The crowd was waiting for the lead player to come and perform for a very long time. Some had waited for nearly five hours, some a bit less. They had seen Ireland give a spirited fight to Sri Lanka and then seen their team restrict England to 153. Surely, that was not beyond the famed batting line up of their home team, particularly as it contained the one star player everybody was talking about. The English papers were talking about him, cricinfo was talking about him and surely the English cricket team must have been talking about him.
As Gambhir got out, out strode the one man who everybody wanted to watch. Yuvraj Singh’s walk is very reminiscent of Sir Viv Richard’s walk to the crease. Out he strode with a confident swagger, eager and determined to put the English attack to the sword. He was perhaps frustrated, perhaps annoyed because of Jadeja’s promotion ahead of him. He had that steely look in his eyes- he meant business.
As he took guard, the crowd waited with bathed breath. This was the moment everybody was waiting since afternoon. What would Yuvraj do? The first delivery was bowled by Mascharenes- it was slightly pitched up; surely Yuvraj would have a look and knock a couple. Yuvraj had other ideas- he swung that delivery over the bowlers head or a big six. There was delirium in the stands. It took the prince one delivery to give the crowd what they had wanted since early afternoon.
I have been fortunate to witnesses two similar moments in cricket- moments which made my hair stand up and which still give me goose pimples. In 2001 in Mumbai, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid tried to save the test match from Steve Waugh’s Australians on the third day. Tendulkar was unbeaten at lunch and for forty five minutes the entire Wankhade stadium was debating as to what Tendulkar would do after lunch. First ball after was bowled by Jason Gillespie and it was a good length delivery on the off stump. Tendulkar smashed it between cover and point for four and the whole ground went crazy. Then three years later India was defending a meager 105 against Australia. The crowd, wondering whether India could defend such a small total was shouting their guts out. Third delivery from Zaheer took Langer’s edge and the debutant Karthick took a simple catch behind the stumps. “Mumbai has gone mad” said Dean Jones on commentary and it indeed had.
These are small but significant moments which make watching a game of cricket in a cricket stadium worthwhile. They remain in memory for ever and every time I remember them, I get goose pimples. Yuvraj’s first ball six was one such moment of brilliance. Alas his efforts were not enough to lead India to victory. Why M.S. Dhoni considered it fit to send a rookie 19 year old ahead of him is a matter to debate in another post. For the moment, let me just savor the brilliance of the left hander from Punjab.