SIS website will not be complete if we don’t write about India winning the cricket world cup. Reportedly – no reason to disbelieve it - live television viewership was a billion plus. Probably, a billion words have already been written on it – ‘Dhoni: Captain Marvel’; ‘Dedicated to Sachin’; ‘Bharat Ratna for Sachin’; ‘Only team to have won on home soil’; ‘The third team to have won it at least twice’; etc., etc. To fully understand the sense of achievement, first, one has to look back and then at the 2011 tournament.
Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka took turn and reached the previous three world cup finals. In 1999, Pakistan could only bat for 39 overs; and, in reply, Australia scored the required runs in 20 overs to win by 8 wickets. In 2003, India did better than Pakistan in 1999, but, just about. We batted for 39.2 overs and scored about as many runs as two Australians did in their innings. Our losing margin was about the same as Pakistan’s four years earlier. In 2007, Pakistan did so badly that they did not even reach the knock out stages. Neither did India: we just won one match in the preliminary round, against Bermuda (!), and took an early flight home! Without Pakistan around, we had no further interest in the world cup.
2011, by all accounts, was a better tournament. En route to winning the cup, India had to defeat, one by one, all the previous world cup winners – West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The quarter final against Australia, the semi final against Pakistan and the final, were all very tight games. If one has to single out one feature - one that probably made the critical winning difference in all these three games - it was India’s fielding, which saved about 30 runs in each match, a strength that one never associated with India!
Interestingly, the team that won in 2011 was essentially the same one which performed abysmally in 2007, except that Ganguli, Dravid and Kumble retired and replaced by Kohli, Raina and Ashwin. Dhoni’s captaincy has also come in for wholesome praise, including, for not taking any chances on luck. His otherwise inexplicable selection of Sreesanth in the final is attributed to his being a lucky charm for Dhoni – Sreesanth was also in the Twenty20 world cup won by India and was about the worst Indian bowler in that match also! It is reported that Dhoni had also taken a vow to shave his head if India won and in the auspicious period of 2.45 am to 3.00 am the following morning, he had a barber visit him in the Taj Hotel!!
On a more serious note, Dhoni’s captaincy did make a huge difference. It is a question of time before management researchers study him as a model leader. First, he leads from the front. Nothing illustrated this better than his coming in to bat before the currently highly successful Yuvraj. Second, he knows how to show respect to seniors: in the early stages of his captaincy, he used to have four of his predecessor-captains in the team! While explaining why he came in to bat early, he made a pointed reference to his having consulted his seniors. Third, while he listens to others, he makes, and owns, his decisions. In particular, like great film directors, he picks the players who suit the script – therefore, Ashwin, the spinner, against Australians but Nehra or Sreesanth against sub-continent teams. Lastly, he is the picture of ultimate calm, irrespective of what seems to happen around him. Ramiz Raja, the great Pakistani player, says: “You can rave about the other performers in Team India, but, they are dwarfed by their skipper!’
Chak de India!