Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Eden 2001 revisited!!!


Oh dear Eden 2001. I hate you. Yes I do.
Why?
Because you have spoiled me. You have spoiled me for life. Every time I find myself in a hopeless situation or putting it in Ravi Shastri’s words – “In a tunnel with no end at the end of it”, I just think of you and tell myself quietly “It has been done before”.
That’s true for cricket and for life.

Dear Eden 2001, I must thank you for revisiting us in year 2017. Interestingly in the same month, month of March, you were born.

Although there is a huge difference between 2017 and 2001. In 2001, Australians came as world champions looking to roll over their juggernaut which had 15 straight test victories in pocket. In 2017, India is number 1 side which had been unbeaten at home for 19 tests in a row.

But as the events have turned out, 2017 looks so similar to 2001..

We were crushed in Pune. CRUSHED. Number one test team in the world which, given the schedule, had no chance of losing its position to number two side.
Yet, it happened. On a turning track.
An unknown left arm spinner had taken 12 wickets against us. We lost by 333 runs.
I repeat. 12 wickets. 333 runs.
Who is Steve O’Keefe anyways? When I heard him being in the side, I wondered “O’Keefe who? Triple centurions aren’t finding a place in our batting and Australians are sending some random Big Basher to bowl? It is 4-0”
A left arm spinner crushing us. Imagine the plight of Dada. Spinners crushing us at home. Imagine the plight of Sehwag & VVS. Imagine the joy of Warne.
Such was the un-believability of the event.
“After 2001, have we ever come back from behind to win the series against a strong team?” asked a friend.
“2015, Sri Lanka” I replied.
“I said strong team” he shot back.
“Sri Lanka had Herath. Australians lost badly to Sri Lanka” when it comes to cricket, I don’t take a step back in arguments.
“Its Australia. Not Sri Lanka”
“Things always look easier after we have won”
“No. Sri Lanka is a weak side”
“F off” my patience had run out. See, such was the magnitude of loss that fan in me had turn into a fanatic. Cricket fans can be as ferocious as fanatics.  

It was as bad as 2011. Or 2012. Or 2014. The horrors of England & Australia had come back. What hurt more was that more than annihilation, it looked like abject surrender.

“To hell with it. I am retiring from following cricket” I told a friend.
“The usual” he said.
“Yes, the tutka”” I winked.

Cricket fans can also be as naive as children.

Day 1
Come the morning of 4th March. Thank god I am not going to follow this match. Who wants to get up at 5 every morning anyways? I thought. Damn the time zone differences? Why isn’t our planet flat. We wouldn't have had any time zone differences then.  
I woke up at 4. India had won the toss. I went back to sleep. Or pretence of it.
72/2 at lunch. Thank God. We shall surely cross 100. At least I hope I thought.
Next I checked, Nair and Rahul were batting well. Local boys. 5th wicket partnership. And I am not following. So many things in our favour. We shall crush them I thought.
“189” someone messaged me. What? How the hell? How exactly? I thought.
To hell with it. I shall not follow this match now. At no cost.

Day 2
5th March 2017 must have been the only day in my life when India was playing and I didn't even check the score. Not even once. See the discipline? Only if I had same discipline in other aspects of life.

Day 3
I am not going to follow. I kept telling myself. I opened someone’s twitter feed to check news about UP elections. Someone had tweeted “Hope we cross 200 this time?”
What? Australia is all out. What’s going on.
It was 94/2. Next I checked, it was 120 for 4. Damn. Damn. Damn. Why did I check the score? Superstition in me was taking over the sanity.
“250? Pitch has eased out” someone messaged.
“I have retired” I replied.
“Ok Afridi” he replied back.
213/4. I finally checked. 126 ahead. Maybe, maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our number 3 was leading the way. Our number 6, woefully out of form with place under threat, was giving him company. Does it ring a bell? Has it happened before?
Hash tag “”You Remember”

Day 4
Slept at 1. Woke up at 5. Started streaming. We should declare half an hour after tea. Started thinking too.
Thinking is such a waste of time. Number 6 got out.
I started for office. Checked the score on my way. Nine down. Nine? How? How the hell?
Came to office. Self-restraint took over. For an hour or so. Then it took the backseat.
Checked the score. Australians were 8 down. Eight? Yes, 2 more. Hope they don’t return the favour of Mohali 2010.
They didn’t.
112 it read.

