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When India painted Townsville red!

It was a bright and sunny morning on the day of the final. Tents had been erected on the far side of the ground to accommodate the extra thousand-odd people that were expected to attend the final. The Indian supporters were out in their numbers. The Punjabi ‘Dhol’ was present at the ground, Indian flags outnumbered the Australian flags and each Indian fan had made a conscious effort to wear a blue shirt.


Smit Patel celebrates hitting the winning runs

Indian team members were greeted with a loud roar as they went through their fielding drills. The coaching staff looked calm. Sanju took his spot in the dugout and I asked him if there were any nerves? “No, we can’t change destiny, so enjoy it.”

The playing XI remained the same since the Pakistan match. Nath and Vihari were two players who were yet to score any runs but the team management would back them to come good in the final.

Vihari would later tell me, “I had a one on one with Arun Sir and he just said you are the best batsman in the team, you are going to come good. He just kept backing me and I never felt down because of this. I know I did not have the best of the World Cup but I doubt anyone will ever give me such confidence despite all the failures.”

As Chand strode out for the toss, I told my fellow journalist about my chat with the curator. Would the team that won the toss, bat first? Especially given the pitch was slightly on the drier side? “No the person that wins the toss will definitely bowl first,” said George Binoy from Cricinfo. He was spot on. Chand won the toss and elected to field first.

Early blow for Aus 

Indian fans started the ‘Toti Tila’ anthem. The “Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi” chant was yet to be heard. By the time everyone took their seats, Sharma once again bowled one of his prodigious inswingers to uproot Peirson’s off stump in the first over. Passi received an ovation he probably will never receive in his career from the swimming pool end. But once again it was Sharma who struck in his next over trapping Bancroft LBW to leave Australia at 2-8. This brought Australia’s best batsman to the crease in Kurtis Patterson. The left hander resembles Adam Gilchrist, in his stance, cover drives and power.

Patterson provided the much-needed impetus racing along to 16 off 22 balls. Chand decided to turn to spin to prevent the counter attack from Patterson.

Aparajith recalls the incident. “Patterson was going well and since he was a left-hander, I would be taking the ball away from him, so Unmukt decided to give me the ball to change it up. I knew he was going to sweep from the start, he was a good sweeper and scored lots of runs against us in India via the sweep shot. I decided to bowl it really full, an almost yorker and he premeditated the sweep and got himself into a tangle. He missed the ball and it crashed into the stumps.”

In the next over, Ravikant got the edge of Buchanan’s bat and Australia was in a spot of bother at 4-38 in the final. The crowd was elated and loving it.

Ravikant would be bowling to the chants of ‘Ravikant, Ravikant’ at each ball.

Travis Head had joined Bosisto at the crease. Head had the reputation of being a good striker of the ball, someone who could really take the game away from India. In the next over, Head cut a short ball from Ravikant straight to Nath at point, who dropped a dolly. I personally thought it was a game changer because Head was Australia’s last recognised batsman. It could have been 5-47 and with the Indian spinners to come in afterwards, it would have been a real uphill ride for the home team. Head started to make India pay for the missed chance; he attacked the medium pacers and spinners. Along with Bosisto they took Australia to 103 in the 21st over, at that stage even 250 looked a possibility. At the start of the 30th over, a brilliant diving stop by Harmeet at point lead to confusion between Bosisto and Head. The Australian captain sent Head back but he failed to get back in time and the crowd was delighted to see ‘OUT’ displayed on the scoreboard.

Head was furious as he walked out, he steamed into the dressing room and a loud ‘F..K’ could be heard in the grandstand. Couple of overs later, Patel failed to grab a chance off Aparajith and one sensed that the Indian heads were starting to drop once again.

Turner and Bosisto capitalised on the opportunity, the pair added 93 runs in the next 103 balls to shut out Indian bowlers and their passionate supporters.

