Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Professionalism beats junoon!

What a match! Let me be honest. I like matches which India wins! This one would count as a comprehensive win even though it was not clear till the last 5 overs if we were going to win. And even in the last over, when it appeared nearly impossible for Pakistan to score 30 runs, one could never be totally sure.....the image of Miandad’s last-ball-six lingered in our minds. And in the end, when Misbah failed to do a Miandad, it proved that in the modern world of today’s, professionalism is what counts. Junoon is fine, but it’s difficult to beat a professional side.

The men in blue are a motivated lot. A strong economy at home makes them professionally and financially extremely successful. One can see the impact of the market forces on the performance of our team. It’s a highly competitive game.....with Yusuf Pathan learning the hard way that while he may have got away with Rs 9 crores for IPL-4, he has lost his place in the Indian squad at least for a while. Competition brings out the best in everything......including the cricket team. Contrast this with hockey.....where the country has been faring and where consequently, there is no financial incentives for the team.....and the best of a capitalistic model of economy emerges. It also shows that if the hockey team could lift just one international trophy, they could emerge as the new heroes of the country.

The match showed how the Pakistanis are just like us. They wilt under pressure. Especially when batting second. Just look at it. They started so well. They weren’t didn’t feel the need to play any risky shots and were managing just fine. They had reached 40 for no loss and India was feeling the pressure. And then suddenly, and totally unnecessarily, Mohd Hafeez attempted an ambitious reverse sweep a ball way outside the off stump....on a different day, this could well have been an Indian batsman! Pakistanis inherently get carried away just like we do. Hence the mantra: Bat first! We play well when we don’t have a specific target in front of us. We find it easier to set targets than to chase them.

Dhoni showed his smarts as a captain yet again. He was right in choosing Nehra. It was a bold decision.....almost no commentator backed him on this one. And yet, Dhoni would have known that Nehra, like Jesus, would resurrect from his ashes......his last encounter against SA had led to an almost certain exit from cricket itself. That’s what Nehra did. Even before the match started, I had a feeling that Nehra would succeed because he has the ability to make the ball rise. I remember Nehra from the IPL matches when as a Delhi bowler, he created problems for the Mumbai Indians team (my team!). He has the ability to reverse swing....if he could also put some pace behind his leg cutters, he would be a difficult bowler to play.

There were umpteen smses floating around suggesting that the Pakistanis had been bought off. One said that Sharad Pawar had made sure that Sachin lifted the World Cup in his last chance. That he had paid off all the Boards of cricket. Another sms detailed out the exact path the match would take.....India would make 260....Pakistan would cruise till 100, then lose wickets.....and that’s how the match played out. But the best sms of the day came when Misbah was in his mid-20s (and he was in his mid-20s for a very long time!).......Breaking news: Misbah playing for India! Misbah surely made that accusation look true!

India’s economic might was again there for everyone to see. 120 flights landed in the tiny Chandigarh airport.....and as is so true about infrastructure in any sector in India, even here, they could not find parking slot.....most were diverted to Delhi for parking! The biggest industrialists were there.....led by Mukesh Ambani. The biggest bollywood stars were there.....led by Aamir. The biggest politicians were there.....led by Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. All powerful people. And the 30,000 fans in the stadium and 200 million outside gave the ultimate proof of India’s growing strength worldwide. Cheering the team in one voice. There is nothing stopping India from becoming #1 in ODI rankings.....and there will be no stopping India from becoming a global #1 in economic rankings.

You have to give the Pakistanis a lot of credit for the gracious way in which they conducted themselves. They played the game with spirit. They behaved in an exemplary manner.....a lesson the Aussies should learn. They were cheerful on the field....even joking with Indian players once in a while. After the match, Afridi was gracious in accepting that India deserved the win. The Pakistanis deserve a rich round of applause from us for their conduct.....and for the way they played the World Cup. No one can imagine that just a few months back, their team had been nearly decimated with serious charges of match fixing and all.

So now that brings us to the big match....the finals! I can only say this much. The Sri Lankans us Indians and the Pakistanis.....just another Asian team. They suffer from the same doubts as we do. It’s important that we play a professional game with them. Whatever happens, we mustn’t lose our nerves. Ideally, we must bat first if possible. I think that after beating the Aussies and the Pakistanis in the last two matches, beating Sri Lanka should not be difficult at all!

The only sad part of the match today is that the Pakistanis will not be playing in Bombay. And the Shiv Sena will remain unchallenged......maybe there will be another time when we invite them to India and stage a match in Bombay only for this purpose! That was one duel I was looking forward to!

The celebrations have started. It took a friend a long time just just to cross
Carter Road
in Bombay. A friend told me it took him 45 minutes just to cover 4 kms in Ahmedabad. Everyone was on the streets. It’s great to win. But I hope we remember that while we celebrate when we win, we should also be civil when we lose. It wasn’t tested today......let’s hope it isn’t tested on saturday now! But if it, let’s be well mannered and gracious.

The real truth is that the Pakistanis demonstrated their worst, typically South Asian, traits in y’day’s match. The real truth also is that we have a great captain; a great batting side. And now a great bowling side too! The team’s motivated. The intense competition in the team is what makes it so strong. The best part is that the finals are in Bombay and we just cannot lose in Bombay!

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