Monday, March 30, 2015

World Cup 2015 - A Memorable Journey, A Sad End

A day after the Valentine’s Day, sometime around noon, Mohammad Shami’s bouncer to Younis Khan looked menacing. Younis Khan tried fending it awkwardly. But the ball was too good for him.
Younis Khan  - caught Dhoni bowled Mohammed Shami  6 
India’s world cup had started.
**********************************************************************************************************************
I woke up at 6:30 AM today and switch on the TV only to realize that it was over. A four month long tour with last one and half month as world cup was over. Now no more cricket in the early morning. For a cricket fan, nothing can be more refreshing than getting a dose of channel nine’s broadcast early in the morning. That’s why I have always loved Australian tours. They don’t make you wait for what you want most – watching cricket. All you need to do is get up and it would be on TV – lush green outfields, wonderful camera work, voice of Mark Nicholas and quite often a contest between bat & ball.
And then, cricket in Australia is never boring. Grounds are big. Pitches have bounce. Commentators are good although they are fast becoming DJs.
There is always some amount of chirping going on. You can always feel the unease. You can always feel the thrill. You are almost always on the edge.
***************************************************************************************************************************************************
I will always remember 1983 for its memoirs. That’s how most of us know about that world cup. Reading about Kapil’s 175. Yashpal’s 89. Kapil & Sandeep Patil running back to pavilion after winning the Semi Final. Sandhu’s in swinger. Viv’s assault. Kapil’s catch. Holding’s LBW. Kapil lifting the cup.
For 28 years, we were served with these scenes so many times that it had become boring. Absolutely boring.
1987 was about Sidhu’s sixes, Kapil’s sweep and Australia’s resurgence under the reign of Bob Simpson & Allen Border.
1992 could have been the best world cup – channel 9, colored clothing, best format, Jonty Rhodes. Alas, we were too incompetent. It was the worst world cup I had seen. Or so I thought.
Playing at home, we were favorites in 1996. Lot of hype was built around our preparations. Well, that all fall flat when we missed a simple run out in our opening match against Kenya. In the first match itself we were exposed. Everyone knew we had only one weapon – Sachin Tendulkar. He slipped in Semi Final. Rest as they say, is history. Whatever followed that night is forgettable. But we still remember Kambli’s tears. Yes we do.
While team was strong on paper in 1999, I never got the feel if we had a Team. It was a bunch of individuals showing their skills on the ground. Result was expected.
We had a really strong team in 2003. Batting line up boasted of people who are counted as one of the greatest of the game. Bowling was no less. We fielded well. The team was strong. Unfortunately, we met a team in the final which was one of the greatest in the history of the game.
2007 never happened.
I will always thank the victory of 2011 for relieving me of watching highlights of/reading about 1983. We were good. Even if the format was more challenging, we would’ve won. Playing at home was our advantage. If I will remember 1983 for previous generation’s world cup, 2011 gave me my world cup. Oh that six by MSD – the ending was perfect from a man who so boringly talks about the process.
Not many had given a chance to Team India before 2015 started. We crashed out in Semi Final. Barring Times Now, I am not sure if many would be complaining about the end result. Oh yes, we didn’t win the cup but end result as top four isn’t bad either.
To me, beauty of 2015 was not the end result. Such was the format that reaching QF was never a doubt for a team which was ranked in top three before the tournament started. Team would’ve needed to play horribly bad to not make it to last eight and I knew my team’s name wasn’t England. After that, trophy was just three lucky nights away. We got lucky on our first such night. Alas, that’s where it all ended.
**************************************************************************************************************************************************
To me, I will always remember 2015 not for the end result but for the journey. The bowling which looked laughable took 70 wickets in 7 matches. Shami almost always provided early wickets. Umesh Yadav was our X factor. Mohit provided control in middle overs. Ashwin became an off spinner.
Fielding was the best I have ever seen. With an off side packed with Raina, Dhawan, Rohit, Jadeja, Virat, Rahane often meant that grounded shots were going to fetch nothing. MSD was diving to take catches meant that slip catchers could cover more area than they normally did. Ashwin could be hidden in the field. Well, this all was expected. Unexpected was Mohit Sharma becoming a run out expert. Unexpected was Umesh Yadav running out David Millar. Unexpected was India’s fast bowlers diving for catches. It all happened. The intensity in the field was heartening to see. We wanted to win. Yes we did.  
