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This wasn't a game, this was war

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, World Cup 2011, ICC Cricket World Cup, World Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup Trophy 2011, ICC World Cup finals, World Cup cricket,World Cup

New Delhi: In the end, it was a bruising war of attrition that won India the World Cup at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday night. The most noticeable part of both the target-setting and the chase was that, barring a couple of overs, the process was almost unnoticeable. The runs came almost in defiance of the constant threat that a wicket would fall.
For the major part of Sri Lanka's innings, every time Zaheer Khan steamed in, it was obvious to everyone – perhaps even the batsmen – that the ball would weave in the air or tango off the pitch in a way that protecting the wicket was the only possible objective there could be. Runs? What's that? Whether it was Harbhajan's venom, Yuvraj's will-they-ever-arrive slow balls or Munaf’s nagging line that would be adequate grounds for divorce for any judge, it only seemed a matter of time before the next Sri Lankan wicket fell.

Every run, in this situation, was a surreptitious mouthful of food in the face of a famine, a sneaking glance at the beautiful woman across the room while the wife was on one’s arm, a furtive smoke for the heart-patient who has been warned off nicotine with the direst of consequences. And yet, unbelievably, it was this clandestine adventure that actually enabled Sri Lanka to set India a target of 275.
True, Zaheer lost the plot in the last two overs, allowing the target to be, perhaps, 15 runs more than it need have been. Granted, Sreesanth continued to be the prodigal son of Indian bowling, offering something akin to comic relief to punctuate the tragedy of batting that the Indian bowlers and fielders threatened to turn the Sri Lankan innings into. But despite this largesse, the Lankan runs came like the mud-spattered sorties of desperate soldiers trying to make inroads into enemy territory: a few feet gained here, a few yards conquered under cover of the night, an empty bunker seized when no one was looking.
Incredibly, even Jayawardene's brilliant 103 not out of only 88 deliveries did not look like a blitzkrieg at any point of time – even though it was came much faster than the runs did for his team as a whole. For, even with him, it was a Sisyphean task, rolling the load uphill all the time, hoping it wouldn’t roll back down all over again.
When the Indian innings began, it looked even worse, with Sehwag departing in a fashion that suggested he had rocks in his socks. India’s own action began with Sachin's classically charismatic cameo that, as usual, made the rocky battlefield look like a highway every now and then. But really, it was the way Gambhir negotiated the treacherous terrain with dogged determination, clearly signalling his refusal to yield an inch to the enemy, that set the tone for India's chase.
With Malinga's slingshots flying in with deadly intent, and the eternal threat of Murali’s malicious magic making the air ever thicker, Gambhir, Kohli and Dhoni needed to take the battle into the enemy's camp one tortuous step at a time. No flair or fire would do here, it needed the determination that a mule would be proud of. You could miss your footing as many times as the situation warranted, but you could not, could not, could not fall.
And so the runs came, in agonizing ones and devious twos, never making their presence felt, but almost silently bringing the total ever-closer to the target. There was heavy-duty artillery all right, but the accomplishment lay not in firing it, but in trundling it relentlessly closer to the heart of the enemy camp, to bear down on them and surround them. This was not a battle that you could blast your way out of – it had to be won one painstaking yard at a time.
And if India won it, it was because they kept their heads. Both metaphorically and literally. Till the every end. Only in the final moment of victory did India emblazon its triumph as General Dhoni sent the ball into the stands.

Read more at:http://cricketnext.in.com/news/this-wasnt-a-game-this-was-war/56157-13.html

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