From a position of complete annihilation in first test and losing huge ground in the initial part of second test, we had turned it around. Totally. Wholly. Completely.
We had paid back the favour. As Ravi Shastri would say in his booming voice, “India has the momentum now”
Juggernaut has started rolling back again. Or I hope so. That's what I learnt from Eden 2001.
To hope. Always.       

Dear Ranchi, we are coming. We, the fan and the fanatic in me. With tonnes of hope.


 (Image courtesy: Indian Express)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Not the Australia I've known!!!

Ever since Shane Warne found his way to stardom between Mike Gatting’s legs, he never looked back. By the time he arrived in India for his first test series, he was bigger than his own Himalayan ego. Or so I thought. What else I could think of someone who brought his own food with him because India was not hygienic enough for him. Maybe he was right. Maybe not. But for me, this was an insult to the host country.
I hated him.
I know hate is a strong word but my vocabulary is too limited to find a more suited word.
I did not hate just Warne. I hated Glenn McGrath too for his “forget an inch, I won’t even give you a millimetre” attitude. I hated Steve Waugh. I hated Ian Healey.
Hatred was not restricted to just that tour. It was through the time.
I absolutely hated Michael Slater for his tantrums in Mumbai. “Showing finger to umpire and Dravid? I just hate slater”. Every time Matthew Hayden walked in to bat as if he was going to kick box everyone on the cricket ground, I secretly wished if we could hire a sniper to shoot him dead. Sniper had to be at good distance because anywhere close to him might result in sniper getting kick boxed. I hated his bully like attitude which just oozed out of his persona.
I hated Ponting for pushing Harbhajan in Sharjah. Ironically, Harbhajan got fined for using foul language whereas Ponting got scot free. How did he manage that? I hated him for getting away with that?
How do Australians do that? Always? I hated them for that.
I hated their batting which was always superior. I hated their bowling which was better than their batting. I hated their fielding which was surely better than their batting and bowling put together. I hated their attitude which, even if you ever won against them, made sure you bleed even your last drop of blood to win. More than that, I hated their complete contempt towards the word modesty. They were the best side and were not ashamed of it - something which did not come to easy. My generation was taught to be humble, always. Even if being humbled bordered on self-depreciation.
I hated the fact that my team could not play like them. Or somewhere could get even close to their level. I hated the fact that we could not be like them.
In my mind, our politeness was always crushed by their hostility. Our gentlemen like behaviour was always sledged out of the door by them. They showed contempt - before, during and after every series.
I hated it. There was no option because they backed all their villainy with results.
4-0 in 1992. They lost in 1996 but blamed the pitches. 1-2 in 1998 but then, they beat us in Bangalore and claimed - as soon as we played on a fair pitch, we won. Fair pitch my foot.
3-0 in 1999. 1-2 in 2001 but each of the last two matches, as Ravi Shastri would say, went down to the wire which was closing its grasps on Indian necks to suffocate them.
2-1 in 2004. They tried, tried, tried and beat us at home.
They, even if they lost, were always in it.
Barring the 4-0 loss in 2013, they were always in it. Even when they arrived in India in 2013, they were like the Australia we have known - big mouthed, bigger ego and aura even though it was residual.
They’ve come again.
2017 it is. But this time, it is different.
This is not the Australia I have known.
When Harbhajan predicted 4-0 win for India, Nathan Lyon said they do not worry about what others say and worry about their own process.
Yes, process. The same word championed by Indian IT giants. The same words MS Dhoni used - in victory, in defeat, in draws, in rain affected washouts. Process.
In olden days, a Matthew Hayden would’ve asked Harbhajan Singh to meet in boxing ring. Ricky Ponting would’ve predicted 4-0 win for Australia. Australian media would’ve started presenting even Indian highways as turning tracks.
But no. None of it this time.
What we have is very un-Australian Australia. No big words. No statements. No nothing.
Steve Smith acts nice. Nathan Lyon talks nicer. They say they’ve respect for opposition. Even David Warner, known for his punches on the ground or pubs in London, hasn’t fired a single salvo.
Not the Australia I know.
And this will hurt them. They have always been better when acted as unfriendly, hostile and hate worthy opponents. One of the reasons for their loss in Perth was given as - “Sidney forced them to be soft and not sledge. They were asked to act soft in Perth. BCCI twisted arms. Indians cannot take tough cricket”
See, even in defeat they could try making you feel guilty of winning.
I see none of it now. This will hurt them. Oh yes, I may be wrong. Horribly wrong. Maybe. Hopefully not.
So my dear Australians, be the Australia I’ve known. If you are worried about IPL, do not be. A hated Australians is more likely to draw crowds than a not so hated one.
Say something. Say something like how Virat is a flat deck bully or Ashwin is a chucker or Indians hide behind the supernatural powers like Sir Jadeja. Say something nasty about the tracks, the weather, the roads, the hotels, the food or even bloody demonetization.
But be the Australia I’ve known. Otherwise, it is boring.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An open letter to Prime Minister!!!

