No, seriously, that is how it feels. My antipathy--or at the least, indifference--to the T20 format notwithstanding, Saturday night was the ride of a lifetime. The cricket was great, with superb all round skills on display by both sides, and the background narrative of a young team playing out of its collective skin against the favorites was the icing on this cake.
Those who followed the game live must have been struck by the number of times different commentators referred to India's 'fearlessness'. David Lloyd said something about the team playing the game dictated by the captain's personality; Ian Chappell pointed out that Dhoni knows no fear and has inculcated that spirit into his wards; Nasser Hussain made the same point at considerable length… and fearlessness is the leitmotif of Sambit Bal's piece today in the run-up to the final.
True, the team plays without any visible sign of fear--you wouldn't have known, from the collective demeanor, that it was playing three must-win games, two of them back to back and then one, against a fancied opponent, one day later. But what strikes me even more about the team at this point is a sense of preternatural calm--the players seem almost nerveless, immune to pressure of any sort.
Exemplars are many: Rohit Sharma on debut (at least, in the first game he got to hit in) coming into a dodgy situation and playing like he had been there, done it all before; the openers repeatedly riding out the opening overs without any sense of panic, biding their time and mounting their counter-attack to optimum advantage; the middle order showing a sure sense of pacing; bowlers being able to ride out the roughs, and come back to bowl key overs (brilliantly exemplified by the 18th and 19th overs on Saturday, which drove up the ask rate to the point where Dhoni could risk Joginder in the final over); and a captain who appears to be able to stay calm in the midst of chaos (I was keeping tabs on the Australian ask and when, heading into the death, it came down to run a ball plus 12, I thought it was done and dusted; more so when I checked the overs remaining and realized Joginder had to bowl one. I thought at the time that Dhoni would do well to get rid of that one over early, so he could have the more experienced bowlers bowl the final overs; the captain reversed that thinking, and proved bang on the money).
Twenty20 World Championship
Photographs: Getty Images | Text: Prem Panicker