Bosisto carried on his fine form in the tournament to finish the innings on 87 not out. It was a captain’s knock and it propelled Australia to a total of 225.

At the innings break it was advantage Australia, it was a formidable total considering the scores in the tournament. Add to it the pressure of a chasing in a match and suddenly Australia were in the box seat.

The Indian fans had gone quiet. All the experts knew that if India were to win, Chand had to deliver. The captain had been below his best but everyone at the ground felt that fate was in his young hands.

The pitch had dried out nicely and Chopra admitted later that this was better. Although Chopra was dismissed early he felt that a total of 225 in his mind was below par and should be obtainable by the Indian batting. Chopra himself was the first one dismissed, caught trying to leg glance a wide ball.

Aparajith joined Chand and the pair played strokes of authority. It was the best passage of batting for India in the World Cup. Aparajith’s elegant cover drives reminded us of Rahul Dravid.

Unmukt all the way
Technically perfect he was, as he played two perfect hook shots to the fence. Chand was slightly more reserved but once Sandhu came into the attack, he welcomed him with a furious cut shot followed by a thumping six over mid off. Indian supporters were in raptures: drums, the chants, flags and colour added to the great atmosphere.

It never felt like an Under-19 match, it was as if Brett Lee was steaming in to bowl to Tendulkar at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. It took an absolute blinder of a catch from Turner at short cover to break the partnership.

Aparajith was dismissed for 33 and India were 2-75 in the 15th over. Vihari was not in the greatest form and his poor form continued as he chipped one back to the bowler. India were now 3-82. Zol walked in to the cheers of the local Marathi supporters ‘India cha Vijay aso.’ I told my fellow journalist that this was the seal the deal partnership. Zol had shown great temperament in the World Cup and it was the same pair in the quadrangular series a few months back that had taken India to victory. Could they do it again? At this moment, Chand got his first slice of luck for the day when he was put down by wicketkeeper Peirson diving to his right off Sandhu.

Was it a game changer? James from Sportal looked at me and said, “It’s Chand’s day, mate, I reckon Australia is in trouble.” A couple of overs later Chand once again clubbed Sandhu for yet another six. He then cut Turner to the boundary to bring up his fifty in the following over. On the other end, Zol was starved of the strike.

What followed was a sequence of 13 dot balls and something had to give, you could sense a big shot brewing. Zol attempted a wild slash and was caught behind by Paris to have India at 4-97, still requiring 129 runs from 156 balls.

Patel walked in ahead of Nath, who had been struggling for form and was seen as more of a finisher in the death overs. Patel was given simple instructions “Rotate the strike and runs will come from Unmukt” by the coach. Chand was at his best in the next few overs, he never allowed the run rate to rise and hit a boundary exactly when it was needed. It allowed Patel to get set from the other end. As the runs required got lower, the crowd was getting louder. There were people dancing to the Bhangra; ‘Toti Tila’ was now an anthem each Indian had learned in Townsville. The Indian crowd was sensing victory.

India needed 61 off the last 60 balls; with Chand undefeated on 80, India were in the driver’s seat. At that point of time, Bosito decided to bowl out his best bowler, Joel Paris. It was yet another obstacle India had overcome and it meant a rather inexperienced 17-year-old Gregory or a part time bowler had to bowl the majority of the remaining quota of overs.

Furthermore, in the next over, Bosito dropped a sitter of Chand at short cover, it was an incident ala “Gibbs’ drop of Steve Waugh in the 1999 World Cup.”

Chopra remembers the drop. “At that point I knew we were going to win, Unmukt was definitely going to score a 100. It was his day, two dropped catches, an LBW which we all thought looked out and he was still batting. It was going to be Unmukt’s and our day. Take nothing away from Unmukt though, he was sensational.”

The 46th over almost ensured India were home, with 35 required off 30 balls. Patel paddled Gregory to the boundary and then the fifth ball was lofted over cover by Chand to bring up a stunning hundred under pressure.