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
We all know the astounding mandate your party got in last general elections. We know how majority of those who voted  in those elections wanted you as prime minister of the country. We know how hard you are working to meet the promises you made during your high profile election campaign – bringing Acche Din was what summed it all up.
I, for the record, am also one of your supporters. Not a bhakt, to clarify, but a supporter. There is a difference between the two. Bhakt supports everything you say or do. A supporter doesn’t do bhakti. His support is conditional. In case this stint of yours as prime minister doesn’t turn out to be as well as it should be, you are likely to lose lot many supporters than Bhakts. Please do note that I used “as well as it should be” and not “as expected” because expectations from you Mr Prime Minister, are sky high. I doubt if you can really blame others for that.
I am afraid that in me, you are quite close to losing a supporter. Please allow me to tell you why.
Before that, let me tell you who I am. I am a middle age middle class citizen of this country. I pay my taxes or rather I am made to do so. I am inclined to make this world a better place and to do that, I keep trying on Facebook. I am easily outraged against any kind of injustice and immediately do my bit to rectify things by tweeting about them. For everything wrong, I hope someday some messiah will come and change the world for the good. See, I am perfect recipe for your kitchen.
So whatever you do, you must think about me before doing it. I wish you had been taking care of this fact.
For example, take this Yoga thing. I agree with all the positives of Yoga, the branding it needs, the jazz it deserves and rest of the razzmatazz with it. All that is fine. But have you ever noticed that most middle aged middle class men are married – not just to their wives but also to their ever growing bulging tummies, laziness and couches on which they sit like potatoes. Have you ever thought what a highly advertised campaign like this does to them? 
Please allow me to tell you what it does. 
It lets their wives know that they are sharing their husbands the co-wives I just mentioned - bulging tummies, laziness and the couches. What you’ve done is handed something in the hands of all those wives – you’ve handed them a mission. A mission to make their husbands shed their laziness and do Surya Namaskara every morning. That Mr Prime Minister, a mission in the hands of wives, is more dangerous weapon than cell phone in the hands of Shane Warne, microphone in the hands of Rakhi Sawant or license to remake an old classic in the hands of Sajid Khan. What may irk all these middle aged middle class men who happen to be husbands as well that you yourself don’t have to face the music they face because you Mr. Prime Minister, do no stay with your wife. You enjoy complete freedom. Whereas they, they just don’t.
No. It doesn’t end there. I would go to where it all started. It started by Mann ki Baat. I understand the objective behind this initiative. Or I think I do. I see this as more like monthly status report by a prime minister given to people of his country. That’s something unique especially when people of this country haven been habituated of listening to the prime minister only twice in a year – 15th August and 26th of January. I get that. But couldn’t you have chosen a different name. Mann Ki Baat? Really?
Imagine the plight of a husband who religiously listens to your Mann Ki Baat every month. Now imagine their wives asking them “Honey, how does my nail paint look?”
Husband responds, “They look good” without looking at them. He is too engrossed in listening to your Mann Ki Baat.
Wife angrily responds, “You haven’t even looked at them. What is that you are watching on TV”
“Give me sometime please. I am listening to Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat”.
Mann ki Baat? You have all the time to listen to everyone’s Mann Ki Baat. Only person’s Mann Ki Baat that puts you immediately to sleep is me. You are never interested in my Mann Ki Baat”
Dear Mr Prime Minister, since you’ve not been staying with your better half, you would have no idea of the consequences when a wife talks to you like that, when she taunts you that you aren’t interested in her Mann Ki Baat. You have no clue of the storms that come in such situations - they have capacity to eradicate salaries of months. Hence my humble question to you is – couldn’t you have named it a bit differently? Couldn’t you have named it what it is – PM’s status report or Pradhan Mantri ke Kaarnaame or since it is a monthly status report informing us about how dutiful you are, Pradhan Mantri ka Masik Dharma?
There is more to come. But before that, let me complement you first. You are always neatly dressed and admired all across the world for your dressing sense. So much so that we have a Modi Kurta in the market. I wish I had dressing sense like you have. I really wish. But sometimes, you do go overboard. Yes. I am talking about that suit which had your name written all over it. How could you do it? How? Didn’t you, for once, think of how it can impact the middle aged middle class men who happen to be husbands as well?
What if a wife demands, “Darling, why don’t you wear a suit like our PM did”
“Which one?” husband may wonder
“The one on which he had his name written all over it”
“Ah, that one. Sorry. In my book, that qualifies as narcissism. How can someone wear a suit with his own name written all over it?”
“No. I am not asking you to do that. That was so crappy. Really, how can some do it? I know you are too modest for that. That’s why I love”
“Then?”
“I want you to wear a suit with my name written looking all over it”
“What? Why?”
“Darling, don’t you love me?”
No. There wouldn’t be any pressure from wives on husbands to wear suits with husband’s name on them? It could be a bit different. Wives may demand that husbands wear a suit with wives’ name written all over it? And if, my Prime Minister, are wondering about the rest of the conversation - it normally ends with husbands wearing suits with their wives' names written all over them. 
No. I am not joking. You wouldn’t know but in married life, such thinsg are possible. Yes they are.
So my dear Prime Minister. This is my humble request to you. Next time you launch a new program for the betterment of the nation, please do think about us – we are middle aged middle class men who happened to be married. Life isn’t easy for us anyways. Please don’t make it more difficult.
Thanking you,
Your supporter.

