Young and old thrive for Deccan
In the end there wasn't much to separate the two teams. The team that won the tight moments won the game - and the tournament
In the end there wasn't much to separate the two teams. The team that won the tight moments won the game - and the tournament. It was as simple, and as tough, as that. Twenty20 is primarily a batsman's game but today, the bowlers from both teams held their own and, with only one fifty in the match, the difference was probably Herschelle Gibbs restrained innings.
What really caught the eye in Deccan's triumph at the Wanderers was how desperate their senior players were to win. They soaked up the pressure and allowed the youngsters to play in a relaxed frame of mind.
Gibbs' played an uncharacteristic innings. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't fluent, but it got the job done. Gibbs' story is, in several ways, Deccan's story: an attitude problem, failure, a return to basics, and, finally, redemption. Tonight, he saw his captain Adam Gilchrist fall in the first over and lost Andrew Symonds and Rohit Sharma as well. He was the last of Deccan's main batsmen.
On a pitch that had something for the bowlers, Gibbs opted to push the ball around for singles and not for extravagance. It wasn't until his 33rd delivery that he played a shot reminiscent of the old Gibbs - a swat over midwicket for six. It's not often that you remember only one shot in a Gibbs half-century but, through this tournament, Gibbs has been working on his new version. Just like Deccan.
Andrew Symonds, who was left out of Australia's Ashes plans, was everywhere. He played like a man possessed, using intimidation as a favourite tactic, especially against Manish Pandey - who, to his credit, remained calm and unfazed. But it showed Symond's desire to win. Like Gibbs, he too has a point to prove, to the Australian selectors if not to the world at large. Through the chase, he raised energy levels several notches and was a leader on the field.
Gilchrist, the third senior, was also immensely involved. He made frequent changes to the bowling attack and the field, called for team huddles every now and then, pulled off a sharp stumping to remove Virat Kohli and turn the game, and constantly applied pressure. And crucially, he backed his youngsters, even those who appeared to be his weakest link.
Right through the tournament, Gilchrist invested in Harmeet Singh and today the medium-pacer vindicated his captain's faith in him. He kept his bowling extremely simple and never tried anything special, perhaps because he doesn't possess anything special. However, self-awareness and the discipline to bowl to a plan are not easy qualities to achieve.
Harmeet's moment came when he bowled Rahul Dravid who tried to play a paddle sweep. Harmeet immediately pressed his forefinger to his lips to silence the Bangalore fans in the crowd and showed Dravid the way to the dressing room. There was no malice, only a young man relishing his success. He had more reason to celebrate later when he took an outstanding catch in the deep to get rid of Vinay Kumar. It reminded one off the catch Ajay Jadeja took to dismiss Allan Border in the 1992 World Cup.
Pragyan Ojha has been one of the pillar's of Deccan's bowling attack and he stood firm tonight. Ojha dismissed Pandey first ball but it was his dismissal of Roelof van der Merwe that showcased his skill and temperament. Despite being attacked, Ojha stuck to his strengths and continued to flight the ball. Eventually van der Merwe was beaten by the flight and spin and was comfortably stumped, giving Ojha his moment of self-expression. He ran to nowhere in particular, dodging his team-mates, and he too showed Van der Merwe the path to the dressing room.
Amid the giddy happiness of Deccan's celebrations, however, spare a thought for Anil Kumble. The most poignant image of the night came after the last delivery of the game. As Uthappa hit the final ball to long-on, Kumble slowly trudged away from Deccan's celebrations with his head bowed and crashed his bat against the ground. He had done everything his team could have asked of him. Once again, he took upon himself the tough job of bowling to Gilchrist and bowled him with a two-fingered googly. He managed his resources skillfully to restrict Deccan to a score he would have expected his batsmen to chase. Someone unfortunately had to lose.
Nevertheless, it was a stunning turnaround from last year for both teams and the one that faced the most humiliation in 2008 won the day. It felt right.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo