It was a clinical performance from India which helped them thump South Africa by 130 runs at the MCG.
Long after the television anchors said “that’s all from the presentation party” line, the cameras continued to flash in the MCG stands. Selfies with tickets in hand and the scoreboard in background were being recorded in clogged aisles. For the Indian fans among the 86,876 who passed through the turnstiles here this afternoon, the perfect day was about to end. Now, on the way out, the happy faces wanted frames that would forever remind them of February 22, 2015.
In the packed trams outside the stadium, they spoke of India’s 130-runs win, the first-ever World Cup victory over South Africa, Shikhar Dhawan’s engaging hundred, Ajinkya Rahane’s cameo, the heartening show of the pacers and the miraculous run-outs. It was a game straight out of a fan’s fantasy. Even Sachin Tendulkar waved to them from the commentary box.The partnership between Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan helped India score a 300+ total.
The roar that started after M S Dhoni called the coin correctly never died. Memorable World Cup wins are about moments, a stunning stroke or a dream ball that sticks in the collective consciousness of the fans.
The MCG was packed – 86. 800 attendance – and the Indian team set it on fire. First by the performance on the field, then by the victory lap.
In the days to come when they talk about this India-South Africa game, they will talk in detail about Dhawan flicking Morne Morkel for a six, about Rahane boldly whacking Dale Steyn’s length over long-off and even Virat Kohli’s ever-so-precise punch off Wayne Parnell.
World Cup promos in the years to come will feature clips of the spells Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav bowled. The sight of the South Africans ducking, swaying, getting hit on their fingers, closing their eyes and those run-outs are expected to run on loop.
If India were good with the bat and ball, they were excellent in the field.
After the fans at MCG had clapped, saluted and bowed for their stars, the Men in Blue also acknowledged the role of those with Tricolour painted faces. First Dhawan, and later skipper Dhoni, said the reason for their turnaround was the overwhelming support from the stands. The thousands, who have made India’s away World Cup a home affair, were profusely thanked.
“Let’s give the benefit of the doubt, let’s say there were 20,000 South African fans. So to get over 50,000 Indian fans in Australia, just adds to the atmosphere. It starts from the warm-up, and with the national anthem, it just multiplies. It’s always good to play in front of good support,” Dhoni said.Dhawan played the innings of his life to set up the win for India.
After two phenomenal wins, India, along with New Zealand, is the most talked about team. By playing an entertaining brand of cricket, the neutrals will keep an eager eye on them. Kohli, after the Pakistan game, and Dhawan after his ton against the most complete bowling attack in the tournament, have created an aura around Indian batting.
Shami, Yadav and Mohit Sharma now have a reputation of terrorising batsmen with their short bowling. Indian fielders are being discussed for their electric presence and sharp throws. Very early in the tournament, the Indians aren’t just creating the most noise at the stadium. They are also creating the maximum buzz around them.
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