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Universal Division 1 Playoff champions 2011

By gokul - Posted on 04 October 2011

Date - Saturday, October 01, 2011. 
Venue - Cassie Campbell Ground.
Occasion - Division-1 Play-off Finals. 
A big game, one that we had all aspired towards. Worked hard through the season for and it all boiled down to this one game. Who will be the last team standing, and who will bite the dust? Hindustan had a point to prove that their last victory was not a fluke, and Universal was keen to do exactly the opposite. Not only was Universal out to prove that Hindustan's last win over them was a fluke, but they also had a score to settle for last year's final. The stage was set, the battle-lines drawn, the troops were in their formation and all eagerly awaited the call of the trumpets and the cornus. 
Cold and chilly day for cricket, extremely windy, but thankfully, no rain. As if the Gods were smiling upon us, the Sun beamed down to light up a forecasted rainy day, and the players rallied for the start. We won the toss and after must back and forth, decided to let Hindustan have a first go at batting. It was bitterly cold, and fielding was not a proposition that anyone would have fancied. Yet, on the behest of the captain, everyone much willingly and enthusiastically took to the field, as ONE!!! 
As has been the strategy, Anil opened the bowling, but we quickly realized more than the bowler, the strategic use of the bowling ends and the rotation of the bowlers would be the decisive factor. Viren opened from the other end and struck immediately, making the Hindustan opener spoon a catch to Taresh at mid-on. Hindustan - 8/1. Anil was stopped after the initial over and Dhruv took his place. Viren kept his steady line and restrictive lengths, forcing the batsmen to steal runs, with fatal results. Of all people, they decided to chance the single to Ed. ED!!!!! Who'd have thought they would chance a run to Ed? Ed was on the ball in a flash picked it up and hurled it back to the keeper in one motion...I mean one motion to stop the ball, one to bend and find it, and another to throw it back, all that with good flu-ED-ity too! Hindustan - 9/2. 
The consolidation started. The score was building. Ed's magnificent run-out was fading from memory as a lapse. Just when the other team was thinking that run-out was an aberration, and it was still safe to run when Ed is fielding, they chanced it again, again fatally. Ed was quick to cover his ground, and the batsman was not. We started feeling that the Hindustan batsmen were targeting Ed to steal runs. After two run-outs by Ed, it was obvious who was being targeted. In the true spirit of the Universal mood that day, the hunter had become the hunted!!! Hindustan - 40/3.
3 overs later, Dhruv was replaced by Anand, and at the other end, Viren was replaced by Taresh. Taresh had a spell of 3 overs and Ed took his place. Anand was struck for 2 boundaries in his first over, but interestingly, came back very strong, maintaining a steady line and excellent length. His first 2 overs cost 10 runs, the next 5 cost 0, yes "zero", all maidens, while accounting for two wickets. First of his wickets was a catch at the wicket, a triple juggled catch, where the batsman must have been more tense of whether he is staying to bat on, or going back! He had to, to his dismay, take the long walk back to the pavilion! Hindustan - 54/4. The second wicket of Anand was a catch in the deep by Viren, an excellently judged catch at deep-midwicket of the only batsman who was looking like taking any charge on the Hindustan side. Hindustan - 60/5. Anand finished his quota of 10 overs with excellent figures of 10/5/18/2.
Ed continued at the other end to chip away. The mantra was to choke the batsmen and force errors. That is exactly what we did. Runs had diminished and boundaries were a remote memory. As is the wont in this case, they tried stealing runs again. This time, they thought they had outwitted us, by not running with the ball to Ed, but they chose Dhiren. Wrong choice. For that sake, on that day, any Universal fielder would have been a wrong choice!!! What they missed out was that the spirit of Universal, is really Universal to the team. Dhiren, at backward point, was - in a flash - on the ball and threw down the only stump he could see. Direct hit, and the hit also made a big dent in Hindustan's aspirations to score a defendable total. Hindustan - 63/6. 
Ed worked away at his end in tandem with Anand, and scored the big fish, trapping his LBW trying to swipe a ball to the leg side. It was bound to happen. Runs not coming, wickets falling at the other end. The pressure was telling. Hindustan - 67/7, and all recognized batsmen gone. The cleanup was still to be done.
Nandit replaced Anand, and struck immediately, befuddling the batsmen with his loopy deliveries. The batsman had so much time to think of ways to play the ball, that he finally landed up choosing the last shot he should have played, and spooned a dolly to Anil at midwicket. It was comical even to see that wicket. Hindustan - 71/8. 
