“That’s it! We are done for!” Dhoni’s voice broke. “7 wickets down, 30 runs to win in five balls! Good bye, World Cup!” It was the finals of the One - day World Cup - between
There had been a lot of controversies for bringing Balan into the team at Dhoni’s insistence. “What do you mean, Captain, that old boozing has-been?” the chief selector had asked incredulously. But Dhoni was quietly insistent. “It’s a gut feeling. Balan saab has been always underrated by you people. He has never been given the opportunities he deserved, you know that well.”
Indian Cricket was rampant with parochialism. The southies, especially the Mallus, were always at the receiving end. But Balan, the veteran all-rounder, they could never ignore. They always looked out for the smallest reason to throw him out of the team. But, now into his mid-forties, Balan still astounded the Cricket world by his consistently brilliant performances – that is, until last year, when shattered by the loss of his wife, Balan took to drinking heavily. The cricket loving world mourned the loss of their greatest player; his rivals celebrated Balan’s downfall.
As final selection for the team for World Cup came to a close, Dhoni, who had learned the finer points of Cricket from Balan, fought for his inclusion – and won. But Dhoni regretted it now. Balan’s game in the matches that led to the final was lacklustre and far from inspiring. Dhoni knew well that he will have to answer many questions once the tournament was over.
As the crowd watched with bated breath, Balan stepped forward calmly. He stood there, like a colossus about to fall. As the ball reached him at 150 kmph, he swung the bat - as the stadium watched, the ball soared and soared, arching, as if resisting gravity and then fell deep outside the boundary. 6 runs; 24 to go.
******** Balachandran V, Trivandrum, 16-12-2010