Today's the day Indian fans should have been confirming plans of how to watch the World Twenty20 final. From the moment MS Dhoni whacked James Faulkner's low full toss to the wide long-on boundary to beat Australia in the quasi quarterfinal on March 27, the plan was in the making.
The semi-final? It was meant to be a pit-stop, no more.
Not too long after the West Indies found themselves at 19/2 during their chase of 193 against India on March 31 in the semifinal, the DJ at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium played a song from the 2015 Bollywood movie Dil Dhadakne Do. Anil Kapoor, one of the film’s actors who was present in the open-air section of the stadium’s VIP enclosure, broke into a jig, much to the crowd’s joy.
Virat Kohli, who was patrolling the boundary right below the tier where Kapoor was rock-'n'-rolling, saw the actor and also shook a leg for all of two seconds, before switching his attention back to the pitch.
The result of the match was a foregone conclusion. Facebook and Twitter were awash with the inevitability and the anticipation of a blockbuster India vs England final. What could be more poetic than a summit clash between India and its erstwhile colonial rulers in Kolkata, the city where it all started. The Lagaan jokes were all out there, including some from yours truly. Teen guna lagaan and all that. Oh, this was going to be epic.
Ahead of the semifinal, the West Indies had played along as well. Skipper Darren Sammy had conceded his team were the underdogs, but at the same time pointed out that his squad consisted of “15 match-winners” – in what seemed like a dig at India’s over-dependence on Kohli.
“I think it’s 80-20 to India so it feels like David and Goliath, but people tend to forgot David won the fight, so it's something similar to that,” he had said. Asked if his team was worried about Kohli’s imperious form, he replied coolly, “No not really. Have you ever heard of Chris Gayle?”
As match-day approached, the Indian media began flashing “Virat Kohli vs Chris Gayle” statistics and graphics. The clash of the titans, the RCB slugfest, and all those other clichés. It was rather matter-of-factly concluded that whichever of the two scored big would lead their team to victory.
So, when Kohli’s 89 off just 47 balls took India to a formidable 192/2 in 20 overs, the Wankhede crowd was already celebrating. When Gayle was clean-bowled off a full toss in the second over of the chase, the little boy seated to my right with “Virat Kohli” spelled out on his cheeks nearly tipped over the railing in excitement. And when Sachin Tendulkar then fulfilled the emcee’s request to give his Mumbai faithfuls a wave from the VIP enclosure, the entire stadium tipped over.
At that stage, you couldn’t really blame Kohli when he jigged for a couple of seconds at the boundary line. It would be harsh to say that he had taken his eyes off the ball. It would also be unfair to say the same for India, even as the West Indies soon decided it was time to ruin the hosts’ party.
India went on to spectacularly lose the match, by seven wickets no less, which captain MS Dhoni put down to two of the costliest no-balls in recent memory. Ravichandran Ashwin and Hardik Pandya both overstepped the line while bowling deliveries that Lendl Simmons holed out to. The Trinidadian went on to use his three lives to smash a Kohli-esque unbeaten 82 off 51 balls.
With the similarly big-hitting Johnson Charles (52 off 36 balls) and Andre Russell (43 not out off 20 balls) for company, Simmons shushed the Wankhede crowd with powerful slogs over mid-wicket and the cow corner. While India were excellent in their running between the wickets, the West Indies didn’t bother. They didn’t need to, as they scored 146 runs in boundaries, off just 31 balls, including 11 towering sixes.
Beating the West Indies, a team full off strapping sloggers, on a typical Wankhede flat track was never going to be easy. This was the first flat surface that India had encountered in the tournament, so it wasn’t surprising that the batsmen did well. However, it was the bowlers, who had made merry on slow and turning tracks so far, who lost the plot.
The Windies, even with Gayle failing, showed the depth in their batting line-up and recorded the second-highest successful run-chase in T20 World Cup history. Their shock loss to Afghanistan in the league stage can be considered a minor blip, and apart from that there was no reason to underestimate them, more so on a surface resembling an express highway.
The West Indies used their strength, quite literally, along with the favourable conditions, to send cricket balls into orbit and silence around 35,000 Indians at the Wankhede, and many more that number back home.
No one could believe it. David had indeed defeated Goliath again.
Indian fans mostly took the defeat on their chin. A man walking ahead of me in the sea of people exiting the stadium said to his friends, "After the games against Bangladesh and Australia, India's luck had to run out." There were others on social media who also appreciated the Windies.