PS: I am a Modi fan. This piece in written in expectation that people will find some sense in my humor and my understanding of section 66A of IT act is not horribly misplaced. In case you have a problem, letting me know via comments section would not be a bad idea. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The baton is being passed!!!

I am the best cricket analyst around. No, I am not joking. I am. You may call me an arrogant narcissist but that will not change what I think. I am the best cricket analyst you will ever find.
Eleven years back a friend placed a bet on how many runs did Curtley Ambrose scored in an ODI against India in Perth in 1991-92. I not only told him how many did Ambrose score, I also told him how many balls he played, how many boundaries did he hit against which bowler, who was the highest scorer and who took how many wickets. Once I told a friend at what score did Ganguly got out in second innings of Eden 2001 and what India’s score was by the end of day three, he asked back if all day I do nothing but memorize cricket scores. Once in an interview, an interviewer tried to check my confidence about Tendulkar’s score in 1992 world cup match against New Zealand by saying, “He scored 88 and not 84”, I replied back saying “He scored 84 of 107 balls. Its cricket. I know what I know and I know what I don’t know”
The ego, as you can see, is quite high. I am never, I repeat, never wrong when I claim to be right.
I have failed only twice. Once it was when I answered about the date on which Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes in Durban – I answered 17th September whereas it was 19th September. Second time I failed when I put myself to Albert Einstein’s level of understanding test.
Einstein said - “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”
Oh boy. Explaining things to a six year old is tough. Very tough. During every day of any test match, when my six year old asks me, “Who won?” I have hard time explaining that a test match is supposed to last five days and you may or may not get a winner at the end of it. It is not easy to explain to him that in a test match, each team can get a chance to bat twice, one after the other although one team can bat twice successively. Things get tougher when it comes to explaining the rules. Leg before wickets means batsman putting his legs between bat & wickets to avoid getting out. But people have been given out when their shoulders kept the ball from hitting the stumps. If the ball is going to hit the stumps and you block it from outside the line of off stump, you shouldn’t be given out. But not when you are not offering a stroke. How to define if someone is offering a stroke or not is not well defined. But yes, if the ball has pitched outside leg stump, you can do all you want. Now try explaining it to a six year old.
It is tough explaining to him that although a test match lasts five days, days apart from five is a critical word here. Test matches are played during daytime. ODIs are played under the lights. And there is a limit on number of overs bowled in ODIs – you don’t start playing in the morning and play till mid-night. Play starts from afternoon in day night matches. And no, CSK doesn’t play in world cup.
Damn. I failed the Einstein test.
Okay. All those arrogant words in the first paragraph – I was joking. I am not as good as I have written. After all, I failed in the Einstein test.
But then, some failures make you notice something else. Failing to answer some questions make you happy that at least, questioner is inquisitive enough. You feel happy that a six year old is getting interested in the game you’ve always followed so passionately.
When wife asks “Oh ho. He has also started getting crazy about cricket. Does it run in your family or what”, you feel like answering with the biggest grin ever and thumping your chest like a gorilla, “Yes. This is third generation. I am happy.”
