Tuesday 25 September 2007 

India Savour Title After Triumph Over Pakistan

India ended a 24-year wait for a World Cup triumph by capturing the inaugural Twenty20 title on Monday after a final against Pakistan befitting their intense rivalry.

The dream final between the tense political neighbours was the perfect advertisement for cricket's shortest and latest version which had originally been seen as light entertainment.

India pulled off a thrilling five-run win in the last over to maintain their winning record against Pakistan over six World Cup clashes.

Pakistan also lost a 'bowl out' after the first-round match between the two was tied, their only reverse until the final.

The victory achieved by Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men at the Wanderers drew parallels with the 1983 victory, when an equally unsung India provided joy to millions of passionate fans with their upset final win over the mighty West Indies at Lord's.

The young team's successful defence on Monday of a modest total of 157 raised hopes for Indian cricket's future and eased the pain of their humiliating loss to Australia at the same venue in the 50-over World Cup final four years ago.

Dhoni has won praise for his inspired leadership of a young side after batting stalwarts Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly opted out.

The Indian board which initially opposed the event, arguing it wanted to introduce the format at domestic level first, joined the celebration, announcing a $3 million cash bonus to the team.

The event caught the imagination in the game's commercial hub as India defied odds by defeating hosts South Africa and then Australia, the one-day and test champions, in the semi-final.

The win could trigger an explosion in Twenty20 in India with the board having already launched a lucrative franchise league from next year to counter a rebel initiative.

HAPPY TURNAROUND

Reaching the final was a happy turnaround for two talented but inconsistent teams, six months after shock first-round exits from the Caribbean World Cup left their fans fuming.

Pakistan can hold their heads high despite Monday's loss, having rallied around soft-spoken skipper Shoaib Malik after they were in danger of once again hogging the headlines for the wrong reasons.

They suffered six months of strife since the Caribbean low.

Coach Bob Woolmer died a day after their elimination in Jamaica and his death was initially investigated as a murder until the authorities concluded it was due to natural causes.

Former captains Inzamam-ul Haq and batting mainstay Mohammad Yousuf then joined the rebel Indian Twenty20 league despite the board threatening to ban them.

Controversial strike bowler Shoaib Akhtar was then sent home from South Africa after he struck team mate Mohammad Asif with a bat in a training ground bust up.

Despite impressing with their focus, fitness and fielding, all traditional weak areas, introspection is bound to follow the defeat in Pakistan while India celebrates.

© Reuters 2007

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