Contrary to the Indian government's point of view, I differentiate between intelligent betting on sports vis-a-vis plain gambling. So, my first confession is that to test my skills of judgement on the possible outcome of a game, I do place my bets online at times on one of the leading sports betting Website. And I am most delighted and thrilled to admit that I lost 15 Pounds, because I had bet the amount on an England win and the Indian team proved me wrong!
Let me quickly add here, I didn't place my money on England after it scored a massive 325 runs in the allotted 50 overs. I had decided that England is going to win the game as soon as I saw the Indian team, minus Ajit Agarkar.
While agreeing with the think tank that it made more sense to play Kumble as well as Harbhajan against the English side, I feel Ajit Agarkar would have been a better choice instead of Zaheer Khan. Agarkar has been bowling tighter than Zaheer during the tournament and was always more likely to pose problems to the English batsmen, than Zaheer.
In the end none of the bowlers escaped punishment and India's cup of woe was really full when in the 10 overs bowled between Saurav-Yuvraj-Sehwag; Trescothick-Hussain and company pinched away as many as 72 runs without conceding a single wicket to either of the bowler.
In a final of jinxed finalists, it was England which initially came out with a better game plan, had the luck of toss on its side and with sheer grit, tenacity, determination and loads of luck, posted the biggest ever total in a One-day final at Lord's.
Marcus Trescothick played a gem of an innings while scoring 109 of exactly 100 deliveries with just seven fours and two sixes. Nasser Hussain, kept his fans and England in a heart in the mouth situation all the time, but nevertheless went on to score his maiden One-day century when it really mattered!
A target of 326 in 50 overs, is a massive score to chase by any stretch of imagination. As expected, the Indians came out, all guns blazing and Ganguly and Sehwag boomed together while they lasted. India raced to an opening stand of 106 in just 14.3 overs before Ganguly tried one too many and was bowled by Alex Tudor for a quickfire 60 off just 43 balls.
Sehwag too followed his skipper in the following over, bowled by Ashley Giles for an almost run a ball 40 runs. The manner of the dismissal of these two gentlemen perhaps requires them to have a closer look at the innings played by Trescothick, who scored at more than a run a ball in spite of hitting lesser boundaries then Ganguly and also Nasser Hussain, who hung on grittily in spite of so many narrow escapades.
Once India had scored more than 100 runs in under 15 overs, the need of the hour was to steal five to six singles every over for the next 10 overs or so, rather than indulging in those gung ho, hara-kiri shots that Ganguly and Sehwag indulged in!
Within the space of another 40 runs India lost Dinesh Mongia, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar too. With India tottering at 146 for five, starts the tale of my second, even more embarrassing confession!
While I was dejected that surely because of this inept performance by the Indian team, I will win 12 Pounds on my stake of 15 Pounds on the English side, more embarrassingly, I actually started writing an article and decided to call it 'India- Tenth Time Unlucky'...or something like that!
Enter the two young Turks of Indian cricket team, Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif! In one of the most fascinating displays of awesome batting ever displayed by Indians, given the nature of situation and the fact that both these youngsters are trying to establish themselves in the side, stunningly the match was turned upside down.
Man-of-the-match Mohammed Kaif, who ended his 18th One-dayer with a career-best 87 not out off 75 deliveries, and all-rounder Yuvraj Singh (69) put on 121 priceless runs off 106 balls, in front of a packed, sun-drenched Lord's as India sneaked home with three balls to spare.
Just as India looked set for a historic win, Yuvraj was caught off a top edge by Tudor off Collingwood for 69 from 63 balls comprising nine fours and one six and India was still quite a distance away from victory with score reading a nail-biting 267 for 6. But Kaif hung on there doggedly in the company of Harbhajan, Kumble and Zaheer and steered India to one of the most remarkable and memorable wins ever.
Youngsters like Yuvraj and Kaif positively herald a new horizon in Indian cricket. In a way, Yuvraj and Kaif illustrated the technique required to be consistently successful in today's Limited Overs cricket contests, ie, run hard for every possible single and dispatch the ball to the fence at every available opportunity. More of the Marcus Trescothick brand of cricket, rather than Virender Sehwag-Saurav Ganguly type.
The task on hand and the situation that India was in, has no doubt made July 13, 2002, one of the most memorable dates in the history of Indian sports, for all times to come. Nineteen years ago, Kapil and his 'Devils' held aloft the Prudential World Cup humbling the mighty West Indians on this very ground.
Today, Indians were the proud winners of NatWest Trophy at this Mecca of cricket, thus breaking a frustrating sequence of nine consecutive final losses that began with losing the Pepsi Cup Final to Pakistan at Bangalore, way back in 1999.
It was a nostalgic moment for every cricket lover and every Indian cricket fan would pray that this is the turning point that he had been waiting for.
PS: I would never mind losing 15 Pounds and trashing a depressing article and instead write a cheerful one, as long as Indian cricket team keeps delivering, the way at did at Lord's!
Personally though, I would prefer them to contain the opposition within 250 runs and achieve the target with at least five wickets to spare! Chasing 326 on every occasion may be tough, even for prize-fighters like Yuvraj and Kaif!