Adam Gilchrist finally seemed to have found his way in this World Cup. With his blitzkrieg the Australians completed a near-annihilation of the rest of the teams in the cricketing world. Curtains finally came down on the 2007 edition of the ICC World Cup with Australia taking the title by a 53-run win (D/L system) over Sri Lanka.
History will record that the Australians had won; history will record that after Clive Lloyd, Ricky Ponting is the only captain to have lifted the world cup two times, history will also record that in the final game of the edition the Sri Lankan team failed to meet the expectations of a strife-ridden nation that found comfort in the team's fortunes over the last one month. What one will not find in the annals of history however is the almost ludicrous end to a farcical 47-day cricketing saga. The Australians were the true winners, but they were robbed of their moment - of triumph, victory, spontaneity and celebration.
The final stages of the event were played out in near-darkness with even the fielders unable to see anything, let alone the fans in the stadium. There was immense confusion in the middle, when first Sri Lanka accepted an offer for bad light in the 33rd over. That was the moment Australia was waiting for, but their celebratory huddle was soon broken up by the umpire, and the players made their way back to the middle again. And three overs later when Australia was handed the game under the D/L system, the moment of spontaneous outburst of celebration was lost and a sense of resignation pervaded the whole stadium. And all one probably wanted was for the farce to end.
Even such a travesty, however, doesn't take away from what happened on the field. Fernando, who bowled superbly in the first two overs of his first spell, will rue forever the moment he dropped a sharp return catch when Gilchrist was on 31. If Gilchrist were Steve Waugh, he probably would have walked up to Fernando and told him wryly, "You have just dropped the World Cup". Was the dropped catch the defining moment of this final? One can never say, but immediately after the dropped catch, with 2 fours and a six the Australian wicketkeeper sure made his intentions very clear. Yet again Gilchrist showed why he was a man of the moment; he made his presence felt and his knock count. With the match reduced to 38 overs, Australia put up a challenging 281 for 4 (with a first wicket stand of 172), and virtually took the match away from the Lankans. If it were a full-fledged contest, the team from Down Under would have ended up scoring in excess of 300 for the sixth time in this tournament!
Sri Lanka did its best in chasing down the total. Even though they lost Tharanga early, Jayasuriya and Sangakkara added 116 for the second wicket, keeping the contest and the island nation's hopes alive. But with the fading light, it was fading fortunes for the Lankan team. Sangakkara made an error in judging a Brad Hogg delivery and handed one to Ponting; and soon after Jayasuriya, who like many others was making a final appearance in the competition, was bowled by Michael Clarke. The rest of the team, including Jaywardene who gave away his best in the semi-final, offered little resistance to the Australian bowlers, and Australia were deservedly crowned the champions. I think it still doesn't take away anything from the Sri Lankan team - they were worthy runners-up, definitely the second best in the entire tournament and on more than one occasion they had demonstrated what they were capable of given overwhelming odds.
This World Cup will be remembered for the number of people who bid goodbye to the game, starting with Inzamum-ul-Haq and Anil Kumble in the early days of the tournament, to Brian Lara in the middle to finally, Glenn McGrath. This edition in all probabilities is also the last one in the competition for many others who graced the one-day international scene for so many years. Names that come to mind immediately are Jayasuriya and Gilchrist. But otherwise the 2007 edition of the World Cup, to me, was the most forgettable edition, at least ever since I started paying any attention to the game of cricket.
The organizers of this edition of the tournament have a lot to think about - why did the much-awaited event among the cricketing nations turn out to be such a letdown? Where were the crowds, the excitement, the rush that comes out of seeing a boundary scored and a wicket falling? Why was the tournament reduced to unnecessary scandals, conflicts and controversies, including a murder? Is there something that can be done to get the game back to what it used to be - sheer enjoyment of skill and talent?