All the cricket statistics for the next seven weeks might be emanating from the moment the clock struck 2.30pm as per Indian standard time on 19th February 2011 when Virender Sehwag characteristically hit the first ball of the 10th cricket world cup for a boundary to the extra cover region, but it is only after 2698 runs, 83 wickets and 496.5 overs and 6 one sided encounters were produced that the real moment arrived. If the first six days of the competition were meant for the fans to get into the zone of reviving their viewing habits then the next four days starting today can be categorically termed as the base on which the popularity of the world cup hinges on. If the Trans-Tasman rivalry of Australia and New Zealand or the keenness of a challenge between Sri Lanka and Pakistan or a marquee contest between India and England fails to arouse the interest level of a fan, then nothing probably will but to reach there one had to first witness the teaser that West Indies’ opening clash against South Africa offered to start an early weekend for cricket lovers.
On paper and as per the ICC ranking the result of the 7th match of the cup seemed to be a no brainer and that is how the match lived up to with the Proteas registering a comprehensive 7 wicket win hence achieving their first win over the Caribbean team in an ICC event. It was a true reflection of the downward slide that West Indies cricket has been through for more than a decade now.
West Indies cricket now is the benchmark for institutional failure in the sporting world but today for a span of 23 overs it looked like the Sun was about to rise once again over the Calypso island. Whoever witnessed the 111 runs 2nd wicket partnership between Devon Smith and Darren Bravo will not only vouch for the fluency that was on display but will also assure you that there were two talents on the park who are potentially ready to take their country’s cricket into the new horizon.
The 22 year old Darren Bravo’s 82 ball innings had class written all over it and that needs a special mention. The calmness on his face walking in after the dismissal of Chris Gayle in the first over is something that has been lacking in the West Indies line up for long. His temperament is what looks like to be his biggest asset and it was visible in his ability to rotate strike and simultaneously play fearless shots all across the wickets and keep the score board ticking. His drives off the square of the wicket reminisced comparison with the legend Brian Lara and for someone playing in his 14th One day international it is a true moment of reckoning. His perfect back lift and level headedness while playing shots marks him as a talent for the future. Just when everyone glued into their television, being refreshed by the original Calypso style batting was wishing how the party would continue Bravo misjudged a Botha delivery to be dismissed leg before wicket for an entertaining 73 and it was not long before the bubble burst and West Indies were left to defend a meager total of 222.
On the other side, there was a 31 years old man who having made his first class debut in 1997 and played in 261 matches at a level below international level for 19 teams was still unsure of his future till the last calendar year. With the arrival of the new year he not only became a legal South African citizen but was also gifted with a life that he had dreamt for ever since he spun a cricket ball from middle stump to off stump. Having travelled between Pakistan, England and South Africa to realize his ultimate dream of playing international cricket, Lahore born Imran Tahir is an epitome of journeyman cricketer. Mixing personal life with profession might not be a good idea but it is his marriage with a South African lady that helped him earn the country’s citizenship and the fact that he got a call up to the national team as soon as his legal formalities were completed gives a clear picture of the credibility he had built over 13 years and 547 first class wickets is a testimony of his skills and demand.
In a team that banks upon seamers to do the job more often than not there can be no assurance to the international career graph for this leg spinner but by taking four wickets on debut and displaying the spirit of an attacker he has finally done justice to that solitary opportunity that he had been looking for a lifetime now. Tomorrow Imran Tahir may or may not be a legend but 24th February 2011 will be a day for innumerous journeyman cricketers to draw inspiration from and continue their perusal towards earning an international cap. In a matter of few weeks Imran has become synonym of hope and motivation and that is itself a worthwhile achievement to earn someone a name for life.
May this world cup continue to produce many more such talents.
Darren Bravo’s profile - http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.espncricinfo.com%2Ficc_cricket_worldcup2011%2Fcontent%2Fplayer%2F277472.html&h=25ca0
Imran Tahir’s profile -
24th February 2011, 11.19pm
P.S – Today is exactly a year since Sachin Tendulkar scored 200* in the Gwalior ODI against South Africa and it also marks my one year of cricket writing.