The nation has gone ballistic over India"s win at the Twenty20 world cup. Yes, ofcourse we are the world champions ( only just..) and we do rule in the newest format of the game. Bravo to the team, and well done Mahendra Singh Dhoni!! This is the format of cricket that's best termed as – entertaining, celebratory and for those who feel that time, is running out, and that tomorrow arrived yesterday. You will argue, that this is the future of cricket, and some of us die hard cricket lovers, will stand our ground and say, this can never be what cricket will become. Test cricket will survive, and 50-50 over cricket will continue to be the benchmark for a truncated version of the game. T20 will be the version that the lesser cricket inclined folk will lap up, that the players will always treat as a party, a time to exercise all those aspects of the game that one is wary of implementing in other formats. A competition no doubt, where the battles on the cricket ground will pursue, but at the end of it all, it"s a party and there"s nothing wrong with that.
What one should really be proud of and recognize is the all-new attitude that the young team exudes. The average age of the team is 26.3 and it"s never been younger. The other interesting factors are that there is no solitary coach", there is a brand new captain, and for the first time in ten years, the three big wigs, Tendulkar, Dravid and Sourav are not part of the team. All these points could have gone against the team but what has come out of the tournament has been mostly positives. As onlookers, or let"s call ourselves outsiders we don"t really know what happens behind closed doors in the dressing room. But from reliable sources, one has got the confirmation that the atmosphere is electric. They are boys again with no real hang ups. They revel in each other"s success and there seems to be a real sense of enjoyment. Win or lose they do so as a team and that comes out clear.
As Indians we are known to react. And how! From one extreme to another. If Misbah – ul – haq got those 6 runs, then there would be tales of a billion blues and all that jazz. Can we ever be logical? Can we ever look at cricket with a rational eye? The answer is a big fat NO! But what we should start doing as a cricket crazy nation is to salute the attitude of the team and not go overboard with the adulation. As the young and mature captain MS Dhoni said to his team the morning after they were crowned T20 Champions.
"Sab kuch normal rakhne ka (keep everything normal)…Just live in the present, keep your feet on the ground, enjoy your success but don't get carried away by success."
Would you say he's only just taken over as captain of the largest cricket playing nation? Captaincy has fitted him well and he looks good in it. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to perform in the 50-50 format with the team that he"s given. But one thing no one can take away from him is the win at the T20 stage. With a young band of men, he led them to a point where we could say again with pride, that we rule! We are the world champions!
This was not the end of it. Mumbai was waiting with open arms for their latest cricket heroes to come home. Memories of the motorcade of 36 years ago came alive as pictures of the victorious Indian team who came home after beating England on English Soil for the first time. Where Mumbai ( then Bombay) had lined up from the airport to Wankhede Stadium. Quick fast forward to 2007 and the same route was lined up inch to inch ( not a problem given our population) but the heavy rain was no deterrent. The spirit of Mumbai is renowned and they did not disappoint. An open top double decker bus carried the team and support staff all the way right to the Stadium where the multitude of politicians and board officials were waiting for their time in the spotlight.
All along the way, the cricketers danced and waved at hysterical fans as songs filled the air. The mood was upbeat and no amount of rain could dampen the spirits. The cricketers broke into jigs and the tri colour was held up high. Scenes that would give any Indian a smile on his/her face. At the Wankhede stadium after a rather organized felicitation, with the politicians and BCCI officials lapping up all the attention and taking much of centre stage, it was time for the cricketers to do a victory lap. All hell broke loose as the cricketers did the victory lap around the ground. But before that the emcee , cricket commentator, Harsha Bhogle asked skipper Mahi" Dhoni a few questions and before answering, Dhoni said that he would want to speak in Hindi as English and Marathi had their turns. Given that captaincy is a new garb that he is wearing, the way he speaks, you"d think that some soothsayer, told him he would be captain soon and coached him on public speaking. But what makes his thoughts even more charming is the fact that it"s all from the heart and no where else.
Here are some highlights of what he said:
On dealing with players from Small Towns:
“ I feel that they are mentally and physically stronger, as they don"t have all the facilities that boys from the big cities have. They need to prove themselves all the time … but the new breed wherever they come from want to win at the international level"
On Being Fearless:
"We are a relaxed lot and the team enjoyed the format. No one was expecting anything from us, we were not in the limelight… it was a challenge for us.
"I was nervous but everyone performed. When I gave the ball to someone he got me a wicket, the batters got me runs, there was not much pressure on the captain.
On the home coming:
We were so happy when we won the world cup, but when we landed in Mumbai we realized that it was big for us but also for million others. Despite the rain so many people turned out. From the airport to Wankhede Stadium. We heard that Mumbai never stops, but we managed to bring it to a standstill. The reception was outstanding."
Clearly the man has his feet on the ground and realizes that the coming weeks will be a test for him and the team. In addition to the young talent, he will have to deal with the Seniors. But all that is in the future. Personally what was most endearing was the fact that all the adulation and inane sycophancy from the board officials and general political who"s who, was not something that the youngsters paid attention to. They did their DO and won the hearts of millions.
Soon the brouhaha will die down. Yes, we shall always remain the first T20 World Champions but it"s all about the next match, the next series. Dhoni knows that well and so does his young task force. But will the fans ever look at cricket in a rational way? Again the answer is a resounding NO. So till we win, alls well, and let"s just munch on the moments.
As I conclude this piece, news comes in that the Hockey team is protesting the preferential treatment meted out to the cricketers. Will that ever change? Will those in Power ever be totally fair. Our boys did win the Asia Cup and the accolades they received came no where close to their cricketing counterparts. That is the sad state of affairs. The much appreciated Chak De" movie that championed the cause of hockey, has now ironically become the anthem for the cricket team more than any other sport.
It"s not for nothing that we say, 'it happens only in India'