It's time for the Indian hammer to strike!

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 01, 2011 05:32 hrs

This is one of India's best chances of winning the World Cup after 1983. Australia has already been dethroned. MS Dhoni and his men are peaking at the right time. There should be no nerves as most of the players are playing their second or third World Cup final (including both the T20 and ODI formats).

But the players should note that any chance may be well the last chance of one's life and it has to be grabbed with both hands.

Mental disintegration, Indo-Pak style



England was a fine professional ODI outfit from 1975-92. Apart from making all the semis, they made it to three finals too. In the 1992 final, Pakistan was reeling at 24/2 when captain Imran Khan came in to play the role of sheet anchor. After a few overs, Imran hit the ball high to give an easy catch to captain Graham Gooch. Only Gooch dropped it. The next wicket fell at 163. Pakistan won.

To a cricket commentator at that time, it seemed that it was only a matter of time before England won. But that day never came. In the next five editions, England failed to even make it to the semis! Gooch may have dropped the World Cup for good!

The same thing happened to South Africa. A very unfair rain rule robbed them of a final berth in the 1992 edition. In 1996, they choked at the quarter-final stage and they committed harakiri again in 1999 when they were rank favourites.


After 20 years, South Africa is yet to win a World Cup knockout match.

Australia streaked past over-confident favourites India and Pakistan and beat England in the 1987 final. So in 1999, they were facing no jinxes when they won against all odds. They did it again quite easily in 2003 and 2007.

Victory breeds victory. Choking breeds choking.

India has got a chance to win again after 28 years. If they let it go, then another chance may well come after another 28 years!

Peaking at the right time

But the biggest factor in India's favour is that they are peaking at the right time.

Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh continue to be our bowling cream. Harbhajan Singh got crucial breakthroughs in the semis. Munaf Patel and Ashish Nehra impressed in the same match. R Ashwin is waiting in the wings.

Dhoni will be spoilt for choice in the final in Mumbai.

Our biggest failure was our batting powerplays in the leagues. That has been sorted out too. 22/0 in 2.4 overs in the quarters. 43/1 in 5 overs in the semis. We've fired when it has mattered the most.

As far as UDRS goes, the semis saw us getting our biggest decision yet when the LBW of Sachin Tendulkar was overturned and he played a match winning 85.

The Sri Lanka bogey

Sri Lanka is yet to win a Test against India in India. They are yet to win an ODI series in India. Despite this poor track record against us, they have always managed to beat us in key matches.

The biggest such example was the 1996 semi-final where they had us reeling at 120-8 before we forfeited the match. They dominated us for a long period in the Asia Cup too. Finally, we may have lost to Bangladesh, but Sri Lanka did the actual honour of kicking us out of the 2007 ODI World Cup.

So that way, you could say that our toughest challenge is Lanka.

However just as we did with Australia, we have pulled it back a huge bit with them too.

In August 2008, India beat Lanka in Lanka 3-2 in an ODI series. Difficult to believe India and Sri Lanka have met a whopping 8 times in ODI series or tournaments since then!

India won 5 of those compared to Sri Lanka's 3. That includes the Asia Cup and one of Lanka's triangular victories came against an India second string team in Zimbabwe. So for Dhoni, it's 5-2.

On the whole you could say its advantage India!

Tailpiece

Sachin Tendulkar is in all likelihood playing his last World Cup final in his home city of Mumbai and chasing his 100th international century.

To many that already sounds like a divine setting!

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To make another point, while many of Sachin's centuries have gone in vain, a 50 in the quarters against Australia was enough.

With Pakistan he picked up his first ever Man of the Match award in a World Cup knockout event after getting a truckload of lives like the proverbial cat.

Luck, form and opportunity seem to be on Sachin's side!

Either way, the iron is red hot. It's time for the Indian hammer to strike!

The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger