Thursday, March 24, 2016
It came down to a sprint and Dhoni ran fastest to help India finish an inch ahead of Bangladesh
In the end, the India-Bangladesh match came down to the most primitive of sports: Running.
After 39.5 overs of a game that swung from one extreme to the other, making viewers across the two countries pop pills to stop their hearts from exploding, all that mattered was who could run faster: Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Mustafizur Rahman.
It shouldn't have come down to this.
When the final over began, Bangladesh needed 11 off it. A single and two fours by Mushfiqur Rahim — one of which was a cheeky scoop that made him break into premature celebrations — brought it down to just two runs off the last three balls. That is when Misbah-ul-Haq got into the head of the Bangladeshi batsmen. And they did what Ravichandran Ashwin, as he was to tell commentators later, expected them to do — committed harakiri in search of glory.
Mushfiqur and Mahmudullah hit two consecutive deliveries high in the air, when just playing them on the ground would have been enough, and were dismissed.
So, it came down to the last ball and the race. Two needed for a Bangladesh win, one for a super over and a dot ball for India to remain in the competition.
As the proverbial fat ladies cleared their throats, millions of people reached for their beads and praying mats, and Hardik Pandya walked back to his run-up, the Indian captain threw the keeper's glove from his right hand.
It was a sign of what was to follow.
Dhoni, obviously, was expecting the batsman to miss the ball and then scamper for a bye. And he was getting ready to collect it in his glove-less palm and throw it at the wickets.
When Pandya bowled pitched it short outside the off-stump and the batsman Shuvagata Hom missed it, Dhoni collected the ball, sprinted towards the wickets and threw them down. A few seconds later that looked like aeons, the third umpire confirmed that Dhoni beat both Mustafizur and Bangladesh by just a few inches, perhaps centimetres.
India came that close to getting knocked out at Bengaluru. Perhaps, the last ball of the Indian innings, when Dhoni ran for a second run, Ashwin hesitated but was saved because the fielder threw the ball at the wrong end, made a huge difference. Perhaps it was meant to be a day when Dhoni's running was to beat Bangladeshi cricket.
As last-over thrillers go, the India-Bangladesh game would rank right up there with the 2007 World T20 final which Pakistan 'Misbah' five runs, and gave life to a taunting phrase that would haunt poor Misbah forever for stepping outside the off stump to a Joginder Sharma dolly only for Ravi Shastri to scream those memorable words: "In the air and Sreesanth takes it, India win." It would rankle the Bangladeshis forever, just like the heartbreak Lance Klusener would never forget after the run-out in the semi-final of the 1999 World Cup against Australia.
Whatever be the fate of this World Cup, the last over of Wednesday's match has become immortal.
India should, obviously, be grateful to the Bangladeshis for losing a game they should have easily won. Till the penultimate ball of the match, India seemed keen to lose the game with an uncharacteristic combination of poor batting, ordinary bowling and atrocious fielding.
So bad were India in the field, except for Ashwin and Jadeja who bowled well on a turning track, that they gifted it back every single time Bangladesh appeared likely to lose it with their rash shots.
Jasprit Bumrah set the tone of the match when he misfielded the first ball of the Bangladesh innings and let it roll over to the boundary. He then dropped a simple catch when Tamim Iqbal swept Ashwin and then, while bowling the next over, got hit for four boundaries. Later, Ashwin too was to drop a simple catch at deep point, almost bringing the curtain down on India's show in this World Cup.
Before that, while batting, the Indian batsmen appeared scratchy, missing, playing dot balls, hitting big, booming drives straight to fielders and getting caught — as Pandya was when he threatened to take the game away — when the shots seemed destined to crash into the hoardings.
It underlined once again that the Indian batting is just not clicking. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Suresh Raina andYuvraj Singh are struggling to bat against — surprise, surprise — spinners. Not one of them has played a convincing innings so far. Not once in three games has this Indian side looked like crossing 150.
Perhaps there are miracles after all. Maybe Sri Sri Ravishankar, as he claimed after a recent Indian win, is indeed planning India's games. So, out of the blue, for no rhyme or reason, without a warning, long after Indians had stopped praying, somehow India's luck turned on its head during the last three balls of the match.
Perhaps, India were destined to lose in cricket, but somehow it boiled down to a sprint and the six glasses of milk Dhoni is rumoured to drink daily helped him outrun the Bangladeshis.
Against the Kangaroos — India's next opponents in a virtual quarter-final — relying on a 22-yard sprint would, obviously, be a silly idea.
But until then, and in case you missed it: