Saturday, April 2, 2011

Give it up for Dhoni, Tendu and Gary......and why the win mattered so much to us!

It was clearly the uncanny intuition of Dhoni that got us the match yesterday. When he promoted himself to bat ahead if Yuvi, he must have considered that decision a hundred times over in his mind. He would have been aware that many would think that he did not have faith in his own fact in an in-form player like Yuvi. Yet he went ahead with this. As a friend (thx Ganesh Iyer for this insight!) later pointed out......Dhoni takes time to settle in and so it was best he came in early. Yuvi is a quick starter and could always whack the ball later if required. This was not an isolated instance of great thinking. We have seen signs of such maverick thinking in the past also.

I remember Dhoni’s decision to play Nehra in the Semi Finals was equally criticized by almost all the experts. My own take was a little different. On the one hand, I was upset that the entire country was booing Nehra just because of one fiasco. And on the other, something inside of me told me that Nehra had it in him to bounce the ball. I had seen him in the IPL when he proved to be quite an attack bowler for the Delhi Daredevils. That’s exactly what happened in the SF. Gutsy captain Dhoni proved he was right then. His other decision.....of choosing Sreesanth failed today, but I know why he took him. Sreesanth is an indisciplined bowler. He can be expected to bowl a couple of no balls in every match conceding free hits in the process. He will bowl overpitched deliveries conceding fours and sixes. He will bowl many wides. And yet, he has the ability to swing the ball early on.....and take wickets in the process. I personally have zero faith in Sreesanth, but I do understand that he is an attacking bowler. Dhoni is an attacking captain. He wanted wickets. He gambled on Sreesanth. That he failed is alright. It happens. What’s important is that it shows that he is an attacking captain. The last attacking captain we had was now, we’ve had two brilliant captains in a row. No surprise then that we first became #1 in test cricket and now are #1 in ODIs too!

It’s always about leadership. Dhoni provided exemplary leadership. Known forever as “Mr. Cool”, it was on full demo yesterday. Never did he bad hastily hitting random shots. Never did he appear worried. Never did he go and tell his partner on the other end the obvious things many captains would “Play carefully”! In contrast, while Sangakkara was good, you could see signs of worries on his forehead. He didn’t shout, but he wasn’t calm either. Younger team members who looked at him saw his worries writ large on his face. That cannot be motivational at all. In the end, handling pressure is always dependent on what kind of leadership you have. To that extent, India’s win should be largely credited to Dhoni.

And what to say of the maestro Sachin. His ability to inspire by sheer example is legendary. At 38, he has more energy than many younger players. He dives and throws himself at the ball more often than many youngsters do. It was his spirit which drove the Indian team to lift its fielding many times over in the last 3 games (Aus, Pak, SL). People love him and his team members just couldn’t not give him this one last honor that was left out in his career. That’s the power of inspiration. Sachin has been a failed captain (his captaincy even in IPL is suspect).....yet his personal charisma is so powerful that he can inspire a whole team and a whole nation. Let’s hope and pray that he continues to play for another 4 years and helps win another WC at that time before retiring!

And that brings me to Gary Kirsten. This man has genetically modified the Indians! He has put in a little bit of South African (which in turn is European) DNA into our cricketers. A coach’s role never comes to the fore, but he’s the one expert who has the ability to put a team on the right path. A poor coach would be shy of pointing out the wrinkles in a team; he wouldn’t be able to correct them. Gary has been a silent worker and one cannot forget him today.....this was his last match as Indian coach.

The nation celebrated yesterday. There were huge jams on the streets. Boys and girls (yes, the girls joined the action too.....) were dancing on the streets, the 2 lac litres of alcohol (in Bombay alone!) in their bellies! There was a reason for this kind of relentless celebration. The victory meant a lot to a nation that’s trying to prove a point to the world. That’s why the exultation. For a young nation not used to being appreciated much around the world, it was a proof of our capabilities. While it was the Indian team that won, in our hearts, all of us had proven our individual points. A billion Indians felt that their time would be next.....that the world would stand and applaud them. The impact of this win on Nation India is so tremendous that there can be no stopping us all. It was this release of the pent-up need for recognition that made us sing and dance in sheer madness. Wonder if this would have happened in any developed country.....which has no such’s truly a developing country’s unique style.

What next? I needn’t even remind you that we must cheer Team India. That’s bound to happen on its own. What I want to remind you is that when a billion people support a cause, that cause is almost certainly achieved. May I now request all of us Indians to get back to work with the same zeal and gusto and achieve the same milestone in the area of economic growth and progress? May I request all of us to shun the self criticism of some and opportunistic criticism of many (the news channels and the media)? May I now request that all of us become believers in ourselves and not get bogged down by the negativity that some are trying to foster for personal gain? Today, we’ve won the world cup. Let’s set the goal that in 10 years, we will win the world cup of global economics and politics. Imagine that day!

The real truth is that there is just too much going for India at this time. Nothing can stop us. Our time has come. We’re making an impact in several areas at the same time. We’re a nation on the move. The world is bound to notice us. No more jabs at us for our illiteracy levels (it’s now a respectable 75% overall; more than 90% in the younger people). Very soon hopefully, no more jabs at our poverty, mal-nutrition and all that we’ve been jeered at for so long. Very soon, the world will stand up and applaud as we first gain the 3rd spot in the world (in terms of our GDP) besting Germany and Japan.....and then move on to the # 1 spot ahead of China and the US. The tail winds are too strong.......there is no stopping us now!

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