But then, all you do is put a mild smile on your face and shrug like Munaf Patel. After all, wives are wives. They aren’t to be messed with.
You feel happy that now cricket wouldn’t be limited to TV and internet and phones and facbook and the likes. Cricket will be played. Someone in the house will do it.
You play with him. In the gallery. In that tiny little space. Shoes kept a foot apart make the stumps. One tip one hand is out. Wall behind you becomes the boundary line. Window panes start fearing for their lives. That tiny little space becomes your MCG, your Lords, and your Eden. The Gayles, the Dhonis, the Mallingas, the Ashwins make frequent appearances in that tiny little space.  But after every good shot, the six year old asks, “Don’t I play like Virat Kohli?” Virat is his favorite player. If you ask him what would he like to become when he grows up, “I will play cricket like Virat Kohli”
You are taken aback a bit. Or rather, you are taken back - back in time. Or both.
Few years ago, not so long ago, you had your own MCG, Lords and Edne. The Azhars, the Akrams, the Injemams made frequent appearances in that tiny little space. But after every good shot, you asked, “Don’t I play like Sachin Tendulkar?” Sachin was your favorite player. When you were asked what you would like to become when you grow up, “Sachin Tendulkar” was your answer. You just traverse back in time. But then, you are also taken aback at how time has just flew past by.
You keep throwing balls at the six year old and realize how simple this game is. Even a six year old can play all those famed shots - the drives, the flicks, the pulls.
 This is all about how human body responds. The drives, the flicks, the pulls – they are all reactions against the action caused by the cricket ball. These are just names given to how your body moves in a particular situation. When a ball is pitched outside off, it is instinctive reaction to take one step towards the ball, extend your arms and hit it. Nothing special about it. Anyone would play it like this. Barring MSD. He would play the same shot with both feet in the air. But then, he is MSD.
When it’s his turn to bowl, you keep telling him to roll his arm over, “Roll your arm over, don’t bend the elbow”. He tries. Sometimes he succeeds. Mostly he fails.
He asks who he looks like when he is bowling. You respond, “Virat Kohli” – part truth, part fiction. But those six year old eyes just lit up, smile broadens and he bowls the next ball double quick and asks for confirmation, “This is how Virat Kohli bowls, right?”
See, Virat Kohli is back again. Like Tendulkar was.  In batting. In bowling. Even in fielding, sometimes.
You somehow persuade him to let you go. The game ends. Not before he asks again, “When will I play exactly like Virat Kohli?”
You respond back trying to calm him down, “You are too young. You will play better than him when you grow up”
“How old I am”
“Six”
“Not six. Six and a half” he retorts back with extra stress on “and a half”
You smile and come back home and tell him, “If you want to become like Virat, you must eat well”
He immediately demands for a glass of milk.
Ah, you realize it is repetition of past. This is exactly how Tendulkar made you do things which you often avoided to do. This is exactly how it used to happen.
It is just that names have changed. Curly haired teenaged named Tendulkar is a thing of past now. Tattooed Virat Kohli is fast becoming the craze. Like it must have happened few years back. When Gavaskar became thing of past and Tendulkar was the future.  The baton was passed then. The baton is being passed now.
While your previous generation and you dreamt of becoming Sachin, you and your next generation would dream of six year old becoming Virat.
But they are all just means to carry something bigger – dreams.
Dreams of childhood. Dreams of parenthood.   
Generations have changed. Years have gone by. Roles have reversed.  
Dreams, they are still the same. The names just pass on the batons.

