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'Bowlers continue to win big matches for India'

By Haresh Pandya
September 26, 2007 14:44 IST
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India's sensational triumph in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in Johannesburg in South Africa on Monday has come in for high praise from one and all, including former cricketing greats of the country. Even the purists and conservatives, who still go by Test cricket, have hailed Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his young storm troopers for bringing laurels to the country exactly six months after a much-senior Team India cut a very sorry figure in the  quadrennial 50-overs-a-side World Cup in the West Indies.

Dhoni and company have proved that they have it in them to win even without stars and experienced cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble and Zaheer Khan. They have also demonstrated to the world that India, too, can play Twenty20 cricket.

India's cricketing legends Gundappa Viswanath and Erapalli Prasanna, as well as Balwinder Singh Sandhu, an important member of our 1983 World Cup winning team, share their views on Dhoni and his team's dhamaka in South Africa exclusively with rediff.com.

Gundappa Viswanath (former India batsman, captain and ICC match referee):

It's a great victory from every point of view. This win must erase the bad memories of our World Cup debacle in the West Indies earlier this year.

Full marks to our bowlers for defending a very small total and never losing their confidence. We didn't score too many runs but we came back very strongly thanks to our bowlers. They never allowed any Pakistani batsman to really settle down and kept taking wickets regularly. This, to my mind, was the best part of the game from India's point of view. If the bowlers had allowed even a single partnership to flourish, I think Pakistan would have won the match quite easily, given our not so big a total.

Instead of the match going to the wire, things could have gone haywire for India. But we must give all the credit to our bowlers for bringing off a fantastic win. Irfan Pathan and R P Singh bowled really well. It was our bowlers, again, who had won crunch games against South Africa and Australia .

But it was also a victory of tremendous team spirit. There is no point talking about what the presence of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly could have done to the team's morale. Let's face the fact that they weren't there and Mahendra Singh Dhoni's team performed brilliantly with whatever resources it had. Every player played his part well right through the tournament. All the players chipped in and contributed to India's ultimate triumph against Pakistan.

I must say Dhoni deserves all the compliments for leading the side so well. His cool captaincy under the most trying circumstances imaginable had to be seen to be believed. Whether you talk of the tense moments against South Africa, Australia or Pakistan in the final, he kept his calm and made the right moves with a positive frame of mind. Dhoni has emerged as a very fine captain from the Twenty20 World Cup.

Of course, we can't compare India's victories in the 1983 World Cup in England and in the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007. They were two different versions of cricket altogether. But their importance couldn't be denied. But both the versions have their own charm, and whether you talk of one-day cricket or Twenty20, a World Cup triumph, after all, is a World Cup.

Erapalli Prasanna (former India off-spinner):

It's a brilliant win for India after our departure from the first round itself in the World Cup in the West Indies in February. Considering the tight finish, I think the game of cricket has won in reality. It was a perfect result of a sustained collective effort, which is what Twenty20 cricket is actually all about. This victory will spread the popularity of Twenty20 cricket like wildfire in the country.

The bowlers bowled extremely well defending a considerably small total. They never lost their hearts. The fielders supported them to the hilt. Gautam Gambhir played a super innings when other batsmen failed.  

In my opinion, the turning point of the match was the run-out of Imran Nazir at a very crucial juncture. The way he was batting before being dismissed, he could have swung the match in Pakistan's favour in a jiffy.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni led by example, not just in the final but in all the matches that India played. He has all the reasons to feel proud of his and his team's achievement.

Importantly, we were playing without any of the experienced batsmen or bowlers. But I think whether you are playing a one-day match or a Twenty20 game, you should field at least one experienced player, whether he is a batsman or a bowler. It helps sometimes. Pakistan also had a relatively younger side, but it had an experienced player of Younis Khan's stature in its ranks.

But all said and done, full credit to Dhoni and his young team for their remarkable success. This triumph reminded me of our 1983 World Cup win in England.

Balwinder Singh Sandhu (former India medium-pacer and member of the 1983 World Cup winning team):

 It's a great, fantastic win. We've won such a major cricketing event almost after 25 years. I think Mahendra Singh Dhoni has done what exactly Kapil Dev did in England in June 1983, when we won the World Cup against all odds and stunned the world. Of course, you can't compare cricket played in two different eras.

In 1983, no one really gave us any chance to do well in the World Cup, let alone winning it. Considering the heavy odds against which it was achieved, I think the 1983 World Cup win will always remain very special in the history of Indian cricket.

But you can't take away any credit from Dhoni and his enthusiastic team. In 1983, we did what was expected of us. In 2007, they've done what was expected of them. The big difference is, we hardly had any experience of playing one-day cricket in 1983, whereas this team has played plenty of instant cricket.

Though the circumstances were different then and now, the spirit was the same on both occasions. And spirit, I mean team spirit, matters a lot in cricket.

I think the bowlers did very well this time as they did in 1983. In fact, bowlers continue to win big matches for India. Recall any major Indian victory in any version of the game and you will find that the bowlers have had a pivotal role to play. I was quite hopeful -- just like in the 1983 World Cup final, when we were defending a small score against the mighty West Indies at Lord's -- of the Indian bowlers pulling off a sensational win even after Pakistan didn't allow us to post too many runs on the board. Irfan Pathan and R P Singh bowled remarkably well.

For me, the turning point of the match was Irfan coming back in form just when needed the most. He bowled the very crucial middle overs so nicely. He took a couple of valuable wickets, which I think eventually did Pakistan in.

Dhoni was outstanding as a captain throughout the tournament. He is intelligent, imaginative and adventurous with a capacity to keep his cool in adversity. This was a perfectly young team. Except Dhoni himself, there was no big star in the team. I feel most members of this brilliant team should form the nucleus of the 2011 World Cup on the subcontinent in 2011.
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Haresh Pandya

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