Dormant volcanoes fire India to World Cup glory

Hardik Pandya has missed his length, but that’s not always a bad thing. Especially not in a high-stakes final over of a World Cup. Well, it should be a cardinal sin but the cricketing gods have been benevolent to him that way.

He let slip a full toss to Mahmudullah in 2016 with Bangladesh needing just 2 runs off 2 balls, only for the experienced campaigner to mishit the freebie to deep mid-wicket. India went on to win by a run, courtesy an agile MS Dhoni.

South Africa required 16 off 6 in the grand finale in 2024 when Hardik failed to pitch the first ball against David Miller, one of the cleanest strikers going around in the world. If he makes contact anywhere near the middle, a six is there for the taking, the acquirement of which puts the bowler under brain-freezing pressure straightaway.

This is, without a hint of hyperbole, the moment that can scotch India’s long-held title aspirations. Legacies are at stake, jacking up the emotional investment. Miller connects, and a billion hearts skip a beat. The resultant parabola makes for an eerie view, given it ends near the boundary rope. On air Ian Smith considers the power behind the stroke, his inference almost gravitating towards an outcome favouring South Africa as Suryakumar Yadav, tiptoeing at long-off, executes a juggling act that will be remembered till posterity. The fielding medal awaited, and so do grateful embraces after the flight back home.

India have finally managed to jump over the thorny, aflame hoop at the rear end of their dazzling sprints in the last three ICC events. An emphasis on role clarity and consistency of selection is the bedrock of their solid performance in Rahul Dravid’s tenure. An excellent man-manager, he possesses the soft-skills to create a healthy environment for an underachieving player, much like Chennai Super Kings head coach Stephen Fleming.

The undemonstrative Rahul Dravid thoroughly expressed his emotions after the keenly-sought win.

India got the opportunity to put runs on the board but a couple of erroneous sweeps later, they found themselves in an all-too familiar position in a crunch game. Virat Kohli hadn’t been an active contributor to their campaign thus far, despite coming off an IPL season where he scored over 700 runs. The arduous circumstances brought the best out of him, as usual, but it must’ve helped his morale a great deal that the group still believed in his abilities. ‘’He is saving it for the final,’’ Rohit Sharma had aptly crystal gazed after the England fixture. ‘’I think there is a big one coming up’’, Dravid echoed the skipper’s sentiments.

Kohli, in fact, blazed off the blocks as Marco Jansen bowled full in search of swing only to drop anchor once Suryakumar spliced a pull to leave India tottering at 34/3 inside the PowerPlay. Axar Patel, sent up the order to ensure the right entry points for Shivam Dube and Hardik Pandya, smashed a six each off Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi and Aiden Markram to allow Kohli the bandwidth to be a binding glue. For all his manful exploits, Axar committed a schoolboy error while retreating to his crease, falling three shy of a fifty himself in a golden alliance worth 72(54).

The lack of time spent at the crease hitherto in the tournament saw Kohli struggle to switch gears even beyond the halfway mark, and Anrich Nortje’s no-nonsense operation was making his life harder. Dube was able to find the fence, much to India’s relief, permitting Kohli a bit more breathing space to discover his mojo. The opener fetched 26 runs from his last 10 deliveries to orchestrate the highest team total in a T20 World Cup final.

“Nobody was in doubt with Virat’s form,” Rohit affirmed. “We know the quality he has, come the occasion the big players will stand up. Virat was holding that end up for us, we wanted someone to bat as long as possible. These are not wickets where you can come and bat freely and keep the scoreboard ticking straightaway, so we do understand that. When we wanted him the most, he came out and performed the way he did.”

The last bit holds true for Dube as well. India’s designated middle-phase enforcer didn’t exactly set the tournament on fire but he repaid the management’s faith by playing a vital knock in the grilling environs of an all-important summit clash.

India have been following a set template in the West Indies leg of this World Cup: post above-par totals and trust the spinners to apply the chokehold in friendly conditions. Playing around Kohli, Axar and Dube scored 74/2 in 47 balls between them. The trio gave India the cushion to withstand South Africa’s explosiveness versus spin – both Axar and Kuldeep Yadav went at over 11 an over – which was an antidote to their tried-and-tested defending formula.

It seemed as if Rohit had made an irrevocable error in judgement by pitting Axar against the spin-bashing virtuoso that is Heinrich Klaasen in the 15th over. Jasprit Bumrah had two overs left at that point, and Axar conceded 24 to dwarf the equation down from 54 off 36 to a run-a-ball 30. South Africa had the trophy in the bag now but forgot to fasten the zipper as the choking tendencies reared up their ugly head.

‘’I don’t usually cry after a game but the emotions are taking over. We were in trouble but we’re really over the moon to win from that stage’’, offered Bumrah, whose dozen laser-guided missiles wrestled the advantage from the panicking Proteas.

That South Africa lost from such a secure standing is, perhaps, poetic justice for the way India have dominated across formats without having anything to show for their efforts. It is the glorious breakthrough the Universe bestows upon those who hammer away at a problem, cracking the T20 format in India’s case. It is an emphatic, sparkling validation of the adage: success delayed is not success denied.

Broadcast Schedule

England v West Indies 2024
ENG v WI 3rd Test, Edgbaston
26th July to 30th July
Start time: 11:00 am BST