Most great World Cup campaigns have had these moments along the way which have come to be seen as catalysts for the eventual triumph of a team. With the passage of time, to paraphrase Tolkien, a history thus created becomes legend and even myth.
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Those moments when they produced something they didn’t know existed in them, are something players cherish over beer in their pot-bellied, post-retirement days.
Those moments when their beloved side looked straight back at adversity and didn’t blink, are something fans hold on to when the going gets tough. Those events are attention-grabbing case studies that corporate motivational speakers summon to break the monotony of their talks on team building.
And they are handy reference points for sports writers, providing context to their match previews — this being one.
As you talk to fans, trawl through social media and keep a keen ear at pre-match press conferences, you will get the feeling India have turned a corner in the World T20 after their win against Bangladesh, where they came back from the dead.
The mind harks back to Kapil Dev’s 175 against Zimbabwe in 1983, Inzamam-ul Haq 37-ball 60 against New Zealand in 1992, Misbah’s last-ball runout against India that resulted in the bowl-out in the World T20 2007.
And, of course, that Steve Waugh dropped catch by Herschelle Gibbs in the World Cup semi-final in 1999 — immortalised by that famous line which is customarily dropped after pretty much every drop in gully cricket.
Of course, it’s just a feeling and not quite a full-blown belief yet, as there is some obvious nervous excitement ahead of their virtual quarterfinal against Australia — another pre-tournament favourite whose campaign also seems to be coming together after a stuttering start.
But if India do go on to beat Australia tomorrow and prevail over two more subsequent opponents, those three match points that they saved in Bangalore late on Wednesday night will come to be seen as the almighty turning point that turned a hitherto struggling team into an invincible beast.
A turning point-based narrative is often tempting. So much so that it becomes an unhealthy obsession, and you are always searching for one grand, standout passage of play when little and unremarkable things that will do the trick are quietly coming to pass.
Indeed, a T20 match — even though it’s the shortest format of the game — consists of 240 balls.
A successful campaign comprises 7 such matches.
To pick one or two balls then is reductive and unfair.
In that Bangladesh match, for example, the R Ashwin leg-glance for four off Mustafizur Rahman in the final over contributed as significantly as MS Dhoni’s run out.
Cutting the story short
To cut the story short, the point being belaboured here is that in the euphoria of that victory, India mustn’t take their eyes off the fact that they haven’t been playing to their potential.
They haven’t quite become an invincible beast just yet.
Far from it.
Dhoni flew off the handle the other day when it was pointed out to him that India barely won the match they needed to win big.
But it’s disconcerting that except for Virat Kohli at No.17, no Indian batsman features among the top-50 run getters in this World T20.
They have been surprisingly quiet in their home Cup. As a result the hosts have had to rely on their bowlers to get them over the line.
But the Bangladesh match showed if you pack enough firepower in your batting — they played an extra batsman in Bangalore — it can be overcome.
Given how the pitch has played in the two matches in Mohali — 703 runs have been scored in four innings — it is expected to be a virtual bat-out tomorrow.
Hence, the concerns of India carrying a poor batting form into a knockout match against an opposition like Australia.
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Shane Watson, however, remains wary of the threat the host team pose. “Look the one thing about India is they’re such a dangerous side and they haven’t clicked so far in this tournament.
The conditions have been extreme.
Whether it was the Indian team, whether it was opposition team, the ball was turning a huge amount — as much as I’ve ever seen in a Twenty20 game.
Whether that was in Nagpur, whether that was in Eden Gardens.
So it will be interesting to see what we get out here in Mohali. India are very dangerous and all of a sudden their team can click, and with all their world-class players, when they click, they’re nearly unbeatable.
“It’s a simple equation. We know we are going to have to be at our absolute best against India, they are an incredible team. The good thing is we played very well against Pakistan, I know that conditions are going to be different, and obviously their team is different,” he said.
Another cause of concern for India will be that the top-ranked Test and ODI team look hungrier than ever to crack this one format they haven’t had much success in.
After the win over Pakistan on Friday, man-of-the-match James Faulkner shared how his team revived their campaign after the loss to New Zealand in their first match.
“I think if you look at the amount of T20 cricket we’ve played as a group — in the last twelve months we’ve played only one game. This is a format we need to kick-off. We broke it down to five games. We have to win five games after we lost the first one, and at the moment we have to win three to be champions,” Faulkner said.
India have had an upper hand over Australia in T20Is of late, clean sweeping the three-match series Down Under after losing the ODI series 4-1.
Watson, however, pointed out that this team is different from the one the took on India in January.
“We’ve got a very different team to those games we played. We went through quite a few players throughout those three games so now we’ve been a bit more settled anyway as a unit so that’s a great starting point for us,” he said.
Both the teams then would like to believe they are carrying momentum into this high-stakes match.
But in sport, momentum is as dicey a concept as turning-point.
Australia are a good example of that.
In 2010, Michael Hussey’s barrage of sixes against Saeed Ajmal in the last over of the semi-final appeared to have turned the tide of the match and the tournament decisively in their favour.
As it unfolded at the Beausejour Stadium, Gros Islet, St Lucia, it looked like the mother of ‘You have dropped the World Cup, mate’ moment.
Next match in Bridgetown, England thrashed them by seven wickets to win the title.
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