April 3, 2011

World Cup 2011

Dasher Dhoni's masterpiece delivers victory pizza

Andy Zaltzman
Disappointment and contentment. MS Dhoni and Kumar Sangakkara see the winning hit sail out of the ground, India v Sri Lanka, final, World Cup 2011, Mumbai, April 2, 2011
The winning six: An explosive cherry on an iron-fisted cake  © Getty Images
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Yesterday night was a bad time to go far a quiet seaside stroll along Marine Drive, Mumbai. I had been told this was one of the more peaceful and relaxing things to do in this ludicrously massive city. Thousands and thousands of people had obviously been given the same advice. Only there was not much strolling, and it was not very quiet.

In scenes reminiscent of the bedlam on the streets of Essex after local hero Peter Such received his first call-up to the England team in 1993 (perhaps even a little more exuberant), India celebrated as long and hard as MS Dhoni had hit the final ball of the World Cup. A tournament which began with jubilation and pride in Bangladesh at the mere fact of hosting the World Cup ended with similar scenes and emotions after India won it. Perhaps there would have been equally boisterous revelry had the home team lost, in celebration of the fact that cricket exists. Perhaps not.

I spent most of India’s innings sitting in the Wankhede stands amidst a crowd that was initially expectant and adulatory as Sachin Tendulkar began as if about to fulfil his unalterable destiny of scoring his 100th international hundred in front of his home-town worshippers to win a World Cup final. Some dextrously finessed twos through the infield, then two boundaries of eye-watering perfection, and the Mumbai Master was on the road to his crowning personal glory. Sadly for the crowd, traffic cop Lasith Malinga pulled him over and confiscated his licence. He pushed, edged, and walked. The crowd was left not merely agog, but severalgogs. A stunned hush clamped the Wankhede, as if the crowd at one of Jesus’ miracles had just seen their hero turn a sickly child into a mahogany bookcase, and mumble “Oops”, before scuttling off saying, “Same time next week?”

Admittedly, the stunned hush was declamped after approximately 0.75 seconds by the inevitable honk of gratingly, wilfully incongruous pop music. But the crowd visibly gulped as someone sang something about someone or something else not even tangentially related to the situation at hand. Not only had the Greatest Story Ever Told (Cricket edition) had its final chapter ripped out by a sub-editor and sent for a rewrite, but the billion-strong dream of an Indian trophy was seemingly about to be interrupted by an aggressively bleepy Sri Lankan alarm clock.

The rebuilding operation began. Gautam Gambhir, a calculating craftsman with a bat made of scalpels, and Virat Kohli, finding substance to whizz together with his style to make a critical-runs cocktail, slowly hauled the Indian ship back onto an even keel. When Kohli’s drink was unexpectedly glugged down by a thirsty Tillakaratne Dilshan caught-and-bowled, MS Dhoni grabbed the game by the throat and barked sternly into its face: “You are coming with me. No arguments. Now sit down, and do exactly what I tell you.”

When India’s captain chose to promote himself above man-of-the-tournament-elect Yuvraj Singh, he made a ballsy decision. He backed it up with granite cojones. Dhoni proceeded to play one of the greatest captain’s innings in modern cricket. A World Cup final was in the balance, the world’s second most populous nation was holding its breath like a miserly boa-constrictor holds on to its wallet; failure could have uncorked a Jeroboam of Chateau Criticism. He survived an early swish at and a testing return catch to Dilshan. Thereafter, he played with powerful precision and glacial self-possession. A careful beginning and rocket-propelled running between the wickets laid the foundations for resounding thumps to the boundary whenever Sri Lanka strayed, then a complete domineering of a flagging and riskily-selected bowling attack in the later stages.

The Wankhede resounded to his name, a 33,000-strong roar saluting a man who had taken it upon himself to ensure the Victory pizza they had ordered arrived at their table, on time, with extra toppings. He finished his masterpiece by obliterating a six into the Mumbai skies, an explosive cherry on an iron-fisted cake. India may well have won anyway without Dhoni’s innings. But their iconic captain ensured the victory, and power-drilled his name even further into the annals of the game.

EXTRAS

● Before Tendulkar was dismissed, India’s other batting genius, Virender Sehwag, had already departed, trapped leaden-footed-leg-before-wicket second ball. In yesterday’s blog, I predicted an Indian win, with Sehwag playing a crucial innings. I was right. On both counts. Sehwag’s two-ball zilcher was crucial on two counts. 1: It wore the new ball out. A little. His pads are coated with a radioactive isotope that makes shiny leather biodegrade. That is a fact. And 2: It gave Gambhir and Dhoni ample time to build and pace their innings to perfection. Had Sehwag scored a 100-ball duck, or a 50-ball 100, the thought processes of his team-mates would have been scrambled. Inevitably. Another prediction triumph, then, for the On The Road With Zaltzman column.

