So finally after three weeks of exciting entertainment, it has all come down to the wire now. It should be fair to say that it was a very tight World Cup. Be it the case of Netherlands, who clearly showed that sometimes the Orange Flavor can be very hard to digest or be it the Proteas who also proved that slowly but surely they are learning to win matches from nervy situations. I was pretty disappointed by the way Australia and New Zealand fared in the group stages. Both of them were in red-hot form coming into the World Cup and it was looking pretty much obvious from the word go only that both would reach the semis. But New Zealand got hurt by the inconsistency they are known to produce in such tournaments and Australia by some very ordinary bowling. These things happen in cricket when you are playing in such a format where one loss brings you directly into the danger zone. But for now keeping everything aside, the focus should be on the super-exciting final between the two Asian giants; India and Sri Lanka.
The Men in Blue have been on a role throughout the World Cup. They won all their league matches and even beat South Africa in the semis quite comprehensively. Coming into the World Cup their confidence wasn’t that great because of the losses they suffered in New Zealand and the Asia Cup. But to come out from such tricky situations and turn things around in a king manner is something very commendable. Infact the way they won their last two matches against Australia and South Africa did prove they are unstoppable. The bowlers have done their job to perfection, the fielding too has been very good and the batsmen have also stamped their authority to make this lineup a very threatening one. From the past 3 years, I have been observing this fact that they look a different team altogether when it comes to big tournaments. The World Cup win of 2011 and the Champions Trophy win of 2013 are the best examples of this. Even before coming into this World Cup, they were not tagged as favorites because of the points mentioned above. The way they have played in both the situations (bat first and bowl first) in all the five matches has clearly made them the favorites to win it. My playing 11 for them for the final would be:
1. Rohit 2. Rahane 3. Kohli 4. Yuvraj 5. Raina 6. Dhoni(c & wk) 7. Jadeja
8. Ashwin 9. Bhuvi 10. Mishra 11. Shami
Overall the lineup looks pretty settled except for the fact that Shami would get the nod ahead of Mohit for this all important match. I was pretty surprised by the selection of Mohit for the semi-finals. It’s true that Shami was leaking some runs but he too was picking up wickets. I would go in with Shami in the final as because he is the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack plus his swing extra pace will come in handy to trouble the Sri Lankan batsman.
The Lankan Lions also haven been on a role in quite a few World Cups for now. They have been the consistent of all the teams to reach the semis and the finals of almost all the major tournaments that have been held been 2007 and also have been the most consistent of all to lose all those semis and the finals. Flabbergasting! Before every tournament, almost everyone predicts Sri Lanka to reach the semis or the finals, but very few predict that they might win the finals. It’s just because they play very defensive when they feel the pressure. Even in the Champions Trophy 2013 semi-final, they didn’t even try to attack the Indian batting. They had set a target for 182 for India and under those conditions in England if Sri Lanka would have attacked more than what was expected out of them, then I think that result would have been different. 182 wasn’t a big score but it was a competitive one and it could have been defended under those conditions. But keeping everything behind for now, behind, the team must think of doing it for Mahela and Sangakaara as this would be their last International T20 commitment and they would really be wanting to go on a high. My playing 11 for them for the final would be:
1. Perera 2. Dilshan 3. Mahela 4. Sangakaara(wk) 5. Thirimaana 6. Mathews
7. T Perera 8. Kulasekara 9. Senanayake 10. Malinga(c) 11. Herath
I would go with Thisara Perera in place of Prasanna so as to bolster the batting lineup and to add that extra pace option. Overall the lineup looks pretty settled and it come down to how they fare when pressure surrounds them from all sides.
Without any doubts, expecting a thrilling battle with both the teams fighting hard to win it. I except India to go the distance and repeat the history of 2011 and also become the first team to win the T20 World Cup two times. Psychologically, India is very much ahead of Sri Lanka but tables can turn if Sri Lanka opts to attack rather than defend.
I would really like to congratulate Sangakaara and Mahela for their commitment towards International T20 side and wish them all the best for their future endeavors.