Men in Blue in Blue Mood

A cricket crazy nation waited for fourteen years before they could lift the T20 world cup. It was an incredible victory where Hardik and Jasprit snatched a victory out of the jaws of marauding Klassen. The way he tore in Axar Patel , the meanest of the spinners in terms of leaking runs, it was Hardik who ensnared him to nick to Pant for the down ward slide to continue. With 30 runs to score in 30 balls, there would be few optimists amongst the Indian fans. But it was Jasprit who held his nerve, bowled Jansen with a peach of an in swinger and literally strangled the South Africans in his 16th and 18th over. Except for Wasim Akram bowling in the similar vein against England in the WC final of 1992, no other fast bowler in my memory has swung the fortune, the way Boom Boom Bumrah did in this entire World Cup including against Pakistan and now against the Proteans, who have an unfortunate tag of being chokers, particularly against Australia in the past.

Shakespeare wrote: Cometh the Hour Cometh the Man. In case of India there were a few Men in Blue with King Kohli deserving the highest accolade. He was running an indifferent patch and must be fighting his own demons without showing it. But as they say: Class is permanent, form is temporary. The six that he hit against Rabada and the restraint he showed against spin are a lesson for any promising cricketer like Gill and Jasaswi. In a recent conversation Imran , asked to compare between Sachin and Viraat said , Kohli is as compact as Sachin with all his shots except paddle sweep. But put them in a crisis and runchase in big matches, Kohli is better. Steve Waugh also agrees with the same. Now that he has decided to hang his boots in T20 World Cups in future, it will be in the fitness of things to dedicate the T20 WC (2024) to him, the way he dedicated the WC 2011 to Sachin. They are intrepid admirers of each other, but Virat is Viv Richards of Indian cricket.

The Man who deserves accolades in equal measure is Rohit, the quiet pulveriser of any bowling. Starc will have nightmares, the way he bludgeoned him in the match against Australia, which in a sense purged India from the gloom Travis Head engineered to edge out India at Ahmedabad in a World Cup. Rohit is an excellent captain, without the flamboyance Imran or insouciance of Dhoni.There is a lazy elegance to his effortless pulls and lofts, which surpasses Inzyy at his best. DeVillers is the closest one can conjure. For me, the abiding image after the match was the close hug in which Virat held Rohit, India’s two players which in my estimation is best pair that India has seen, a tad better than Sachin and Dravid together at their best. It is quite likely that Rohit will also retire before the next wold cup before the likes of Jasaswi and Subhamin get in to their shoes. They will be possibly led in white ball cricket by Hardik , who is the other Man Shakespeare would like to talk about

Hardik can be controversial, he can be mercurial but no can deny the lurking genius in him ; a successor to India’s perennial search for an allrounder like Kapil Dev. His batting has alwasys a Lans Klusner, the sledge hammer flat sixes like Dhoni’s helicopter six. While his knees were often proving dodgy, Hardik , the bowler was a revelation. With his cutters and change of pace he was the one closed on the door on the Proteans when he forced Klassen to nick before Jasprit firmly bolted. But most creditably he held his nerve in the last over in the most incredible way. Joginder Sharma held his in the last over against Misbah in the T20 final in 2007 when he holed out to Srisant. But Joginder was a freak call of Dhoni which clicked. Hardik is a different kettle of fish who held the nerve of every India with the tightest possible line, length and guile. Hardik has been passing through a difficult personal life. He is generally cool as a cucumber, phlegmatic like Roger Federer. But he also broke down and wept inconsolably, proving that we can weep in public. And tears are not the feminine preserve.

Apart from these three magnificient men in blue, certain moments of the WC final stand out. The first is the way SKY balanced himsely like a gymnast to take the catch on the boundary. T would have made Nadia Comenci got a perfect 10 on an uneven bar in Olympics in 1976. The catch also reminded me of the catch Kapil took running behind against a rampaging Richards in the World Cup final in 1973. That catch turned the tide in favour of India’s improbable win against the Caribbean cats. It was in the fitness of things that Surya showed the spirit of a Kapil and the dare devilry of WI in the past, on the hallowed soil of Barbados where Gavaskar notched four centuries. Mention must also be mentioned of the superb innings played by Axar Patel, who was promoted in the order. The three world cups in the past would be rememebered for moments like Kapil taking the skier off Viv (1983), Sreesant taking a catch off Msbah (2007) and Kapil hoiking a helicopter six (2011) to kiss the azure Mumbai sky and stir the blue waves of the Arabian sea.

But this World Cup will remain special as it contained all the ingredients of a drama where despair intervened hope, but the tears of joy even made a sedate impasseive wall like Dravid jumped uncharastically to celebrate. He has been the silent musketeer of Indian cricket on whom enough peans of praise has been heaped. His role in grooming the young Indian cricketer in unmatched. Even Kohli who in initial years was reluctant to bring him as a coach during his captaincy, was seen publicly hugging him and commiserating in difficult moment. It is a pity that this is hi last world cup. Like his advertisement, he provided the best engine oil to the Indian team where stars and siblings jostle for space. The World Cup 2024 belongs to a troika of great indian cricketing tradition, Rahul, Kohli and Rohit. It was India’s Bharat Natyam at Barbados. Like our Freedom at Midnight, it was World Cup when most Indians were bleary eyed but awake.

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