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BISHAN SINGH BEDI

Mr Bedi is a former cricketer.

Skipper Dhoni has been touch lucky

fter 41 days and 48 matches, almost all of which have often seemed interminable, the final is now at hand. It is a small miracle that the 10th cricket World Cup has managed to conjure precisely the right pairing in India and Sri Lanka, the main hosts.

Or maybe that was the International Cricket Council's cunning plan all along and the only way to ensure its successful fruition was to have a tournament beginning in the mists of time, so that by the end people had forgotten that there had been so few plot twists in the narrative. The upshot is that 50-over cricket may, just, survive for a few more years.From the outset it was imperative that India had a long run deep into the business end. Tournaments in which the hosts are eliminated usually stagnate. India have frequently looked laboured, their fielding still too often stranded in the past, their bowling lacking resilience and resourcefulness.

But they have done enough and that is what counts. Nor should the weight of expectation be underestimated. The scenes of unbridled joy throughout Chandigarh on Thursday night after the semi-final win against Pakistan told how much it all meant.

The legendary rugby union commentator, Bill McLaren, would sometimes say after a particularly incisive piece of play, usually involving a Scot, that folk would be stopping the traffic and dancing in the streets of some unpronounceable Scottish town that night. On Thursday in Chandigarh, that is exactly what happened. Perhaps this sort of adulation is why the team led by MS Dhoni is so detached. It is the only way they can function.

Sri Lanka have regularly punched above their weight, but then they always do. They are the cricketing equivalent of Jimmy Wilde, the long-ago flyweight champion, ghosts with hammers in their hands. They have the most enviably blended bowling formation in the tournament, enough classy batsmen to get them going and a gentle swagger.

The end, however, cannot come soon enough. To hear the words of Haroon Lorgat, the chief executive of the ICC, the other day it is as though the world has just witnessed one of those imperishable sporting events to set alongside the football World Cup of 1970, the Olympic Games of 2000, the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" of 1974 and, yes, the small but perfectly formed inaugural cricket World Cup of 1975. When that finished in a high-scoring tie, a match that both teams might have won, but did not, the tournament was set up. There was a feeling in India at least that you had better not take your eyes off in case something happened. That was caused not only by the result but by the combatants. Had it been New Zealand and South Africa, say, it would not have been the same.

Fifty-over cricket still needs help. It is impossible for the format to prosper when so few countries have domestic competitions featuring it. In England again this summThis is the scheduling of halfwits, and makes Lorgat's claims look taller than they are. Nor is England alone because cricket boards all over – Australia and South Africa to name but two – have decided the scheduling panacea lies outside 50 overs.

As for 50-over cricket, Speed said: "There is a risk that 50-over cricket will lose its popularity, but the current World Cup has shown that the good matches will achieve good ratings." And if India win tomorrow, 50-over cricket will have been given a kiss of life it could receive from nowhere else. Sri Lanka, quite rightly, have other ideas. The Independent

 
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