The Indian victory in Mohali meant India would face an epic clash with the Sri Lankans in Wankhade Stadium, Mumbai on Saturday for the World Cup.
But in a strange twist of events, the true winner of hearts was the losing captain, Pakistan's Shahid Afridi. Elegant, diplomatic, humble and gracious in defeat, Afridi congratulated
The Indian cricket team and apologised to his nation for letting them down. His nation greeted him and the team with flowers and praises on their return so it would seem apology accepted.
In a later press conference he pointedly asked why the media was trying to hype the loss simply because it was against India. Afridi wondered where the hatred came from since we share TV soaps, rituals and enjoy the same kind of movies. His statement should ideally cause some soul searching in both sides of the border.
In India, The blue boys had no time for such platitudes as the team was immediately faced with the prospect of beating Sri Lanka. Injuries and replacements hit both teams and the Presidents of both nations will be in attendance so there is no chance of a relaxing or thinking of anything else.
A World Cup win for Sachin. No matter how Indians try, they cannot ignore that enormous elephant in the room. And now that the Indian team is close enough to taste the dream the keyword here is pressure.
In Image: India's Sachin Tendulkar poses with his Man of the Match award
India unites to celebrate victory over Pakistan
World Cup mania: A ticket @ Rs 3.5 lakh!
Text: Vinayak Hegde
Images: Sify/ PTI/ AP