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We were calm, the Indians were tense

By Glenn McGrath
March 25, 2003 22:08 IST
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The bowlers were the supporting cast in Sunday's win simply because I have never seen our batsmen bat as well as they did at the Wanderers. They rose to the occasion magnificently and ensured that we won our second straight World Cup final.

At the start of the tournament I had said that we could, and should, go through this World Cup undefeated. I never say something I don't believe in, and even while some of my teammates said that it was a bit of big talk, I knew we had it in us. I'm not one for making empty statements, but as we came into this World Cup, I knew we could go undefeated. This is quite unlike the statements made by Sourav Ganguly, which I read on the eve of the match. I don't think even he believed what he said before taking us on.

Coming back to the final, I would have been pretty happy to bowl first on that pitch, but the team was planning to take first strike if we had won the toss. The Indian seamers had bowled really well coming into the finals, but on the big day Zaheer, Nehra and Srinath went for 211 runs in 27 overs. Adam Gilchrist was responsible for causing panic among the already tense Indian bowlers, and once they lost the plot, Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn ran amok.

Martyn had been injured during the Super Sixes and this was the first time he had broken a finger. He was nervous and ginger about playing with a hand injury, but he went to the nets, had a hit, and took a few catches, gained confidence and decided to play. Ponting was in great form after a shaky start, and since Zaheer and Nehra were down on pace, he started playing some of the most amazing shots.

When the Indians came in to bat, we knew Sachin Tendulkar would come hard at us. When I bowled a wide ball, Sachin pulled rather than cut it. This was a sign that he was playing premeditated shots. The next ball was a little quicker from me, and it got big on Sachin, and he again played a pre-planned shot. When the ball went up, I was the only person under the ball because everyone knew I wanted that wicket to be mine. After that, as I said, we just had too many runs for the Indians to worry us.

I felt that the Indians should have relied on their natural ability to play shots and score quickly rather than on manufactured shots. We were 80/0 after 10 overs while India were 66/2. That was the difference between the sides. Hayden and Gilchrist played natural shots while Sehwag, Ganguly and Tendulkar were aiming for the spectacular.

Looking back at this tournament, I think the special player has been Brett Lee. This is a watershed moment for him and he is going to get bigger and better over the next four years. Earlier he did not know whether his role was to bowl fast or keep the runs down. But now he is a poised, confident performer.

This is a great performance from us. I have to admit that the semis was the match that worried us most since it was against Sri Lanka on a pitch that suited them. But our 'intent' and 'intimidate' mantra saw us through that challenge, and by the time we were in the final, we were a calm, relaxed bunch.

In the final analysis, if I had to make one distinction between the two finalists, it was the approach. We were calmly looking forward to it while the Indians were wound up and tense. We knew we were the team to beat, and as I said at the start of the tournament, that was a tough ask for any team in the draw.


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Glenn McGrath