Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World cup memories!!!

After watching the last two world cups on a movie channel, finally it is back where it should be – on the sports channels. And the sports channels are doing their best to refresh our memories of the world cup in form of 24X7 highlight packages– some always attract me (Any of India-Pak encounter), some should attract a ban via the Supreme Court (India-BD 2007). While these programs are turning the TV remote into a big bone of contention in my house, they are helping me relive lot of old memories.

When a Lankan headed out a Semi finalist, 1996 - Richie Richardson was trying his best to win the Semi final against Australia whereas rest of his team mates were doing exactly the opposite. It was as if they had told him – let’s see if you are good enough to get the runs before we commit suicide. In front of Warne, who was in supreme form, each of the other West Indian batsmen were looking like the husband who faces his wife after returning home late & empty handed on the wedding anniversary whereas Richardson was looking like the wife. Warne bowled a googly and Richardson swept it so hard that ball boys at the square leg boundary ran for cover. While everyone had missed the ball, mid-on fielder threw it back to Warne. It must have been the only sweep shot, which was extremely well played, in the history of cricket to have been fielded by mid-on fielder. While the ball was travelling to square leg boundary at a lightning speed, square leg umpire BC Coorey intercepted it with his head. It saved three runs and sent Richardson off-strike. West Indies lost by 5 runs.
Sri Lanka, after the Australia refusing to play in Sri Lanka, was desperate to face Australia in order to have its revenge. Poetic justice was delivered in the final and Sri Lanka won. What if Australia had not reached the finals and Sri Lankans had met a road block named BC Lara in the finals? BC Coorey did play his part in Sri Lanka’s WC win. His save actually made a huge difference. But it is yet to be recognized by Sri Lanka Cricket Board. Umpiring is such a thankless job.

When an Indian ran, dived forward and took a catch, 1992 – For so many years, I heard the stories of Kapil Dev’s THAT catch from my father. I saw it many a times on TV. It was a great catch but there was nothing fancy about it. I was growing up in TV age when you are not considered to be a good fielder you, fielding at first slip, dive to stop the ball which is headed towards…well first slip. And I had seen Rhodes flying to get a batsman out. But I was yet to see an Indian diving to take a catch, forget diving. Only Azhar had come close to my definition of good fielding. So when Alan Border mistimed his shot, I wondered why someone, in navy blue dress, was running so fast. The fielder ran from long-off to mid-off, dived forward, took the catch and got up with the ball with the same expressions on his face as Dharmendra had when he won Filmfare’s life time achievement award – finally.
If a 2 minute promo is made out of cricketing events in WC92, that catch will be India’s only entry. Okay, may be Kiran More will also make an entry but as an extra – it was Miyadad’ show. That was the first time I saw Ajay Jadeja. I was glad to see an Indian field like that. He took many more great catches in his career which abruptly ended. Unfortunately, it was alleged that he himself was finally caught.

Thanks for letting us win, 1987 – It was Pakistan (may be their strongest team ever to have played a WC) against West Indies (not their best but still better than the most). The match was crucial, more so for West Indies. Late hitting brought Pakistan back into the match. They needed 11 odd runs in the final over with 1 wicket in hand. Abdul Qadir looked in right batting form and great hurry to get those runs. Non striker Salim Jaffar looked in a greater hurry to reach the other end. I think it was the first ball of the last over when he had reached the mid pitch even before C. Walsh crossed the umpire. Walsh, in true cricketing spirit, warned him before doing him a Mankadad. Jaffar survived. Qadir took Pakistan to victory. Walsh was given a special prize for his sportsman spirit by Pakistan’s president.
Only if Walsh had been shade less of a gentleman, West Indies would have won that match and kicked Pakistan out of the tournament. May be West Indies would have won the world cup also. Australia would have been denied the biggest turning point in their recent cricket history of 25 odd years – their WC win. But this would surely have made one Australian a bit happier – Greg Chappell. Australian Media would have scientifically proved that Walsh’s crime was bigger than Chappell’s underarm saga.

The huddle Story, 2003 – After terrible loss against Australia, Team India was thrashed by everyone in media – be it Indian or not. Typical frenzy broke in the country. It all looked extremely bleak for team’s morale. So during the next match, when I saw players forming a circle, putting their hands on each other’s shoulders and forming something which was later known as huddle, it looked very strange to me. I wondered if it’s some fitness exercise or its new form of praying or they were simply acting on what their captain explained later about this act – We are not getting any support from outside so we decided to support each other. As it turned out, India went on rampage after their loss to Australia till they met them again in the final. It was India’s best ever performance and longest winning streak.
I just loved Ganguly’s attitude towards media and everyone after the match – “Go to hell. We can and we will do it”. Even a US president, elected a few years later, picked up some tips for his electoral punch line.

What I remember most is something I never witnessed, 1983 – For almost 24 years, my father kept telling me the stories of his most memorable day – 25th June 1983. How Srikanth’s square drive just vanished in the air or how Kapil hit a straight six or how everyone consoled each other, when India could manage only 183, that reaching the final of a WC itself was much beyond their expectations. Then there were stories about the second half of the match – Sandhu clean bowled Greenidge or how Richards batted as if he would finish the match in 10 overs or how Kapil took the greatest catch ever or how India bowled full to dismiss Lloyd or how everyone celebrated after the unthinkable happened. Then there were stories of Kapil’s 175 against Zimbabwe which must be world’s most missed unrecorded event. There were stories of Yashpal Sharma’s 61 against England. And there were more. And more stories. I read about them so many times. I have seen highlights of all these, apart from Kapil’s THAT innings, so many times that I even remember good part of the on-air commentary. So WC83 is the most repeated world cup in my mind. But I do not have any live-memories of WC83. I don’t remember if I saw anything on TV then as TV was a rarest of rare commodity in those days.
Ever since 1987, I have prayed to GOD for giving me MY world cup - a world cup which we win. A world cup about which I can tell my children in the same way my father did for HIS world cup. They pray have been unheard till now.