I’ll go with Napoleon Bonaparte. Give me lucky Generals, not good ones if you want me to win the war. Lucky Generals are not an easily found commodity.
But they have that incredible ability to switch the odds in their favour when it looks so bad you can only recall what David Niven said in ‘The Guns of Navarone’: “Someone sat on the cake, the party is over.”
MS Dhoni’s party is not over. And he is a lucky General with skill to boot. He goes into the semi-final battle tonight against the Windies drenched with advice and suggestions on who to play in this crucial match. Buoyed by a gust of good fortune and a slice of personal last ball savvy in the tie against Bangladesh and a surprisingly facile win over the Aussies, Dhoni must be deep into resistance mode about changing the ‘go’ team.
Of course, if the Windies blow India away there will be a cruel fall from grace considering the fickle nature of the billion odd cricket lovers, who are all experts.
Even though his top order has failed to fire on all cylinders, only Dhoni knows that the composite picture is more important than its pieces. To fragment a team that is peaking at just the right time is foolish. Translated into morale that collective factor becomes vital.
Take Yuvraj Singh, who is injured. Don’t bay for his blood. He gets that crucial wicket, he stays for his painfully fought 20 odd runs and has served as the perfect foil for the brilliant Virat Kohli in back to back innings.
Without the visually unspectac- ular Yuvraj effect, India may have been out of the tournament. While the injury to his ankle has sidelined him and compelled Dhoni to induct Manish Pandey it is unlikely the Indian skipper will make any other changes.
This crew has found its rhythm. To mess with it is to practically hand the game over to the Windies. You start changing the mix and the team will splinter.
These guys have enjoyed each other’s company on and off the field where even the banter on the bus and the wisecracks have been a bonding factor.
Even the two openers, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who have had poor runs, bring something to the table. Dhawan takes his catches and Rohit sprays confidence over the team even when he is not playing well.
Suresh Raina pushes the chariot with his fielding and just adds a little zest to the team spirit, gingers them up as does Jadeja with his humour and his ‘hey this is no big deal how come he got two wickets’ bowling capability.
Nehra plays ‘mother’ and pours encouragement without saying when. These guys have one thing in common – they are pumped and primed for a good showing and this evening could be the moment.
American businessman Bert Lance advising Jimmy Carter, once said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
This is where the Dhoni smarts must come into play. There is nothing to fix and he has to resist the pressure and the temptation from official sources to meddle with the team. All too often the desire to win and cover all the bases underscores a need to experiment and bring in fresh blood.
Do that and you break the togetherness and the camaraderie that is giving India this late push and the ones in clover have the backs of the ones having a lean time. Anyone who has ever worn
a uniform will tell you that the espirit de corps is as vital as a bullet in the gun when you face the adversary. Dhoni, an honorary Colonel in the Territorial Army, understands that aspect. Keep the boys together and play for the team.
Odds are unless it is a complete mess up, it should be a walk in the park. Just carry your rabbit’s foot and the boys will carry themselves, skipper.
There aren’t many sporting events that match the intensity and history of the India-Pakistan rivalry.
It gets taken up a few notches when the stage is the World Cup, as was the case on this day in 2011 when India defeated their bitter rivals in the semi-final.
Sachin Tendulkar made a crucial 85, but was helped by Pakistan’s poor fielding which afforded him four lives during his innings. India’s batting finished with a modest mark of 260, but Pakistan’s attack was bizarrely defensive.
India ended up winning by 29 runs to advance to the final, which they would go on to claim by defeating Sri Lanka.
Their record against Pakistan in the World Cup remained perfect.
Here’s what other memorable sports events happened on this day:
1954: West Indies legend Garry Sobers makes his Test debut against England in Jamaica.
1981: Isiah Thomas leads Indiana over North Carolina 63-50 in NCAA title game.
1996: Rough Quest, ridden by Mick Fitzgerald, became the first favourite in 14 years to win the Grand National.
1997: Australia’s Steve Elkington wins The Players Championship.
Ravichandran Ashwin admitted he was totally spent after India’s “rollercoaster” one-run win over Bangladesh on Wednesday night, but warned the hosts had to up their game if they are to realise their dreams of becoming World T20 champions.
Bangladesh came tantalisingly close to chasing down India’s total of 146 for seven, but they lost three wickets in the last three balls of a thriller in Bangalore that ended with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni running out Mustafizur Rahman off the last ball of the match.
A relieved Ashwin, who conceded just 20 runs and claimed two wick- ets to be man of the match, said he had never seen his team-mates so worried.
“It was a big rollercoaster game, but I think for a team to go all the way in such a game is very, very important,” the off-spinner said.
“We have never really got together and worried so much. I don’t have anything left, I’m drained after today’s game. I’ll just crash now.”
India’s group stage victory bolsters their chances of reaching the semi-finals, but they must now defeat Australia on Sunday to secure a place in the final four.
“As far as today is concerned, where we stand, I don’t think we are contenders for this tournament,” said Ashwin.
“(But) if we pick up our batting and come together as a good unit I think we will be good contenders from now on.”
While the victory gives India’s campaign some vital momentum, Bangladesh have no chance of progressing further after having lost all three of their group games.
“I think (our) bowlers have done a great job. We were on top until the last three balls,” Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said.
Dhoni revealed the detail that went into the final delivery with Bangladesh needing two runs to win and one run to tie.
Hardik Pandya sent down a wide back-of-a-length ball which Bangladesh tail-ender Shuvagata Hom could not reach, and in a foot-race Dhoni beat Mustafizur Rahman to whip off the bails.
“One thing was sure. We don’t want to bowl a yorker,” Dhoni said. “It had to be a back-of-a-length delivery, but how much back of the length is the question.
“You don’t want to bowl a wide and by the time it travels to the keeper, the batsman has the opportunity to take one more run.
“So we were deciding what’s a good field and what’s the length to bowl. I think he executed really well.
“You can always plan a hundred things and unless the execution is good, it doesn’t look good on the field. I feel the execution of the last delivery was fantastic.”