An Incredible Journey

Written by  //  April 11, 2011  //  Sport  //  4 Comments

As much as a Tendulkar century – what would have been his hundredth in international cricket – in a victorious final would have provided the World Cup with a fairytale ending that the gods would have savoured, I’m pleased, in some ways, that the win was achieved by a thorough team effort. The most remarkable aspect of India’s World Cup victory is that in its seven wins in the competition, only three games contained noteworthy individual milestones – Virender Sehwag’s and Virat Kohli’s hundreds against Bangladesh, Yuvraj Singh’s century against the West Indies and his five-for against the Netherlands. As World Cups go in terms of personal landmarks of statistical virtues, this was by no means India’s best. But its metamorphosis into a team that can play like a ‘Team’ has meant that a lack of such highlights has scarcely affected its overall performance.

Ricky Ponting and Mahela Jayawardene conjured centuries of differing style if equally fine merit in the quarter-final and final respectively, but India emerged as the winner on both these occasions without any of its batsmen reaching the three figure mark or any of its bowlers scalping a substantial portion of the wickets. Likewise against Pakistan in the semi-final, it was an amalgam of exceptional fielding from almost every member of the team and a collectively excellent performance from all the bowlers that won India the tie. This is in stark contrast to the World Cups between 1983 and now, in which the team has relied, almost solely, on individual performances for success.

In 1987 as defending champions, playing at home, India was a much-fancied team, but in the semi-final against England, the bowlers wilted, allowing Graham Gooch to sweep his way to a marvellous 115 and in reply, barring a fine, stylish hand from Mohammad Azharuddin the team yielded without a whimper. In 1992, India failed to make the semi-finals, with its victory against Pakistan – a team to which it has never lost in World Cups – the only bright spark. In the next edition, held in the sub-continent, India was amongst the favourites, even though the side was virtually a one-man army, which was perhaps the cause of its undoing. Sachin Tendulkar had a magnificent tournament, but when he fell for 65 against Sri Lanka in the semi-final, the team capitulated under the pressure of the chase, albeit on a deteriorating Eden Gardens wicket.

1999 again contained many moments of individual brilliance – most notably Rahul Dravid’s and Sourav Ganguly’s partnership against the Lankans at Taunton and Tendulkar’s hundred against Kenya, a day after he had returned from India to complete his father’s funeral, but the team lacking in verve and imagination, succumbed in the decisive fixtures. It defeated only Pakistan in the Super-Six, failing to qualify for the semi-finals.

In 2003, no doubt, India had an excellent tournament. But in the final it surrendered to a combination of a masterful showing from Australia and its own lack of command over the situation – blatant over-excitement amongst the players, exemplified by that infamous first over from Zaheer Khan. Inside the opening exchanges of the game, India had the wind knocked out of its sails.

Four years down in 2007, as Alok mentions, the World Cup was altogether forgettable, memorable neither for notable individual showings nor for the team’s performance – an embarrassing exit ensuing at the Group stage.

The recently concluded World Cup, though, as I mentioned earlier, may not have contained many moments of statistical individual brilliance, but in displaying wonderful skills collectively, the team has, as a group, captured our imagination. In the tournaments between 1983 and 2011, what we remember are those solo displays – whether it be Tendulkar’s 97 against Pakistan in 2003, Ganguly’s and Dravid’s partnership at Taunton in 1999, Ashish Nehra’s 6 for 23 against England in 2003, possibly even Sunil Gavaskar’s only ODI century, a 103 that came, wonder of wonders off a mere 88 balls against New Zealand in 1987, to name a few. But in the years to come, when we look back upon the triumphant 2011 campaign, it is perhaps the team as a collective which we will remember – an incredible achievement indeed.

About the Author

Suhrith Parthasarathy is a journalist currently living and writing in New York. Suhrith grew up in Chennai, India and studied law at the National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. He practiced as an attorney for two years before giving up the law for journalism. He is presently studying for his masters at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. You can find him on Twitter (@suhrith) or on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/suhrithparthasarathy)

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4 Comments on "An Incredible Journey"

  1. Sudeshna Sengupta April 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm ·

    You have hit the nail on the head calling it a team effort. Indeed that was the feeling from the beginning, barring the frequent cries about Sachin’s 100th century, that most cricket critics belived in. You have very succinctly put the individual trophies aside, noteworthy they are, but in the larger context of the game, not the winning recipe. The perfect recipe for victory this year was the happy mix of all key ingredients – Sehwag’s nonchalance- 2 tbsps, Sachin’s genius- 4 tblsp, Gambhir’s grit-2 tblsp, Kohli’s youthfulness- 2 tblsp, Yuvraj’s gay abandon- 4 tblsp, Dhoni’s intuitions-4tblsp, Raina’s dependabilty- 2 tblsp, Harbhajan’s old spice- 2 tblsp, Zaheer’s vintage bowling- 4 tblsp, Munaf’s precision- 2 tblsp, Nehra/Sreesanth/Ashwin- 1 tblsps of a little bit of what was required of them- call it salt and sugar for taste.

  2. Suhrith April 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm ·

    Thanks a lot for your comment, Sudeshna

  3. adorableruffian61.soulcast.com May 23, 2014 at 6:06 am ·

    Outstanding quesst there. What happened after? Thanks!

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