This is what I had said before about the recent Twenty20 world cup drawing parallels with the current Indian team and the one that won the World Cup in 1983.
And as to the lukewarm response to Twenty20 in India, all that is needed to change it are wins by the Men in Blue—–remember that one day cricket took off in India only after 1983 and truly became a part of pop culture with the 85 Benson and Hedges Cup win. If Dhoni can do a Tunbridge Wells, if Yuvraj steps into Mohinder Amarnath’s shoes, if Sreesanth can shake his ass like the generously endowed Roger Binny, if Rohit Sharma becomes a Yashpal Sharma, if Hayden leaves an outswinger that then swings in and takes off stump, if Gilchrist top-edges a pull to midwicket, if Pathan can regain his mo-jo and Sehwag can blast the ball past his beer gut then who knows—-those who have come to scoff may very well remain to pray.
Not that I had any expectations of the Indian team at the time I wrote this but yes Dhoni has emerged as a leader that rides at the front of the lines, Yuvraj has stepped into Mohinder Amarnath’s shoes as a player around whom the whole team rallies around, Sreesanth has channelized his pyscho-ness to produce a killing performance (his bowling against Australia was nothing short of sensational), Rohit Sharma has indeed become another Yashpal Sharma , Pathan has adjusted well to his new role as a first-change bowler, Sehwag has given solid consistent starts and Hayden and Gilchrist and the whole Australian team have been brought down from their pedestal in true “Chak de India” style.
And one of the reasons for these small miracles has been, no doubt, what I had referred to as the only positive for Dhoni’s men—-they had gone to South Africa unheralded, with no expectations and no accompanying hoopla. This was in sharp contrast to the team that went to West Indies earlier this year amidst the “Cup jeetke lao” and the “Blue Billion” corporate-fuelled hype and got hopelessly eliminated in the first round. While Dravid’s men played like zombies with the weight of expectations of the entire country weighing on their shoulders, looking increasingly forlorn, disconsolate and on the edge after each setback , the new Team India, no doubt because nothing was expected from them, has been free-spirited, uncluttered and fearless even when faced with enemy ships that have outsized and outgunned them.
Regardless of whether we win the tournament or not (the final is yet to be played at the time of writing), the significance of the Twenty20 World Cup is that it has given us a crystal-ball view into the future—at an Indian team with no Sachin, Sourav and Dravid. The fact that this future looks promising and exciting is perhaps the greatest news an Indian cricket fan could have, especially in an year where Indian cricket has plumbed the depths of despair.
Also the Twenty20 World Cup has shown to skeptics like me, that “good cricket” is possible even within the strait-jacket of a three hour game, even without the slow-release simmering tension of the one-day game. In two weeks of frenzied cricketing madness, we have seen that Twenty20 is not just about bats flying, organizers minting money and emaciated cheerleaders executing tired moves. On the contrary, the format does allow for memorable bowling performances (Daniel Vettori’s match-swinging spell of controlled left arm spin bowling in the match against India being particularly memorable),and packs in enough moments of high drama, emotion,courage and aggression so as to make it difficult to brush away Twenty20 cricket with a dismissive “c’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre” (It’s magnificent but it’s not war).
Much of sport lies in conquering mental barriers and this World Cup has shown how over the last ten overs, teams can consistently score at 9/10 runs per over if they have wickets in hand. Just as ODIs have increased scoring rates and led to more results in Tests, Twenty20 may very well revolutionize one day cricket by increasing the rate of run-scoring during slog overs and by extension the number of runs scored during a game.
However the most important consequence of the Twenty20 World Cup and more specifically India and Pakistan’s performance is that it has come as a rush of pure green into the financial veins of the ICC who, with its recently announced professional league comprising twenty20 games, is perfectly poised to tap into the groundswell of interest for the game in the subcontinent (the market that really matters) that will now be as inevitable as Agarkar slipping the ball down the legside when the fine leg is inside the circle.
However let us set aside all the analysis, all the “this is not true cricket”s, and all the profit-loss balance sheets for now and revel, like true fan-boys (and girls), in the glories of the last few days of cricket—-Yuvraj Singh with supreme arrogance flicking an express delivery from Lee for a 119 meter six, Rohit Sharma running out Kemp with an amazing diving throw, Kartik’s airborne catch to get rid of Smith, Stuart Broad’s red embarrassed “teenager with his first dirty magazine” expression as Yuvraj gets stuck into him, Sreesanth slapping the pitch with his hands like Hannibal Lecter in front of a fresh corpse as Hayden’s stumps lie in disarray and Dhoni’s simple nod of affirmation to Harbhajan after Bhajji rattles
Symond’s Michael Clarke’s timber.
It has really been the most fun one can have with their clothes on.
[Picture courtesy Cricinfo]