Who to support in Mohali? No contest by Peter May- Tuesday, March 29th 2011

Source : http://worldcup2011.cricket365.com/top_stories/view/who_to_support_in_mohali_no_contest

‘Jamal Malik is one question away from winning 20 million rupees,’ begins the film Slumdog Millionaire. ‘How did he do it? A) He cheated. B) He’s lucky. C) He’s a genius. D) It is written.’
The answer - spoiler alert - turns out to be D (it’s a whole mystical-Eastern-destiny thing).
The mind boggles at how many Bollywood scripts are sitting in cold storage based on Sachin Tendulkar scoring a century, his 100th in international cricket, during Saturday’s World Cup final in Mumbai.
We know he certainly is a genius. But if it comes to pass even the most hardened cynic would have to wonder if it wasn’t also written. The greatest of the modern era completing a Don Bradman-esque record to win the World Cup? Nice story, but setting it in his home town is a bit over the top.
The prospect of seeing Tendulkar rewarded with a World Cup, with or without an historic three figures, is the best grounds for neutrals to support India as we approach the climax of the 2011 event. Other popular reasons will include Zaheer Khan, wily and wonderful; Virender Sehwag, the star opener with almost any other partner in history; and Mahendra Dhoni, not as stupid as he looks, acts and sounds.
Nevertheless I find myself with an irresistible urge to support Pakistan in Wednesday’s semi-final.
If Shahid Afridi’s team had scraped into the last four by dint of the format then they would be easy to denounce. But they have been the most consistent of the four sides left in the competition despite the preposterous circus that surrounds them.
“We believe that we have the strongest bowling attack in the world at the moment,” Mohammad Hafeez has said. Imagine how good it would be with Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir in front of their own fans with a settled batting line-up and a professional wicketkeeper.
Some of the endless crises engulfing Pakistan cricket in 2010, and leading to the chaotic preparation for this tournament, were of the team’s (or team members’) own making. Others were very much not.
Either way theirs has been a remarkable performance in the face of commonplace whispering campaigns. One English paper actually called the whole team cheats on the eve of the tournament and, while the weight of anecdotal evidence continues to pile alarmingly high against one or two individuals in particular, we can only trust in and marvel at the achievements of a remarkable campaign.
As Hafeez indicates, it has been a real team effort. So reluctant are the batsmen to individualise things that none has scored a century, though it seems unlikely it can stay that way if Pakistan are to lift the trophy. Our money would still be on Younis Khan, not at his best in this tournament but a permanent favourite of this column and the stand-out class act in the line-up. Even if he doesn’t make three figures the old stager needs to bat time in the middle to copper-bottom a line-up prone to rash strokes.
The final nail in the coffin of sympathy for India comes with the knowledge that the ICC has so badly wanted their ever-lasting success. In an utterly indefensible and childish way I want them to be denied the advertising revenue of India contesting the final on Saturday.
Pakistan to go through would be my choice. But Tendulkar scoring his 100th century, not in Mumbai but on home soil in the biggest game of the tournament, would be a nice touch as well. A bitter-sweet ending trumps schmaltzy utopia every time.
Peter May

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