Chawla ambushes Australia in a low scoring match on a lower bouncing pitch at Bengaluru during warm up game.
16 February 2011: India warm up further and thrash New Zealand at Chennai as Dhoni cuts loose.
17 February 2011: Sehwag declares ‘War’ and wants to draw first blood against Bangladesh. He also wants to bat all 50 overs.
19 February 2011Tiger Tamed: Sehwagging continues till the 48th over as India manage to extract revenge. Sreesanth slaughtered for pace and Munaf cons with his lack of that.
27 February 2011Poms Tied: After loitering around for over a week, India cross the Poms. Each team plays worse than the other and they are tied ! Chawla goes for plenty and Dhoni defends him. Sachin fires and Munaf misfires. Zaheer Khan unveils the knuckle ball.
6 March 2011Irish Delight: India play like MINNOWS against minnows and beat Ireland without hurting them. Chawla again goes for runs in his last spell. Yuvraj Singh gaining in confidence.
9 March 2011Go Dutch with Dignity: Netherlands too treated with extreme respect as India first create mayhem and then a mini panic and then allow Yuvraj Singh to regain form, fitness and faith. Pathan promoted by Dhoni and demoted by himself.
12 March 2011Spring of the Springboks: India blast Saffers for the 40 overs then Smith uses Steyn remover to wipe the rest of the batting. Sachin fires again and this time, Nehra misfires. Saffers canter home by 3 wickets.
20 March 2011Yuvi Revival in Caribbean Carnival: Ravi Rampaul gets Sachin early but the rejuvenation of Yuvraj Singh is complete. Zaheer knuckles another left-hander and the West Indies tail outdoes Indian tail in the business of collapsing. India through to knock outs and the mighty Bangladesh knocked out.
Throughout March 2011: From Dean Jones to sundries to Spun Doctor have written Team India off. Everyone has their reasons and Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra and Piyush Chawla were in everyone’s lest.
Knock Outs and the 3 M Connection !
One of my superstitious friends had told me ‘B’ for Bengaluru wasn’t all that lucky for India. ‘N’ for Nagpur too was not. But ‘M’ was going to be the lucky letter. Starting the journey at Mirpur, he predicted Motera, Mohali and Mumbai would win India the Cup. I scoffed at this. This was one more addition to many of those coincidence based predictions of fellow Blogger Shridhar Jaju.
24 March 2011Motera Matters: Yuvi again showed he means business with the ball. In front of an appreciative Narendra Modi, Sachin began the chase well. Gambhir cemented and then ran out of ideas. Yuvi and Raina proved their mettle in a tense chase and Raina exorcised the ‘Short Ball Ghost’ with a massive one of Lee. Lee injured himself and Yuvi celebrated the most pent up celebration witnessed in our lifetime. And Ponting still being Ponting, walked into World Cup Sunset with a Century !
30 March 2011Diwali in Mohali: Viru began with fireworks on Gul and won the first round of nerves. Sachin has never been dropped as many times in a 5 Test Series. He showed how the ‘Ghost of Saqlain Mushtaq’ still haunts him with his vulnerability against ‘Doosra’. India started as if they’d score 400. Then looked as if they’d not even reach 250 and then Raina plays another cameo to take them to 260.
Hafeez thought they could overhaul it. Umar Akmal wanted to finish it before 40 overs. But Bhajji accounted for him and Afridi’s last wicket in this Cup was that of Afridi himself. Munaf Patel bowled his best ball of the Cup to Razack and Ashish Nehra salvaged himself with his last spell of 2-0-3-2. India cantered home in spite of late assault by Misbah which turned out to be too late !
1 April 20116 World Cup winning Captains together; What an Idea Sirji: Lloyd believed Dhoni the Captain was too good. Kapil Dev said the team that played well would win, so did Ranatunga; Politically correct chaps. Border believed India will be easy meat for Lankan Lions. Waugh too felt Lanka would win. Imran Khan thought with the win against Australia and Pakistan, India would be the team to beat. All fools day, who would be a fool and who would be cool the next evening ? Suspense !
2 April 2011Mumbai Meri Jaan: Sreesanth playing ahead of Ashwin left every Indian dumb. Sanga won a cunning toss and was smarter only till the first ball bowled by Zaheer Khan. The first spell by Zaheer was one of the finest and was ably supported by Munaf. Indian fielding was at its best as even Sreesanth hurled himself in the deep to save 2 runs. Sri Lanka scored big in the slog and left India with the highest total to be chased in a World Cup Final.
Slinga was point blank with Viru and Sachin was snared in no time and a lot of TV sets in India were switched off and there was a late rush for movie tickets. Gambhir and Virat played some of the most sensible Cricket seen in this cup. Virat fell for a Dilshan blinder. Stage set for Yuvraj, the man of the season for India to come and save India. As India waited with bated breath in walked the hitherto out of form Captain.
What happened from here is part of modern day Folklore and Legend. We don’t have to repeat it here. It will be visited, revisited, collected, recollected, lived and relived millions of times in our life time !
This ends the Story: The Road to Victory; How was it Constructed ! Everyone knows this. It ain’t big deal telling what happened only 2 weeks ago. That wasn’t my endeavor. The story had to be told because our job is to deconstruct the story. And that is what we are going to unfurl from here.
Everything was planned; Road to Victory Deconstructed !