Batting was good. Dhawan scored a 100. Kohli scored a 100. Raina scored a 100. MSD got back his finishing touches. Rahane showed he can attack. Oh yes, even Rohit scored a 100.  
MSD’s captaincy was brilliant. He kept the slips, regular and not just his favorite leg-slip, on even during the middle overs. Seeing Umesh Yadav’s penchant to bowl leg stump line, he gave him a field packed on that side of the ground. Use of short stuff was perfect. Ashwin was used as a wicket-taking option. There was plan for most batsmen – bowl short to Amla, bowl short to Younis Khan, keep cramping Gayle, suffocate Ireland with spin, let ABdV take a chance against Mohit Sharma’a arm.  
MSD was aggressive. His captaincy was unorthodox. Sometimes it was so unorthodox that it became inexplicable. Try giving me a reason for keeping that man right behind himself? Unless he was hinting BCCI that it’s time we start preparing a backup keeper, I don’t find any other reason for that field placement.
We were always expected to win against Pak and we won. We weren’t expected to win against SA and we thrashed them. Rest were no match for us.
And then, it all fell apart. It all fell apart an opposition which exposed our weakness which wasn’t exposed till now. We played with six batsmen who couldn’t bowl. We played with five bowlers who couldn’t bat. We didn’t have batsmen who could scare the opposition. We didn’t have bowlers who could take wickets at will. Team relied on clinical performances. Team played like a precision of a surgeon – finding the weakness, injecting the anesthesia, using the scalpel and operating the patient. But then, sometimes you need a butcher to counter a monster – someone who doesn’t have a weak spot, someone who doesn’t let you inject the anesthesia, someone who breathes fire. That’s when it all fell apart. We failed to act as butchers.
In 2011, we had X factor of Sehwag as batsman who often set the tone at the start. Remember his cameos? We had X factor of Yuvraj as all-rounder who won matches both with bat and ball. You cannot forget him, can you? We had X factor of Zaheer as a bowler and he provided wickets every time he was called upon to bowl. Alas, all three had fallen apart well by the time we reached 2015. Dhawan was no Sehwag. But Sehwag in 2015 wouldn’t have been better than Dhawan. Jadeja of 2015 wasn’t even a shadow of Yuvraj of 2011. But Yuvraj after 2011 did worse than Jadeja in the same period. Zaheer in 2011 had 11 years of international experience. Shami came after 2011.
We had the best possible eleven. Problem was, that best possible eleven wasn’t good enough against Australia.
That’s where it all fell apart. In the semifinal.
We couldn’t find an answer to Steve Smith all summer. We didn’t in the semifinal either.
We couldn’t stop tail-enders from playing cameos.
We didn’t know how to bat if we lost wickets early against a quality bowling attack.
We didn’t know how to not lose wickets in a heap against a quality attack.
In short, we couldn’t find out a way to beat Australia. That’s where it all fell apart.
**************************************************************************************************************************************************
Now the morning schedule will have to be changed a bit. I can sleep late. No more Star Cricket early in the morning. A bit of news and then I can go back to watching music channels. People at home will be relaxed. My ferocity to own the TV remote would drop down drastically. The terrorizing aggressive dare-you-touch-the-remote cricket fan will give way to a docile okay-you-watch-I-will-go-take-a-nap common man. There will be withdrawal symptoms but they can be cured with the dose of IPL – something much less in intensity of international cricket but good enough to ensure my blood doesn’t run out of its regular dose of cricket. There will be another time for the world cup. And that another time will keep me occupied in the evenings – England it will be.
There will be new players in every team. Lot of new captains. Lot of new strategies. A new kind of cricket.
Oh yes, there may not be someone named MSD.
**************************************************************************************************************************************************
Throw from mid-wicket was perfect. Maxwell had one stump to aim at and aim he did. MSD was run out. That was surprising. Well, it was more surprising to see MSD not even trying to make his ground. Maybe he had given up. Maybe he knew India’s campaign had ended. Maybe he knew it was way beyond his reach by then.
Well, I didn’t. I still had hopes till he was batting.
But with his wicket, world cup 2015 ended for me as well.
MS Dhoni - run out (Maxwell)               65 
Final on 29th was just a formality and for academic interest.
 
(Image courtesy Mid-day)

1 comment:

shailesh said...

U never know we might see MSD in 2019..