Ed continued to produce excellent deliveries. One such delivery, the batsman had no clue about and missed it completely, only to get stumped. Hindustan - 73/9. The end was nigh for Hindustan, and yet, we had to ensure we don’t let the grip loose. Anil came back into the attack for one more eventful over, in which he was unlucky not to get either batsman out, beating them comprehensively and catches going to gaps. Nandit pegged away at the other end, and finally had the batsman slapping a ball to extra-cover, where Anand dove to his right to pluck a stunning catch to finish the Hindustan innings on 82.
Ed had 9 overs for 20 runs and 2 wickets, Nandit had 3.1 overs for 2 runs and 2 wickets, and Viren had 4 overs (3 maidens) for 1 runs and 1 wickets. It all summed up the excellent bowling effort.
Anand's efforts summed the Universal fielding for the day. Every player was diving, throwing themselves at the ball. There was intent, ferocity and determination, and the intensity and drive was simply unmatched. Catches were taken, run-outs effected, certain boundaries stopped. Electric effort in the field overall.
The job was half done. The game was yet to be won Complacency had to place in the quest for the Championship. Anand and Nandit opened the batting. Both looked very solid, in defence and offence. Nandit soon enough started striking the ball clean and clearing the boundaries. One of his drive to the midwicket boundaries was sweetness itself!!! The second drive over mid-on was sheer timing, taking the ball all the way over the rope, fence, parking lot, community center...I could go on. The fielder had to go to Sandalwood Parkway to fetch the ball. Unfortunately, Nandit perished playing too early to a spinner and top-edged a catch to covers. Universal 29/1. Ed strode in to replace Nandit, and the first ball he faced, in typical Ed-style, dispatched it to the midwicket boundary for a 4. The second ball was picked beautifully, but there was no effort to clear the boundary. The shot was executed well and the timing carried it to the long-on fielder, right at the boundary, who took it cleanly. Universal 33/2. 
With Yatin walking in, 50 runs still to go, 2 quick wickets falling in the same over, and the bowling team was getting on top. But Anand was at the crease and as he has stated earlier, it was his day. He was not going to have any of the "getting on top" nonsense. With Yatin providing solidity at the other end, ensuring there are no further debacles to the chase in terms of wickets, Anand continued to put the Hindustan bowling to sword (I have heard him call his bat that at times). Between Yatin and Anand, they quickly polished off the runs, with Anand striking the winning runs with a boundary down the ground, for a man-of-the-match effort 2 wkts, 1 stunning catch, and 40 not out to get the game home. If firing at the right time had an award, Anand would take it hands down!!!
Universal 85 for 2 in 21.4 overs. GAME, SET AND MATCH - UNIVERSAL - The last team standing when everyone else has bitten the dust!!!Every player on the Universal CLUB had a point to prove, and they proved it in style. There was only thing on the back of everyone's minds - We are winners. The mantra - "Winners never quit and quitters never win" was resonating with every move on the field and it translated into actions - decisive and with stunning results.
This title is yours, guys, and no one can take it away from you - EVER!!! Enjoy it, bask in it, feel it permeate into your being and feel proud about it.
Our byline speaks a lot about our outlook - "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins Championship"!!! Guess what we have just won!!! No prizes. We truly were a team, and we played intelligently, adapted to the conditions, changed our game plan, and each one of us bought into the team-plan. That was most important. Everyone was driven with a common goal. Players were running from boundary to boundary, willing to step down to let other play so the team can benefit, coming out and volunteering the 12th man duty for the team cause, attending the games to cheer the team all spoke of more than just cricket. It spoke of an great underlying rapport and camaraderie that can only be witnessed in Universal!!!
As the captain, I will wrap this recap with something to leave EACH ONE OF YOU till the next season. THANK YOU - first and foremost for your trust, in every decision I made, and going with it. Thank you - for your commitment to the team cause. Thank you - for your camaraderie and team-spirit. Thank you - for the efforts and contributions that brought about this glory. THANK YOU - for making this season a great success for all of us, for helping your team-mates achieve their dream while achieving your own. It can only be done as a team, and it could not have been possible without the dedication and support from each one of you. So, THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart!!!
Let’s meet up next week at Yatin's and make some noise about the win, relive those moments and capture them to savour through the winter. See all of you there for the grand celebration!!!
Warm regards.