New Delhi: The aisles were full, the ground was set. The thunderous raptures greeted the two captains, especially a certain Indian by the name of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as they both ventured onto the field for the toss.
No luck for India with the toss as Ricky Ponting decided to bat. Dhoni was willing to bat first on that wear and tear Motera track too, but had to settle for what he had. And then, in his usual nonchalant way announced the inclusion of southpaw Suresh Raina at the expense of big-hitter Yusuf Pathan.
The experts were as shocked as the people in the stadium, the pundits on the telly has finally found fodder for them to blabber about, Dhoni's decision had already been taken down for his autopsy had India lost the match. But as always, the stumper had other ideas.
Fast forward to the Indian reply to Australia's total of 260 runs, and after the Indian skipper's dismissal, came the moment of truth. The UP batsman trudged onto the middle to join a resilient Yuvraj Singh needing some well-deserved support after Gambhir's exit.
How Raina vindicated Dhoni's decision was from then on poetry in motion. It was like the skipper had envisaged the situation and had already seen Raina steering the ship for the Men in Blue. It was like he knew that the southpaw was the answer to his lower-order batting problem. And with a six off the first ball of the batting powerplay, Suresh Raina had come to the party. The Yuvraj-Raina duo scripted a match-winning partnership in the face of some hostile Aussie bowling.
The composure and the focus on the face of Raina said it all. After playing a single game leading up to this match, he was a man on a mission. With his gameface on, and a sweet piece of willow in his hand, how beautifully the two left-handers served revenge to the kangaroos for their 2003 mauling in the final was the stuff dreams are made of.
The Indian skipper was very clear when he made this important selection, he understood India needed to bat strong and deep.
Pathan is clearly a big-hitter who is not technically equipped enough to handle the pace or the precision of Shaun Tait and Brett Lee. Yes, he could have struck a few lusty blows. Yes, he would have deflated the Aussies confidence with those towering hits. But that would have been the case had India been 25 to 30 runs short of the target, instead it was a tightrope situation where the hosts need 93 runs from 94 balls. Had Yusuf played one shot too many or had his paper-thin defence been compromised, Yuvraj would have been left to pick up the pieces and the chase would have then been an uphill task.
Raina, too has had his shortcomings in the recent past. He too was found out technically when the West Indies dscovered his inability to handle the short ball and has been since unable to recover from that setback. But Motera was a different game, a different stage and Raina did step up when Yuvraj needed him.
The Ghaziabad boy has also been accused of losing his wicket in the adrenalin rush of the batting powerplay, but this knock was different. When the powerplay was used, Raina maintained his calm and played one shot at a time which resulted in India using the powerplay in the best way possible in the past two months.
How Mahendra Singh Dhoni must be standing in the dressing-room after the match celebrations, sporting an ear-to ear smile and murmuring with pride, "I told 'ya".