Final moments
The equation had changed, the run rate required was less than six an over and only 21 runs to reach the target. The fans were all gearing up for the celebrations in the stands. People were being lifted onto shoulders, supporters were hugging each other and screaming Chand’s name. Many of the fans had started running towards the dugout, each wanted to be part of it.

The rest of the players were smiling at the fans, Sridhar gestured to them to remain calm until India had won. In the next over, Chand yet again smashed another six and the Australians dropped yet another catch; it summed up the final.

I decided to make my way down to the dugout for the interviews. Standing next to me were Harjinder and Poonam, Varun Chopra, Shashank and whole of the Townsville community. 

As I looked up, Patel lofted Ashton Turner towards the midwicket boundary and lifted his hands in jubilation. Shashank had already jumped the fence, evaded the security guard and put a flag around Chand. Sanju was the first of the support staff to race towards Patel and give him an enormous hug. The party had just begun.

Excerpts from Gaurav Joshi’s book Teen Thunder Down Under to be released in Mumbai on August 31.

Cup heroes’ progress report
Unmukt Chand: The captain led from the front, scoring a century in the World Cup final. However, the Delhi player hasn’t quite been able to replicate that form in first-class matches or the IPL.

Akshdeep Nath: The vice-captain of the team did not come up with any noteworthy performance during the World Cup. His poor form continued for Uttar Pradesh in the domestic season that followed.

Baba Aparajith: The Tamil Nadu all-rounder was amongst the top five run-scorers and wicket-takers for India during the Cup. He did reasonably well in the first-class season. He is currently amongst the highest wicket-takers for India U-23 in Singapore.

Prashant Chopra: He was the third highest run-scorer (172 in 6 matches) for India. After scoring a century in the second match of his debut first-class season for Himachal Pradesh last year, Prashant could not carry on the momentum.

Sandipan Das: While the Bengal lad was restricted to the bench in the World Cup, he impressed with a fifty on his first-class debut last season. Das also scored a 50 and claimed a fifer in the Challenger Trophy.

Harmeet Singh: He was one of the main pillars of the World Cup win. But the left-arm spinner has disappointed since then with injury and off-the-field issues hampering his progress.

Akhil Herwadkar: The Mumbai player was restricted to the bench. The southpaw enjoyed relative success in the India U-19 tours to Australia and Sri Lanka recently.

Rush Kalaria: Though he got to play just one match, Kalaria has successfully cemented his place in the Gujarat side.
Kamal Passi: He was one of the success stories of the World Cup, claiming 10 wickets in five games. The final at Townsville was his last outing as the right-arm medium pacer from Punjab
is yet to get an opportunity in
first-class cricket.

Smit Patel: The wicketkeeper-batsman was one of the heroes of the World Cup win. Smith carried his fine form in his debut first-class season last year, slamming four half-centuries and a hundred.

Ravikant Singh: The right-arm medium-pacer was the highest wicket-taker (12 in five matches) for India in the World Cup. His performance should have merited more opportunities, but sadly he figured in only one match — Challenger Trophy for Bengal.

Sandeep Sharma: He took four wickets in the final against Australia to finish as the joint-highest wicket-taker for India (12). He continued his fine form in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab. He is currently in Singapore with the India U-23 team.

Hanuma Vihari: The right-handed batsman may have struggled in the World Cup, but Vihari became a household name after dismissing RCB’s Chris Gayle for one and then scoring an unbeaten 46 to win the match for Hyderabad Sunrisers in the super-over in the last IPL.

Vikas Mishra: He did not get another chance after failing to impress in the first three games of the World Cup. However, the left-arm spinner was amongst the regulars in the Delhi Ranji team.

Vijay Zol: The southpaw was fifth on the list of highest run-scorers for India (151 in six matches). The Maharashtra batsman seems to have reveled after being appointed as the captain of the U-19 team. He slammed two 100s and as many 50s during the recent SL tour.  

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