When Viru said the planning began one year ago in Sri Lanka, they had expected the Lankans to be there in the finals. And thus the planning began there.
Even as every Arm-chair Critic, self-proclaimed expert and International Stars went on denouncing Team India and their chances, Dhoni and his men went about their business as if they had heard nothing. There was something almost obstinate about them. It only unfolds now: Everything was planned, EVERYTHING !
They played so much Cricket with the Lions, almost everyone got sick of it, including the Lankans. This exactly is what they wanted.
India gave wickets to Suraj Randiv and shared the ODI series Finals with the Lions. India wanted him in Mumbai / Mohali / Motera ahead of Mendes.
Yuvi dropped and humiliated. India knew well, after what he did to England after Flintoff in 2007 T-20 World Cup; no opposition would dare to arouse the sleep-walking Giant. To get him fired and pumped up, we had to do the due !
Raina short-listed and then short-charged. It was all a ploy again. A ploy to confuse opposition bowlers. They fell hook, line and length to bowl short at him when it mattered. In the interim, he had ‘pulled’ new trick out of the hat.
Sehwag threatened to bat all 50 overs and almost did against Bangladesh. Every opponent concentrated on Viru and actually allowed Virat, Gautam and Yuvi to relax.
Sachin could not be planned unless you have a genuine ‘Doosra’. He played along merrily.
India gave so much respect to the minnows, everyone believed this team can be beaten easily. Fool them all !
India shared honors with England just to keep the Poms happy. And also to introduce the ‘knuckle ball’. Zaheer created the fear in the minds of left hand batters.
Indian middle order collapsed and collapsed and the tail never wagged. Get Viru and Sachin and they will collapse is what the opponents thought. Again misleading. Virat batted as if he never existed. Gambhir batted without anyone noticing till he ran himself out. Yuvi made chasing under pressure his forte.
Pathan wasn’t winning matches from any positions. He bowled more during slog overs than bat. He was then dropped to bring in Raina during knock outs. It worked like dream for India.
Bhajji looked so tame all through first round and Munaf Patel never once threatened to take an important wicket. Against Pakistan, as they concentrated on Zaheer, Bhajji knocked Uakmal with a beauty and Munaf unleashed a beast to snare Razack.
Sreesanth and Chawla made Indian bowling look so ordinary that even Boycott’s mother wanted to play for England. At the rate their players were getting injured, she had some realistic chances.
Somehow history shows us that India have to lose once to an Opponent to win a Final against them. If you win a group match, you get knocked out in knock outs. Else you have to tie to win. So they tied against Poms and lost to Saffers, their realistic Semi Final or Final opponents from their own group. Very smart. But we only know it now.
Ashish Nehra created enormous over-confidence in the minds of Pakistan batsmen with his last over against South Africa. This too was planned. 2 birds with one over. Saffers sorted out and Pakistan lulled into complacency. We now know how he did them in at Mohali.
Ashwin is the only player who has 100% win record in this team. He was kept for West Indies and Australia. India didn’t waste him against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Both teams had their own “Doosras”. So India preferred to play the ‘Pehla’ and he did it with his ‘Teesra’ !
India then fooled Sri Lanka with their orchestrated ineptness against Saeed Ajmal and Hafeez. They played well against Afridi denying him any wicket in the Semi-final. This turned out to be a master stroke as the Lankans kept Mendes out and played with 2 Off spinners.
One move after another had left opponents dumb. But still they fell for more. All though the cup, India fielded ordinary. Dhoni kept telling there is very little we can do about our fielding. Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka believed this and we know how they suffered when it mattered.
All the while Dhoni kept himself out of form. He preferred to face flak for everything he did and didn’t than face bowlers at the crease. All the opponents were gleefully anticipating to bowl at him, a Captain under duress and a batsman out of form.
With India 2 down for 31 in the Final, he fooled Lankans again. Expecting Yuvi to come in and crowd him with spin, Lankans lost the plot when Dhoni walked in and kept walking singles without any fuss. Before they realized it, he had shifted gears in spite of the mandatory harakiri committed by Gambhir. But even this was planned. India wanted 2 of the most important players of this generation to be around to win it.
Sachin and Viru did the early guiding. Virat chipped in frequently. Raina rained when it got too hot. Yuvi marshaled through troubled waters and Dhoni finished with flourish !
Another important thing had happened during all this. They had even coached players to come out with quotable quotes. So Virat said, “He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years. The least we could do was to carry him”.
We have said, everything was planned. Yusuf Pathan was selected, designated, trained and ordained to carry ‘the burden of the man who carried the burden of the nation’ through the Victory Lap ! Who else but the strongest man in India ? Fittingly, the young tyros Raina and Virat were assigned to assist the mighty Pathan !
The Atlas !
And the Assistants !
I thank profusely, all those who have completed this journey. I also thank those who left halfway like many of those Indian fans who left early through Indian chase in the Final. Because this is ‘Our Victory’. The Victory of a nation starved of ODI World Cup Glory for too long. So let me be magnanimous too.
If you liked the post, well and good. Even if you didn’t like this, I am sure you are rejoicing the Indian win like me. And if anyone other than Indians is reading this by chance, “Come, join us. We deserved to win this. Sachin deserved to win. Dhoni deserved to win. Yuvraj deserved to win and all of India deserved to win. So come join us !”
Govind Raj Shenoy for DieHard Cricket Fans

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