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India found its feet gradually, peaked at right time

S. Dinakar

The team managed to see motes of lights in darkness; resilience and belief have been the key words

— PHOTO: AFP

RIGHT MAN AT THE HELM:In Mahendra Singh Dhoni, India has a strong captain who has the ability to bring the team together in the manner of a leader.

Mumbai: It was a night when battle hardened cricketers wept. The tears of joy were well worth the wait. Making history is never easy.

The jubilant scenes witnessed after India's emotion-driven World Cup triumph were unprecedented. A nation of 1.2 billion people rejoiced.

It was not surprising that the Indian celebrations in the field of dreams revolved around the inspirational Sachin Tendulkar. Coach Gary Kirsten too was the toast as the players sang and danced.

Someone who stays in the background, Kirsten had delivered with his player-friendly methods. Without being soft, he had managed to motivate the side. His reign had been a largely victorious one.

This had been a campaign where India found its feet gradually and peaked at the right time.

The side possessed resilience and depth, was predatory on the field. India also displayed fine end-game skills — a critical element of success. .

This Indian team has managed to see motes of lights in darkness, scripted stirring comebacks. Resilience and belief have been the key words.

It can be extremely demanding to wear the tag of favourite and shoulder the burden of expectations right through a tournament of this magnitude. India did not wilt under pressure as it became the first side to win the premier ODI competition on its own soil.

A strong captain

It suited India to have Dhoni at the helm. He is a strong captain, has the ability to bring the team together in the manner of a leader. .

His decisions may not always be popular but he is clear in his mind. With Dhoni, there are no half measures. There is a calmness about him in trying circumstances that soothes the nerves of his men. Yet, the aggression in his body language is unmistakable.

Dhoni's counter-attack in the summit clash stunned Sri Lanka. Promoting himself in the order to partner the left-handed Gautam Gambhir made cricketing sense, yet — given Yuvraj Singh's form, the move represented a gamble.

His explosive stroke-play powered India home in the final stretch. His bat-speed and powerful wrists came to the fore as he dismantled the Sri Lankan attack.

Confidence is a precious commodity and the Indian captain has this in plenty.

And Gambhir's sound technique and rapier-like strokes complemented Dhoni's power hitting. The left-hander made the right moves.

The value of Virat Kohli's determined innings and his partnership with Gambhir after Sri Lanka had made early inroads has to be acknowledged. This was the association that put India back on course.

Of course, Yuvraj was around with Dhoni when India whittled down the target and finally romped home.

Grown in stature

Yuvraj has grown in stature. He has added steel to his natural ability and is comprehending situations better.

The heroic southpaw has taken immense responsibility on himself, guided the side on the chase with a blend of solidity and flair.

His numbers are impressive but Yuvraj's spirit travels beyond figures. He has taken flight at decisive moments with the willow, bowled his left-arm spin with the sort of control not associated with part-time bowlers and lifted his levels of fielding. He played with heart and passion.

And left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan dazzled with the ball. He went for runs at the death in the final but his crafty bowling was outstanding. His commitment gleamed like head-lights on an unlit highway.

Saturday's final marked the end of Muttiah Muralitharan's memorable international journey. Struggling with niggles he failed to impart his normal rip on the ball during the final.

The mercurial Lasith Malinga breathed fire at the start but Sri Lanka was let down by lack of quality in pace support for its spearhead. And the islanders missed variety in its spin combination. The classical Mahela Jayawardene's gem went unrewarded.

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