World Champions 2011: We’ve come a long way

Written by  //  April 10, 2011  //  Sport  //  3 Comments

Dhoni hits the demons out of the park

Sport has this ability to generate special moments that swell to occupy the popular consciousness, often distorting reality: moments that capture the imagination and form moorings in a sea of hazily remembered scorecards. One such mooring is the dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar for 136 against Pakistan in 1999, leading to a 12-run loss for India. Two months later, Brian Lara struck an unbeaten 153 against Australia, earning his team a one-wicket win. Tendulkar was written off as lacking big-match temperament, while Lara was declared the ultimate saviour. For years, these two moments engulfed any statistics that made claims to the contrary.

A similar moment was the India-Sri Lanka semi-final at the 1996 World Cup. I watched as Tendulkar fell for 65, followed by a dreadful batting collapse, and, along with millions of fans, I came to two conclusions. India could not stand the pressure of chasing. India could not survive without Sachin.

This belief was vindicated in 1999 when Tendulkar left the tournament midway after the death of his father. In the one game he missed, the wheels fell off the team’s chase of 252 against Zimbabwe – a loss which proved to be critical.

In 2003, Sachin was on song and so were we. Come the final, however, several million hearts sank the moment Ganguly inexplicably opted to field. Chase? Us?? The moment Tendulkar got out, TV sets were switched off, including MS Dhoni’s.

By 2007, the tide had apparently begun to turn. Tendulkar seemed a spent force in a Team India that seemed to be doing just fine without his contributions. Come the World Cup, however, and India sank to two characterless defeats.

The twin demons have long since been banished in all forms of the game but it was only in 2011 that they were finally laid to rest in the World Cup. I was actually pleased when Dhoni lost the toss because I thought we would pace our innings better if we batted second. My heart definitely skipped a beat when Tendulkar got out but it never occurred to me to write off the match. And even as the celebrations began with all-too familiar paeans of praise for Tendulkar, I could only think – we’ve come a very long way, indeed.

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