By R. Mohan
The umpire in the sky must have a wicked sense of humour. How else could you explain this great human drama on the cricket field that was heading towards an absolute fairytale finish being turned around by a cruel twist in the tail to leave Yuvraj Singh on the side that lost by one run?
The result would have been shattering if not for it being such an emotional occasion for him when nearly everything went right – a catch, two overs of reasonable economy and then an innings of 34 that all but carried his team home.
It would have been a brilliant plot straight out of Bollywood had Yuvraj hit the winning runs. It was a great pity then that he swung all over the ball of low bounce in a thrilling chase that went wrong at the very end.
In a career and a lifestyle shaped by his becoming an instant cricket celebrity, he has captured the imagination moist by his deeds in the limited-overs cricket arena. It’s a stage that suits him best and he has far more to give Team India in the T20 worlds coming up in Sri Lanka early next week.
While the good wishes of fans in such a situation as life-threatening cancer is a given, Yuvraj must have been stunned by the support he received from his team mates. So much did they bond in the intervening period between diagnosis and his comeback that Team India was really seen as a close-knit family. There may be a suggestion the comeback hero is a tad heavier but all that can be taken in one’s stride. His very presence on the field was so uplifting.
Dhoni may not be the most communicative person on the mobile phone but he sure knows how to back his colleagues when it comes to the crunch. His support was probably more vital than the doctor’s clean chit in hastening the comeback in time for the ICC World T20. Dhoni should know more than anyone else how important the competition that is coming up is for Team India as well as for himself. Fans may not be able to digest a third straight failure in a world cup, particularly since this is being played in conditions more favourable to India’s strengths.
Being far more of a batsman’s game, the big hitters who can time the ball well in conditions in which the old ball can get annoyingly slow will be the ones succeeding the most. Of course, attacking the new ball becomes even more vital in any chase as the older ball may not get to the bat nicely enough although it is being said that the pitches on the island are far truer than they used to be. However, do expect a lot of nervous chases at the Premadasa Stadium where the ball can grip before coming on to the bat. This is where someone like Yuvraj is capable of shining most.
The very nature of T20 cricket is such it’s the game’s biggest rollercoaster. There is just no predicting who would win it. When India won the first event they were the dark horses. Pakistan were even bigger outsiders when they won the second edition. Australia were favoured to win the last event in the Caribbean but were downed by England. The South Africans have not come near enough to win the championship although this time they would carry some favouritism since they are ranked above every other team.
That the West Indies are also somewhat fancied shows how open T20 competition is. Each event has thrown up a new champion thus far. Dhoni and his team would have to be at their cracking best if they are to beat the trend and become the first team to win the cup twice.
It is a strange fallacy of the way of thinking in Indian cricket that Dhoni should continue to be the Test skipper after those seven away losses. He is more secure in the limited-overs slot but it’s time he delivered as patience may be running out.