Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Summit of Cricket

In a hundred years from now, cricket will be the main sport in America. (Don't think so? Just wait, if you can!) Until then, however, we cricket fans will have to be satisfied with ESPN's web coverage and a few pay-per-views. The baseball season has just started. The National Hockey League is gearing up for the Stanley Cup playoffs in a few weeks. NBA is in full swing. With so much going on, trying to convince an American to take an interest in the 2011 One-Day International (ODI) World Cup Cricket that began in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka in mid-February is like trying to interest a Sumo wrestler to take up ballet.

For cricket fans, the final game is just hours away, and speculations over who will reach cricket summit are burning up the digital bandwidth. It will be played between India and Sri Lanka. India won its semi-final match against Pakistan (the eternal rivals - think Brazil vs. Argentina in soccer) but it was more a case of Pakistan losing than India winning. Sri Lanka beat New Zealand in the other semi-final to no one's surprise.

Most fans are convinced Sri Lanka will wear the crown on the strength of their convincing wins throughout the tournament. I am picking India, though, for three reasons.

First, the luck factor. India hasn't really played to its potential, and yet they are in the finals. Luck has been with them all along, and it will be with them when they take the field in Mumbai on Saturday.

Second, two billion Indians have waited for 28 years for this moment. Their combined longing will be difficult to overcome by Sri Lanka. Call it mind over matter, or more appropriately, will over wicket, but it's India's time to shine in the spotlight. Sri Lanka, after all, won the cup in 1996, while cricket-crazy India has never reached this summit. Surely such injustice cannot continue.

Finally, it is Sachin Tendulkar's last World Cup. In case you don't know who Tendulkar is, think Roger Federer, Michael Jordan and Mario Lemieux all rolled into one. The Indian superstar has scored ninety-nine centuries. Just one more, and he will have accomplished the unimaginable, a century of centuries. Tendulkar may not reach this milestone against Sri Lanka in the final but he most likely will, before he retires. What is more important, though, is that he holds the World Cup trophy once in his career. Besides, the final will be played in his hometown of Mumbai. Could anyone have written a better script?

For India, it comes down to one word: Destiny. They will be the 2011 World Cup Cricket champions.

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