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By Navroze Dhondy
Imagine a wedding where the bride marries the best man….!
Well, that is what happened to Cricket Australia in the very first Benson & Hedges tri-series (1979-80) when they watched from the sidelines as West Indies and England squared up for the finals. And it happened again and again when at times the hosts were left to be mere spectators as Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand crashed the party, and the finals became ‘home’ games for the visitors.
Exactly three years ago, the same three teams met for the last tri-series….India, Sri Lanka and Australia.It was announced as the last of such a format. And one rued the death of such an exciting tournament. But over the last few weeks the same three teams clashed again…and again… to resurrect the tri-series. And this time Australia have made sure they are definitely there as the groom, waiting for the bride, either Sri Lanka or India, to join them at the altar.
Kerry Packer, the man who dreamt and created this concept more as a “cock-a-snook” with the Australian Board, could never have imagined that the last match of the qualifying round would actually declare who would be there to play the finals.
Since the first B&H World Series in 1979-80, where the West Indians played the English in the finals, and the Australian players watched the prize-battle on their TV screens, to 2006-07 when England stunned the Aussies again, by winning the first two of the three finals, this end of season jamboree has always caught the fancy of the Australian crowds and the cricket world at large. Luckily for them this time the Yellow and Green jersey will battle it out with a shade of Blue.
Over 33 years, there have been 29 such avatars. The B&H World Series, The Carlton & United , The VB series, the Commonwealth Bank series. Though names may have changed and players may have come and gone, the Indians finally celebrated a tri-series in Australia when they beat Sri Lanka on the way, and Australia in the finals. And guess what? The Indians won the best-of-three finals, by not even playing the third match. What a way to get their first tri-series title!
Sachin Tendulkar has scored 48 ODI centuries. And has just one in Australia: the special one that made India win the 1st tri-series final, making it a memorable end to a series Down Under in 2008-2009. Out of the hundreds of hundreds (a hundred and nineteen to be exact) scored through 29 tri-series, India have had only eight. Sourav Ganguly (2), VVS Laxman (3), Gautam Gambhir (2) and Yuvraj Singh (1) who got to that magical figure. And on Tuesday Virat Kohli joined the gang.
What was Kohli thinking when he walked into the park? Was it premeditated? Was it just a once-in-a-lifetime performance? Was he in the ‘zone’?
India got lucky that everything fell into place. Virender Sehwag got his highest score of the series, and Tendulkar stroked freely to reach 39. Gambhir settled in, and one thought he would be the anchor, but a run out shattered that dream, or may be ignited a new dream for ‘New India’.
Kohli, the young pup, had enough yelps, and wanted to show he had a mean bark and a bite…here was the perfect stage, he didn’t disappoint.
His 133 off 86 balls was a blitz. The target just shrunk with every heave, and with the ball almost stuck to the boundary ropes (could be a good ad for Fevicol).
The Indians did what they had to —keep their hopes alive — mathematically.
There is a chance of sneaking through to the finals, if Sri Lanka capsize to the Aussies on March 2. It will be strange to find a billion Indians rooting for an Aussie win…! But if Sri Lanka win, then of course no calculators will be needed, no analysis done, and the Indians will ‘pack their bags’ and head home.
[The author is the founder and managing director of Creatigies Communications and an avid cricket nut. Mail your comments to email@example.com. The article was first published in the DNA on March 1, 2012 and appears here with that newspaper's permission.]