Field of dreams at Wankhede
It was the same team which had been embarrassed by almost everyone for its fielding during the tournament. They faced the ignominy against even the minnows of the World Cup. Sanjjeev K Samyal reports.
It was the same team which had been embarrassed by almost everyone for its fielding during the tournament. They faced the ignominy against even the minnows of the World Cup.
Skipper MS Dhoni had even admitted it was his team's grey area. "Fielding is not one of our strengths and games like these make you understand that more. If we had fielded slightly better, we could have won by at least one run. If it was a different fielding side, we could have won for sure," Dhoni had said during the league phase.
But when the big games came, the Men in Blue raised their intensity level to put up a display worthy of champions.
On Saturday, India let it slip in the final 10 overs of the innings, but for the better part of the game they were simply outstanding on the field.
India's performance in ground fielding, catching, throwing and scoring direct hits had left much to be desired in the lead up to the knock-out stage.
They put up a decent display against Australia in the quarters and the semis against Pakistan, but they reserved their best for the final. On big grounds and quick outfields of the subcontinent, it was be a big factor and MS Dhoni's players finally showed the right technique, swiftness and speed to make Sri Lanka work hard for each run.
The margin for error is very limited and every run will count as we saw in the semifinal against Pakistan, who paid the price for their profligacy on the field.
Given that the two finalists were so evenly matched, every run was going to count; and the Indian fielders did everything to save whatever they could.
Most impressive was the off-side ring manned by Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli. The three were absolutely electric and gave nothing away. The performances of the three were a big factor in building pressure on Sri Lankan opener Tillakaratane Dilshan. He was not allowed to target his favourite point and backward point areas.
Yuvraj rolled back a few years and was diving, sprinting at everything at point. Raina showed quicksilver reflexes at covers and Kohli was bubbling with energy at extra cover.
Equally heartening was the performance of seniors like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan. Sehwag set the tempo with a brilliant catch at first slip to dismiss Upul Tharanga and then Sachin Tendulkar brought the Wankhede roof down by sprinting from the point fence to third man to dive and cut down a Mahela Jayawardene late
At the North Stand end, Zaheer provided Yuvraj the perfect cover by doing a great job at the third man fence.
His standout moment was in the eighth over when he ran sideways and dived full stretch to stop a Dilshan cut shot.
It was not one of the most stylish stops, given their lack of athleticism, but the intent was heartening and the 15-20 runs saved made the difference in the end.