Monday, March 30, 2015

World Cup 2015 - A Memorable Journey, A Sad End

A day after the Valentine’s Day, sometime around noon, Mohammad Shami’s bouncer to Younis Khan looked menacing. Younis Khan tried fending it awkwardly. But the ball was too good for him.
Younis Khan  - caught Dhoni bowled Mohammed Shami  6 
India’s world cup had started.
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I woke up at 6:30 AM today and switch on the TV only to realize that it was over. A four month long tour with last one and half month as world cup was over. Now no more cricket in the early morning. For a cricket fan, nothing can be more refreshing than getting a dose of channel nine’s broadcast early in the morning. That’s why I have always loved Australian tours. They don’t make you wait for what you want most – watching cricket. All you need to do is get up and it would be on TV – lush green outfields, wonderful camera work, voice of Mark Nicholas and quite often a contest between bat & ball.
And then, cricket in Australia is never boring. Grounds are big. Pitches have bounce. Commentators are good although they are fast becoming DJs.
There is always some amount of chirping going on. You can always feel the unease. You can always feel the thrill. You are almost always on the edge.
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I will always remember 1983 for its memoirs. That’s how most of us know about that world cup. Reading about Kapil’s 175. Yashpal’s 89. Kapil & Sandeep Patil running back to pavilion after winning the Semi Final. Sandhu’s in swinger. Viv’s assault. Kapil’s catch. Holding’s LBW. Kapil lifting the cup.
For 28 years, we were served with these scenes so many times that it had become boring. Absolutely boring.
1987 was about Sidhu’s sixes, Kapil’s sweep and Australia’s resurgence under the reign of Bob Simpson & Allen Border.
1992 could have been the best world cup – channel 9, colored clothing, best format, Jonty Rhodes. Alas, we were too incompetent. It was the worst world cup I had seen. Or so I thought.
Playing at home, we were favorites in 1996. Lot of hype was built around our preparations. Well, that all fall flat when we missed a simple run out in our opening match against Kenya. In the first match itself we were exposed. Everyone knew we had only one weapon – Sachin Tendulkar. He slipped in Semi Final. Rest as they say, is history. Whatever followed that night is forgettable. But we still remember Kambli’s tears. Yes we do.
While team was strong on paper in 1999, I never got the feel if we had a Team. It was a bunch of individuals showing their skills on the ground. Result was expected.
We had a really strong team in 2003. Batting line up boasted of people who are counted as one of the greatest of the game. Bowling was no less. We fielded well. The team was strong. Unfortunately, we met a team in the final which was one of the greatest in the history of the game.
2007 never happened.
I will always thank the victory of 2011 for relieving me of watching highlights of/reading about 1983. We were good. Even if the format was more challenging, we would’ve won. Playing at home was our advantage. If I will remember 1983 for previous generation’s world cup, 2011 gave me my world cup. Oh that six by MSD – the ending was perfect from a man who so boringly talks about the process.
Not many had given a chance to Team India before 2015 started. We crashed out in Semi Final. Barring Times Now, I am not sure if many would be complaining about the end result. Oh yes, we didn’t win the cup but end result as top four isn’t bad either.
To me, beauty of 2015 was not the end result. Such was the format that reaching QF was never a doubt for a team which was ranked in top three before the tournament started. Team would’ve needed to play horribly bad to not make it to last eight and I knew my team’s name wasn’t England. After that, trophy was just three lucky nights away. We got lucky on our first such night. Alas, that’s where it all ended.
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To me, I will always remember 2015 not for the end result but for the journey. The bowling which looked laughable took 70 wickets in 7 matches. Shami almost always provided early wickets. Umesh Yadav was our X factor. Mohit provided control in middle overs. Ashwin became an off spinner.
Fielding was the best I have ever seen. With an off side packed with Raina, Dhawan, Rohit, Jadeja, Virat, Rahane often meant that grounded shots were going to fetch nothing. MSD was diving to take catches meant that slip catchers could cover more area than they normally did. Ashwin could be hidden in the field. Well, this all was expected. Unexpected was Mohit Sharma becoming a run out expert. Unexpected was Umesh Yadav running out David Millar. Unexpected was India’s fast bowlers diving for catches. It all happened. The intensity in the field was heartening to see. We wanted to win. Yes we did.  
