Two days ago, early in the morning, I was watching my favourite basketball team, Los Angeles Lakers, play against the Dallas Mavericks. And when one of the Mavs shoved a Laker (Steve Blake) to the floor, there were a few Lakers stepping up in Blake (and later, Pau Gasol)'s defense, risking their own ejection. The post match interviews had one phrase common in their speeches - "brotherhood".
It was the same kind of stepping-up and love for each other that was seen yesterday night when India defeated Sri Lanka to win back the ICC Cricket World Cup in their own back-yard, in their most beautified son's home. It was a team, hunting as a unit, telling everyone that it is that brighter light on top of the tree which they want to reach, and they will sacrifice their body for their team to climb on each other and win it.
As soon as the SF was over, for me, the World Cup was over. India playing SL doesn't excite me. But, India winning the title does. To not risk myself getting squished into a 2D body, I left my hostel and its living cannibals to watch the game in a theatre. The atmosphere in the theatre helped me get into the grove for the finals. And it was worth a finals. Duh, 60 foot screen, Air Conditioned, theatrical sound effects, 200 fans, good food, what did you expect? Of course it excites you!
After a gritty innings by Mahela Jayawardene, duly supported by his best man Sangakkara, and others (Samaraweera, Kulasekara and Perera), India was set a BIG total to chase. And when the famous openers of India fell, it was time for the nation to look at what the team was really about - a team.
Gambhir posted one of the most beautiful innings in sheet-anchor role, Kohli gave him the company he needed while he settled down, while Dhoni took the attack to the Lankans.
In the end, it was the captain who smashed the ball out of the park, and the Lankans out of the tournament. And fittingly, along with him out there in the middle was the man of the tournament - Yuvraj Singh.
This thing was meant to happen. You look at Murali's figures - 39-0 after 8 overs. He neither completed his quota, nor got a single wicket. This was the most "in-your-face" send off that a great personality would least prefer having. His eyes were moist, not because he was leaving, but because he couldn't make a damn contribution in Sri Lanka's favour when it was needed the most.
No one feared Malinga. Sure, he troubled India early on, but confidence grew in the batsmen, the glory was within sight. Even if Raavan had 20 more heads, it wouldn't have mattered, if he had to be felled, he would be. Four changes made to a winning side, and surely Sangakkara had to be superman to get his armory right. He had no clue how to use his support bowlers. Kulasekara undid all his batting efforts, Perera was no threat at any stage (that Gambhir wicket was a gift) and Randiv came all the way from Sri Lanka to lose the only game he played.
Right from the start, the Indian fielding was at its toes. And the SL fielding was a bit sloppy. There, a few runs up and down, saved and leaked. And who was doing the fielding? Everybody! Raina-Yuvraj-Virat were electric, yes. but there were also Bhajji, SRT, Zak throwing themselves around. That catch by Sehwag which put an end to Tharanga's innings was a piece of classic. They were hungry, 28 years hungry.
If you looked closely into the eyes of the captain, you would've read what his heart said "There, I've proved myself, I've proved it to the world". Captaincy was born inside him. Fittingly, he saved his best innings for the last one.
Just as the umpire lifted both his hands up to the heavens, Yuvraj put his body down to earth in joy. MSD turned to claim his stump. Virat Kohli ran like a cheetah, grabbed a stump and religiously ran to Sachin Tendulkar and gave it to him. If that doesn't tell you something, then his speech said it all - "Sachin has carried the hopes of the Indian cricket team on his shoulders for 21 years; it was time we carried him on ours".
Sachin's contribution in the finals was little or negligible, but he was the one who laid the road to the finals this year, and all those tournaments day in night out decade after decade.
Everyone wanted to win this for Sachin, it was a gift, an honour. It is what boy-friends jump into the oceans for - to find their girl the best pearl. It is what first-time daddies go shopping for - to bring his wife and new born the sweetest gift. It is what India won the cup for - to dedicate this to the one whom they idolised.
Bhajji's tears and Raina's smiles all meant the same thing. Both meant how much they wanted this. Bhajji has been through more pain and drama. That was experience talking there. Raina is learning how to take major victories in his side (one BIG gazelle step ahead of CSK's twin-wins) with youthful exuberance. That was the Generation-X talking.
When India won the World Cup, it meant India won the Cup as a team. It all started with Piyush Chawla exposing the weakness of foreign teams' inability to play spin in the warm up games, and we saw Yuvraj playing like a champion, Kohli playing with grace, Gambhir bat like it was in his own back-yard, Viru being destructive, Zaheer showing experience, Bhajji-Yuvraj-Yusuf-Pathan-Ravichandran spin attack working as a single minded unit willing to sacrifice things for the greater good, Munaf bending his back bowling on a repaired ankle and a broken hip, and Nehra defying the foul-cry of billions and bowling India over Pakistan with a broken hand. If you've seen better captaincy, correct me.
Coach Gary Kirsten took the team into his hands after India were emotionally and physically (and unethically) beaten 2-1 in Australia. And he has grown the team into a brood of gladiators. It was the best way to repay him back - a crown on his last shift in charge of his pets. And nothing was possible without the able presence of bowling coach Eric Simmons, who not only brought the best out of PK, Sreesanth, Nehra and Ashwin in the past one year, but also managed India's bench strength. That back-room staff is the best India has had since John Wright days. And fittingly, they have been rewarded.
This is the Indian cricket team. Built on the principle of Synergy - the team is greater than sum of individuals. They positives added up, the negatives were complemented by teammates' positives, and that was turned into a plus all over again.
It was the last "World" Cup, and India has won it, to keep it...forever.
An emotional journey has ended for me. And I get a few good weeks off before the cricket resumes.
Hope you all enjoyed the world cup as much as I did. I broke my teeth in some crazy fashion, I had to sit through exams, I was taunted for my support for a few teams and players, I might've even seen a couple of UFOs... But for all I care, I enjoyed the tournament in the past few weeks in the country that won the tournament, by beating all the former champions on the road to the victory.