Nothing is so satisfying in life as seeing lowly ranked people or underdogs rise in spontaneous valor to defeat the high & mighty. Competitive Sports deliver that more than any other enterprise. Just look what happened last Monday.
A small school in Philadelphia named Villanova had achieved the unreal when they defeated the heavily favored Georgetown led by great & dominating Patrick Ewing in 1985. They had to play a perfect game to win that day and they did. Villanova had not won a championship since 1985. Not until Monday, April 4, 2016 when they beat the perennial power North Carolina in one of the greatest finishes in the NCAA tournament. Watch the last 30 seconds of the game to see how great the finish was.
These last two shots will remain with us forever and so will runs scored off of 4 balls. Because, believe it or not, there was another unreal & utterly spectacular finish to a championship game earlier on Monday – the championship game of the 2016 T20 Cricket World Cup.
The T20 is a modern invention in which each side gets to bat for a total of 20 overs or 120 balls from the opposing side. The team that scores the most wins. A great finish ends up in a titanic fight to score runs against both time & against tight accurate bowling.
This Monday, the West Indies found themselves facing a heroic and almost unachievable target. They had to score 19 runs in 6 remaining balls. This is nearly impossible even in a playground game let alone at the end of the World Cup championship game. The batsman facing the pressure was a young man unknown to most fans – Carlos Braithwaite from Barbados. You don’t have to know Cricket to see the enormity of what he did – something a player can do only when he gets into a zone:
(You can watch the beautifully crystal clear official ICC video at http://www.icc-cricket.com/world-t20/videos/media/id/8783/carlos-brathwaites-4-x-sixes-to-win-2016-wt20-for-west-indies)
The match was played in Eden Gardens, Kolkata, India. So why was an all-Indian crowd cheering the West Indies? Because the West Indies have been a loved team in India since our High School days. They were the team of legends, great players who played the game with a zest and a swashbuckling spirit. If India could now win this year, then it seemed fitting that the West Indies won.
When we were in school, the Indian cricket team had good players but not winners. Individual players played great but the team as a whole was never able to win. Until that magical year of 1971. A young team under a new captain named Ajit Wadekar went to the West Indies. No one had any aspirations of winning that series. India had never defeated the great West Indies even at home. So a team with many young untested players winning in the West Indies? It would have been a joke to even suggest it.
So unbelievable was what happened that a calypso was composed by West Indies fans, a calypso that is sung to this day.
The entire team played great during that series against the mighty West Indies but the bulwark of that team was a young batsman who was playing championship cricket for the first time – Sunil Gavaskar. Remember those were the days when you batted without the protection of a helmet & that too against the ferociously fast bowling attack of the West Indies. But Gavaskar made history in that series. Read what the calypso says about him:
- “It was Gavaskar, the real master, just like a wall; we couldn’t out Gavaskar at all; not at all; you know the West Indies couldn’t out Gavaskar at all“
Gavaskar was a new type of Indian player. He absolutely refused to lose. That is what great Gary Sobers, the captain of that West Indies team said. And Gary Sobers is simply one of the few all-time greats of Cricket. A few years ago, Sobers was asked who is the greatest cricket player in his opinion – he said Sunil Gavaskar, the man who was a wall against defeat.
That 1971 team changed the nature of Indian cricket for ever. Twelve years later another young unheralded Indian team won the World Cup against another mighty West Indies team. And five years ago, India won its second World Cup. This year the Indian team was on its way to win the 2016 T20 world cup. Unfortunately, they met this West Indies team in the Semi final which got into a zone and exploded in the last few overs to score two more runs than the Indian score.
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