● Sri Lanka paid for selecting three new bowlers for the final. They paid heavily. In fact, they blew everything they had earned through Mahela Jayawardene’s sublime century; they maxed out their credit card and were ushered out of the restaurant. Their selection was a high-stakes gambit. Nuwan Kulasekara had not played since the group stage, Thisara Perera had bowled 15 expensive overs since Sri Lanka’s opener against Canada, none of them in the last three weeks, and Suraj Randiv had not played an ODI since November. He had to step up from playing for Bloomfield against Saracens in Colombo last week to playing against the World’s top-ranked Test and second-ranked one-day side in a World Cup final yesterday. With all due respect to Saracens, against whom Randiv took 12 wickets, India have proven themselves to be the superior batting team. Ajantha Mendis, outstanding recently but with a dicey recent record against India, and Rangana Herath joined the injured Angelo Mathews on the sidelines. The three new men took 1 for 162 in 26.2 overs. Which was approximately the equivalent of India picking three Sreesanths.

● The wild communal jubilation on the streets around the Wankhede was mostly in exuberant good nature. One man scooting past in a crowded car, however, leaned out of the window and shouted at me: “Go home, white man, go home.”

I do not like to jump to negative conclusions about people, and am unwilling to suggest that his comment was more than 60 years late, so I am prepared to accept that he was an employee of the airline company I am flying back to Britain with today, who had hunted me down on the packed streets of Mumbai to give me a verbal flight reminder. For which I am eternally grateful.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer

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Posted by CPM on (June 14, 2011, 8:15 GMT)

If ever there is a World Cup in writing articles, where the winner would be adjudged based on satire, flow, humor an uncanny knack of summing up the topic as well as self-deprecating wit, Mr. Zaltzman would win, not one but at least a hat-trick of such World Cups. Kudos, Andy.

Posted by Roger R on (May 31, 2011, 20:01 GMT)

Humour aside, your writing skills are incredible and you have truly mastered it. I would love to able to write as 1/2 as good as you do. Keep the good work up!!

Posted by jayap on (May 31, 2011, 7:49 GMT)

Stir the melting chocolate smooth with a cricket bat! Crazy to the end! Guess it has to be laugh a minute when a standup-comedian picks up the pen to write about cricket... It all happens only because of India... mind it :-). I'd say there won't/can't be another like the 2011 WC... but you and others like you are always welcome in this glorious land.

the 3 sreesanths and the biodegrading of the leather by the paint on Sehwag's pads were most funny... hoooo haaaah....

Posted by Parag on (May 11, 2011, 8:35 GMT)

Tremendous article, Andy.

And sincere apologies on behalf of that idiot. But for every one like that, you will find 10 others who will welcome you with open arms.

And the way you have added humor to that unpleasant incident is just awesome . Keep up the good work.

Posted by Deborah J on (April 25, 2011, 11:38 GMT)

Mr Zaltsman,

You write so well! It's always a pleasure to read a well written article. But you can definitely avoid making light of a remarkable leader - Jesus and ensure that your humour does not stray into an area that's precious to a section of the society. Turning a sickly child into a mahogany bookcase!! Surely you of all people should know this can hurt the sentiments of those who esteem Jesus highly, like myself.Thankyou.

Posted by chris_anil on (April 17, 2011, 23:41 GMT)

India is truly an unknown quantity.You need to be here more often Zaltzy.The more you come here the better you know what India is about whether its cricket or the people.

Posted by Saffi on (April 10, 2011, 4:14 GMT)

hahaha....."Go home, white man, go home."

Zaltz you crazy man........can't wait for your next article!

Posted by kishore on (April 9, 2011, 6:08 GMT)

Beleive me, Mr. Zalzman we are as sweet as any other country when it comes to hosting foreigners - black, brown or white not necessarily in any order. You got a great sense of humor. And we get too much carried away with few small things in life even though i might risk getting lynched back here if I say india winning world cup is small thing in life, this side of the world!

Posted by Vijaynarain on (April 8, 2011, 11:19 GMT)

Almost a week since "that" moment, and since this article came out, and I refresh this page everyday with the hope that you would've posted something new. Thank you Andy Zaltzman for making this cup all the more memorable and funnier! As for the not-so-great farewell, I sincerely apologize on that person's behalf, and on behalf of every true Indian. Hats off to you for taking it in such a light spirit. Hope you enjoyed your trip to our country and here's hoping we are treated to more of your wonderful posts!

Posted by simha on (April 7, 2011, 4:21 GMT)

I am not completely satisfied with this. Justifying that you are correct in predicting sehwag plays a crucial innings is really bad part and secondly saying India will win without Dhoni's innings is the worst part. You never know yuvi and raina may also be dismissed at low scores like sehwag and sachin which is witnessed already.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Zaltzman
Andy Zaltzman was born in obscurity in 1974. He has been a sporadically-acclaimed stand-up comedian since 1999, and has appeared regularly on BBC Radio 4. He is currently one half of TimesOnline's hit satirical podcast The Bugle, alongside John Oliver. Zaltzman's love of cricket outshone his aptitude for the game by a humiliating margin. He once scored 6 in 75 minutes in an Under-15 match, and failed to hit a six between the ages of 9 and 23. He would have been ideally suited to Tests, had not a congenital defect left him unable to play the game to anything above genuine village standard. He writes the Confectionery Stall blog on Cricinfo.

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