British press hails India’s epic Twenty20 victory

By Prasun Sonwalkar

London, Sep 25 (IANS) With Yuvraj Singh’s mauling of England’s Stuart Broad (six sixes in one over) still fresh in memory, the British press Tuesday hailed India’s victory in the Twenty20 World Championships final and called it something of a mini-epic.

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The news from The Wanderers jostled for prominence with football-related events in the sports pages, but the newspapers were unanimous in their praise for the clinical manner in which Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his team went about winning the tournament.

Thousands of British Asians of India and Pakistan origin cancelled their appointments and were glued to their television sets Monday. In several Indian restaurants, cricket enthusiasts gathered to enjoy the game to the accompaniment of food and drink.

The Guardian reported the final with the headline “India on top of the world after Gambhir snuffs out Pakistan attack”.

It reported: “India versus Pakistan has always been the most emotionally wrought of contests and in the inaugural final it met all expectations. It ended with India victors by five runs with three balls remaining and with the man who had threatened to overtake them at the last, Misbah-ul-Haq, slumped disconsolately on his haunches”.

The newspaper’s cricket writer David Hopps wrote: “It gets no bigger than India versus Pakistan. The first meeting between India and Pakistan in the final of a major tournament is the perfect finale, ultimate proof that, whatever the arguments about Twenty20, it has developed an unstoppable momentum.

“It will not end Test cricket, simply because Test cricket will always be regarded as the ultimate by those who matter, but lovers of the 50-overs game have cause to feel uneasy. Twenty20 is the flashier younger sibling that might one day usurp it.”

The Daily Telegraph reported the event with the headline “India come of age in mini-epic Twenty20 final”.

The newspaper reported: “Would it be going too far to call this the most successful tournament in cricket history? Certainly it produced the best final we have seen.

“India edged out neighbours Pakistan by the tiny margin of five runs. Just one more maximum from Misbah-ul-Haq, who hit four sixes in a splendid lone hand of 43, and the Twenty20 trophy would have landed on the other side of Punjab.

“The match was a compressed epic. Like the famous World Cup semi-final of 1999, it proved that limited-overs cricket can be just as compelling as the full-scale game. When the pressure mounts, the players’ temperaments are laid bare. And while the technique of smearing a six over midwicket may bear little resemblance to that employed in a classic cover drive, the skills involved are every bit as demanding.

“In the end, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s India won the title because they had that extra ounce of something intangible – call it nerve or even faith. Like so many cup-winning teams, they were slow to find their feet in the tournament.

“But on the night of their do-or-die confrontation with England in Durban, Yuvraj Singh kick-started their engine with that unforgettable 36-run over. As they notched back-to-back wins over South Africa and Australia, India began to look the team of destiny.”

The Independent reported the thrilling finale with the headline “Indian triumph tops fortnight of thrills and spills”.

It reported: “To general acclaim and the everlasting adoration of their fans, India became World Twenty20 champions yesterday. As far as the thousands who saw them clinch a nerve-shredding contest against Pakistan here in Johannesburg and the millions upon millions who watched it on television are concerned, that makes them world champions. Pure and simple.

“It was a fittingly pulsating climax to a stupendous festival of cricket. If the sport generally was desperately in need of it, the organisers, the authorities and the players can never have expected what they got.

“After a fortnight of thrills and spills, guts and glamour, India won the final against Pakistan by five runs with three balls left.”

The Times praised last-over bowler Joginder Sharma in its headline “Joginder Sharma remains cool in cauldron to delight India”.

It reported: “The collective release of nervous screaming from thousands of India supporters when Shantha Sreesanth held Misbah’s paddle running back from short fine leg was probably audible in Bombay yesterday and the players ran to their stronghold on a grassy bank near the tunnel, grabbing flags before embarking upon an adrenalin-fuelled lap of honour.

“Not since the World Cup in 1983 had India won a leading event and now, as then, victory owed most to unheralded performers such as Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan and Joginder Sharma, a 23-year-old medium-pace bowler who was entrusted with the last over by Mahendra Dhoni, to show that Twenty20 specialists have a place.

“Dhoni’s decision to offer the twentieth over to Joginder rather than Harbhajan appeared reckless rather than brave as the first ball floated beyond off stump for a big wide. The third, a full toss, was slugged over long off. But then came the unforeseen twist: Joginder, not Misbah, was the one to hold his nerve.”