Batting was good. Dhawan scored a 100. Kohli scored a 100. Raina scored a 100. MSD got back his finishing touches. Rahane showed he can attack. Oh yes, even Rohit scored a 100.  
MSD’s captaincy was brilliant. He kept the slips, regular and not just his favorite leg-slip, on even during the middle overs. Seeing Umesh Yadav’s penchant to bowl leg stump line, he gave him a field packed on that side of the ground. Use of short stuff was perfect. Ashwin was used as a wicket-taking option. There was plan for most batsmen – bowl short to Amla, bowl short to Younis Khan, keep cramping Gayle, suffocate Ireland with spin, let ABdV take a chance against Mohit Sharma’a arm.  
MSD was aggressive. His captaincy was unorthodox. Sometimes it was so unorthodox that it became inexplicable. Try giving me a reason for keeping that man right behind himself? Unless he was hinting BCCI that it’s time we start preparing a backup keeper, I don’t find any other reason for that field placement.
We were always expected to win against Pak and we won. We weren’t expected to win against SA and we thrashed them. Rest were no match for us.
And then, it all fell apart. It all fell apart an opposition which exposed our weakness which wasn’t exposed till now. We played with six batsmen who couldn’t bowl. We played with five bowlers who couldn’t bat. We didn’t have batsmen who could scare the opposition. We didn’t have bowlers who could take wickets at will. Team relied on clinical performances. Team played like a precision of a surgeon – finding the weakness, injecting the anesthesia, using the scalpel and operating the patient. But then, sometimes you need a butcher to counter a monster – someone who doesn’t have a weak spot, someone who doesn’t let you inject the anesthesia, someone who breathes fire. That’s when it all fell apart. We failed to act as butchers.
In 2011, we had X factor of Sehwag as batsman who often set the tone at the start. Remember his cameos? We had X factor of Yuvraj as all-rounder who won matches both with bat and ball. You cannot forget him, can you? We had X factor of Zaheer as a bowler and he provided wickets every time he was called upon to bowl. Alas, all three had fallen apart well by the time we reached 2015. Dhawan was no Sehwag. But Sehwag in 2015 wouldn’t have been better than Dhawan. Jadeja of 2015 wasn’t even a shadow of Yuvraj of 2011. But Yuvraj after 2011 did worse than Jadeja in the same period. Zaheer in 2011 had 11 years of international experience. Shami came after 2011.
We had the best possible eleven. Problem was, that best possible eleven wasn’t good enough against Australia.
That’s where it all fell apart. In the semifinal.
We couldn’t find an answer to Steve Smith all summer. We didn’t in the semifinal either.
We couldn’t stop tail-enders from playing cameos.
We didn’t know how to bat if we lost wickets early against a quality bowling attack.
We didn’t know how to not lose wickets in a heap against a quality attack.
In short, we couldn’t find out a way to beat Australia. That’s where it all fell apart.
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Now the morning schedule will have to be changed a bit. I can sleep late. No more Star Cricket early in the morning. A bit of news and then I can go back to watching music channels. People at home will be relaxed. My ferocity to own the TV remote would drop down drastically. The terrorizing aggressive dare-you-touch-the-remote cricket fan will give way to a docile okay-you-watch-I-will-go-take-a-nap common man. There will be withdrawal symptoms but they can be cured with the dose of IPL – something much less in intensity of international cricket but good enough to ensure my blood doesn’t run out of its regular dose of cricket. There will be another time for the world cup. And that another time will keep me occupied in the evenings – England it will be.
There will be new players in every team. Lot of new captains. Lot of new strategies. A new kind of cricket.
Oh yes, there may not be someone named MSD.
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Throw from mid-wicket was perfect. Maxwell had one stump to aim at and aim he did. MSD was run out. That was surprising. Well, it was more surprising to see MSD not even trying to make his ground. Maybe he had given up. Maybe he knew India’s campaign had ended. Maybe he knew it was way beyond his reach by then.
Well, I didn’t. I still had hopes till he was batting.
But with his wicket, world cup 2015 ended for me as well.
MS Dhoni - run out (Maxwell)               65 
Final on 29th was just a formality and for academic interest.
 
(Image courtesy Mid-day)