Wednesday, April 3, 2013

That Wonderful day

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On the face of it, it was just another day. But it actually was not.  For any Indian cricket fan, April 2, 2011 will be a day that shall never be forgotten.  There are so many memories associated with that day. The day began with nervousness and apprehension and ended with ultimate elation, ecstasy and infinite pride. India was expected to win the 2011 World Cup but an Indian supporter will tell you that India never wins when they are expected to win. But through a combination of some luck and some very good individual performances India managed to reach the final. Awaiting them in the final was Sri Lanka. As 2ND April arrived, Indian fans knew that the ultimate prize was one win away.

Personally I was very nervous. Teams and individuals that I support have never won big events. Apart from one magical magical night in Istanbul in May 2005, Liverpool has never won anything of note in all the years that I have supported them. Boris Becker won only one grand slam in the phase that I followed him. My interest in Formula 1 came and went in the years of the rivalry between Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher and Hakkinen never won much. There was a false dawn in 2003 when the Indian cricket team reached the world cup final. That was another nervous day but it ended with acute disappointment- a felling of emptiness. We were supposed to hammer the Aussies- actually they hammered us. Ricky Ponting, their best player scored 140, Sachin Tendulkar, our best player scored 4. The Aussies won their third world cup, second in row. I was left wondering if I would ever celebrate a major victory for my team.

Of course Istanbul 2005 happened subsequently and then South Africa 2007 happened, but by all accounts April 2, 2011 was a very nervous day. This was our chance, I told myself. Sri Lanka are too strong, I told myself. Sachin will score his hundredth hundred today, I hoped. Sachin never scores runs in a final I was told. Viru will tear them apart I thought, Murali will have grand farewell, I feared.

And then the game began. Zaheer began brilliantly bowling three consecutive maidens. Back in 2003 Zaheer had conceded 17 runs in his first over. “He has erased those horrid memories”, my brother told me.  Zaheer would concede 17 runs in his last over in this game. Sreesanth gave us a moment to cheer when he bowled a delivery which was clocked at 150 KMH. Indian fast bowlers never did that. But the rest of his spell convinced all of us that he had taken a smart decision by entering a reality television dance competition. Bhajii and Munaf (my man of the tournament) bowled well. But after a cautious start the Lankans opened out. Jaywardena played an innings which in true spirit should have been applauded by everyone but in the spirit of that day made me hate him and curse him all the way. There was some  tremendous hitting by the  late order as the Lankans took control. And as the initiative slipped away from India, that familiar sinking feeling engulfed me. Sri Lanka made 274. No chance of chasing that in a final I thought.

Viru, who was supposed to tear them apart fell second ball.  Even DRS could not save him. Tendulkar fell 82 short of his hundredth hundred, thereby failing in the final. Game over. Switch off the telly- drink whiskey and be happy that your team reached the final. But this was a different Indian team. Out in the middle were two young Delhi lads, who apart from being very good batsman, were fighters who never gave up. At one end was Gautam Gambhir, the most patriotic Indian ever to play cricket. (Dedications to Jawans on the Border and Tweets about freedom fighters an indication of that). At the other end was the young superstar in making- Virat Kohli.  Another passionate Delhi lad. Together they punched and counter punched back.  Malinga was seen off and Murali and Randhiv attacked. They played some great shots, ran aggressively between the wickets and sometimes abused in Hindi as their partnership grew. Slowly, my hopes rose but then Dilshan, took a stunning return catch to dismiss young Kohli. It was a great catch and which in true spirit should have been applauded but ended up in me cursing him for his brilliance.  Yuvraj was supposed to come next. That did not happen. Captain cool MS Dhoni decided to promote himself.

I should have guessed, it was all destiny.  The script has always been written by the Gods of this world for MSD. Captain cool played an innings that took the game away from our neighbors. The off spinners could not control him, the fast bowlers could not restrict him and even Malinga was punished. Along with Gautam Gambhir, he slowly took us closer to victory. Gauti, lost his head and got bowled for 97.    Pretty close to a heart attack I was at that moment. “Needless shot” screamed Ravi Jaishankar Shashtri on the television and I shared his sentiments with much stronger words. Thoughts of an eminent collapse raced through my mind. To increase my anxiety, some idiot posted some stat that no team had ever lost a world cup final after one of its batsman had scored a hundred. Jaywardena had scored a hundred and Gambhir had failed by three runs.   Panic, Tension.

But Yuvraj strode purposefully to the wicket and along with MS took India closer to victory.  There were some mad moments. Dhoni nearly got run out twice and there was DRS referral for an LBW appeal against Yuvi. My opposition to DRS fell and rose significantly in those two minutes.  However they survived (I survived) and when the 48th over began India needed 7 to win. The dream was actually turning into reality.
 And then Kulasekra’s second delivery of the 48th over was smashed by MSD over wide mid on for a huge six. “Dhoni goes big”, screamed Ravi Jaishankar Shashtri. We were world champions. The best in the world. Should I scream? Should I dance? Is this happening for real?

The rest of the evening was a blur. The celebrations of the team, Kohli’s statement regarding Tendulkar, Harbhajan and Gambhir’s interviews, they were so good to see. I was still in a daze. Should I go out and celebrate outside, should I stay at home and hear every single word being spoken in praise of my beloved cricket team. So many experts were saying so many good things. There was Ian Chapell on  ESPN-Star, Naseer Hussain on Headlines today, Professor Jones on NDTV and last but not the least the master of them all, the one and only Imran Khan on CNN-IBN. “Dhoni is currently the best captain in the world”, the Pathan declared emphatically.  And every single Indian agreed with him. The streets were already filled with people dancing and waving the Indian flags. But I was still confused. I wanted to celebrate but I did not know what do. I went out on the street and came back. Saw numerous repeat telecasts. Drank Whiskey to celebrate but it just did not seem enough. However my hopes were fulfilled and the anxiety and apprehension had been replaced by relief and joy.

 All those memories came flooding back to me yesterday, the second anniversary of that great win. I realized that no matter how much I would have celebrated, it would have never seemed enough. I still get Goosebumps watching the re-run of the final. And I still feel that I should have celebrated more. But April 2, 2011 was such a  momentous day that no matter how much I would have celebrated it would have never seemed enough.

 Such days are very rare.

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