Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The heart breaker!!!

Every time Sachin scores a century, be it an ODI or a test match, all my cricket loving friends send congratulatory messages to each other via chat/SMS/mail/phone. Coincidently, all of us started following cricket around the time when SRT made his debut. And I can’t help but reiterate the fact, if he wasn’t around in 90s, cricket would not have got such a strong following in India. Its not just about how he helped India win during 90s, it’s also about how we capitulated against the easiest of challenges in his absence/after his departure or when he failed. Here is one of the examples – India’s loss against Zimbabwe in 1999 world cup. It’s completely based on what I remember of this match so factual errors are unavoidable.

What I like most about 1999 WC is that it happened during my summer vacations. Surprisingly, Kanpur had just 5-6 hours of daily power cuts during those summer vacations. Well if don’t you know Kanpur, 5-6 hours of daily power cut is like getting sugar at 12 Rs. Per KG.

We lost the first match against RSA where Lance Klusner was denied the credit he deserved for his power hitting during final overs of the match. May be this is because he was hitting Ajit Agarkar’s bowling. Klusner got so angry with this injustice that he killed almost every bowler who came his way in that tournament.

Next match was against Zimbabwe - an opposition which was always counted as 2 easy points in any competition. As the clock ticked 2:30 PM and I switched on to ESPN/Star Sports, I saw Harsha Bhogle with a sad face. To see him without a smile is like seeing a news item on Vivek Oberoi without Salman Khan’s name getting mentioned in it. He told that SRT’s father had passed away last night and SRT was headed back to India. I felt sad for SRT. I also felt a little worried about the match. In fact I felt a little more than worried.

“You heard?” my father called up at my tenant’s place which was ground floor. Actually, telephones were still not a necessity in our lives during those days. Since my tenant worked in telephone department, he had a phone (landline phone) and we also used it for our once-in-a-week phone call.

“Yeah. Sad” I said.

“Yeah. And we have lost the match also”

“But it hasn’t yet started” I laughed at him.

“Well, Sachin is not playing. That means we are going to lose it” he was such a big SRT fan.

“Oh come-on. Its not that only one player wins us every time”

“Is it? When was the last time we won when he wasn’t in the side?”

“Anyways, it’s Zimbabwe. We will win even with 6 players. What time you are coming back?” I was beaming with confidence.

“Around 6:30.”

“Great. By than we might well win the match as well”

“Haha” and he hung up the phone.

Match began. It was Zimbabwe batting first. I thought we would book them below 200 and chase down in 35 overs to make up on net run rate also. I don’t think we started that badly. But they kept on scoring and we kept letting them do so. A saying should have been popular among Indian bowlers during those days – “Always be careful of a florist in Zimbabwe because if he has not given you Grant, he will give you Andy. Both hurt real bad.” As in many matches, these two frustrated, piled, ridiculed, irritated our bowlers but didn’t get out cheaply. Andy scored a half century and Zimbabwe scored 252.

But surprisingly, there were only two half centuries in their innings and second one didn’t come from their side. Indians conceded more than 50 extras. When you do so, you eat up time as well. So India got 4 overs lesser than 50 to score 253. 253 weren’t going to be cake walk for sure.

India began their reply and started loosing wickets.

I looked at my dad. He gave me a “See, I told you” look.

Then there was a partnership between S. Ramesh and Jadeja.

S. Ramesh was an extremely talented batsman. He had no footwork. None at all. “But so what? Even Sehwag doesn’t have much of footwork?” some may argue. But if we compare Sehwag’s footwork with Ramesh’s, it’s like comparing Katrina Kaif’s oomph factor with Nirupa Roy’s. In the match against England in the same tournament, S Ramesh displayed how to make bowler kill himself by getting embarrassingly close to getting out without actually getting out. Later in his career, when criticised too much for his footwork, Ramesh did improve his footwork. He started moving his foot by a few inches after playing/ missing the ball.

Coming back to the match, as soon as Ramesh completed his half century, he decided to show his footwork against spinners. He started coming down the pitch and lifting the ball. Finally, after 2-3 attempts he succeeded and got out. Suddenly few more wickets fell including of Jadeja’s. Then there was a partnership between Mongia and Robin Singh.

Robing Singh again belonged to the league of batsmen who were extremely ugly but equally determined and effective. He was a true fighter but better known for puking on the pitch. He still holds the world record for vomiting most number of times on a cricket pitch. Jokes apart, he had the ability to finish a close match.

When we needed some 35-36 of last 5 overs, Mongia got out and in came Srinath. Last year Srinath, along with Anil Kumble, had won a match from much worse position against a much stronger team. I thought he could repeat it.

He hit two sixes over mid wicket and match was almost in the pocket. We needed 7 of 12 with 3 wickets in hand.

Campbell handed the ball to Olonga who was like a lottery. He could give away 30 runs in the last over or take a hat-trick. There was just one way to find out what he was he going to do. Try. Campbell did.

1st Ball: I think it was a dot ball.

2nd Ball: Almost Yorker length, Robin Singh tried to dig it out but was caught at cover. We needed 7 of 10 with Kumble-Srinath pair on crease. “They scored more than 50 against Australia last year. We need just 7 now” I told my father. He wasn’t listening. He was too tensed.

3rd Ball: I think Kumble took a single.

4th Ball: Srinath hit it for 2.

5th Ball: Bowled. Srinath had a special ability. Whenever he tried to hit a six, his success rate was decided by the direction in which he looked. If he looked towards the stands, he hit it for a six. If he tried to be a little God fearing and looked heavenwards, he got bowled. Pick up his video tape, I bet you can’t prove this theory wrong. Srinath, feeling nervous, did look heavenwards on that ball and was bowled.

6th Ball: V Prasad, the most inept batsman India has ever seen, came to the crease. He knew just one stroke which was to shuffle across the stumps, touch the ball and run like blinds. He played this stroke or tried to do so. The ball was an in cutter, hit him below the knee rolls, every one in Zimbabwe appealed and it was then when time stood still. Umpire started raising his finger. Till very last moment I thought he would put it in is nose to clean it up. Alas, it wasn’t SK Bansal.

Prasad was given out leg before. We had lost to Zimbabwe that too in a world cup match. Billion hearts broke.

I didn’t eat anything that night and neither did my father. Later I heard one of my friend’s neighbours broke his TV set.

I had seen defeats before. But grief here was insurmountable.

But as they say, there is always a next time which could be better than the last one.

We lost to BD in WC2007. This time even SRT couldn’t save it.

1 comment:

Spiff said...

Sporting superstars come and go but the Heroes we find while watching a sport when we were young are the most cherished. (Sachin, Schumacher etc) The intensity of the feelings is there and thats why we get such a blog post highlighting the role of Sachin and me fully agreeing with it.