While watching a world cup build up show on ESPN, I suddenly realized that the world cup is less than a month away. For earlier world cups, I started feeling the build up for the world cup 6 months before it started. But with the IPLs, the annual t20 world cups, the epic Indo-Lankan series, the Asia Cups and the rest, there is no rest. One starts forgetting the significance of WC because of so many insignificant events occurring so frequently.
I just don’t remember the world cups for their significance. I also remember them for their timing which has always put me under pressure.
For my cricket viewing career of 22 years, 1992 was the first world cup. For India, it started on 22nd February 1992. Within a week, my final exams started. Rest you can imagine. Or maybe not. If the match was in Australia and it was a day match, I had to get up at 5:30 to watch a bit of it, get ready for the school, and leave home by 7:30 AM to reach my school by 8-8:15 AM. My school was some 12-15 KMs from my house and I used to go on my BSA SLR. Longer I stayed at home to watch a match, faster I had to be on my bicycle. India wasn’t doing very well in WC92. So when the match against Zimbabwe came up, it was like certain 2 points for the taking. In the excitement that finally I was going to see India win, I slept at 12:30AM. The match was supposed to start at 3:30 AM. I woke up at 2:00 AM just to realize there was still an hour and half to go. So what was the best way to pass my time? It was surely not studying for the next exam. I decided to count the seconds – some 5,000 odd were left. Finally the clock ticked 3:30AM. I switched on the TV hoping India would win the toss and I would be able to see 50 overs of Indians thrashing Zimbabwean bowling. Alas, it was raining. Match was delayed till 5:30. I counted again. Match was delayed till 6:30. I kept counting. Finally the match started at 7:30 AM i.e. just after I left for school.
I don’t know why ICC awarded 1996 WC to the subcontinent. It made my life difficult at it would have been organized in no other time than February-March. I had my board exams in March. Then there were engineering entrance exams in May. Anyhow, we did reasonably well in the tournament and reached the semi finals. “Just two more matches and we will be the world champs”, all of us thought. I remember it was our second last exam on the day India played Sri Lanka in the Semi Final. As soon as the exam got over, we all came rushing out to ask each other – “Who is batting?” By the time I reached home, Sri Lanka had crossed 200. 252 was the target. Sachin batted brilliantly till he slipped. Rest is history. But WC96 taught me one thing. We had a good cricket team. All we needed was a solid middle order batsman who could back up SRT at the top. I decided to be that middle order batsman. In the month of April, when it rains fire in Kanpur, I played cricket. I played all day – from dawn to dusk. Suddenly it was May and I had my entrance exams. My exams did to me what Sri Lanka did to Indian team in the semi final once SRT got out. And for your information, I never made it to the Indian middle order.
WC99 was the best world cup. It was scheduled in the month of May-June when we had summer vacations. I watched each and every match. Ball by ball.
WC03 was pretty similar to WC96. Just that India played much better cricket in WC03 as compared to WC96. While India was crossing hurdles after hurdles in February- March 2003, I was giving my MBA interviews. In every interview, there were questions/puzzles about cricket and the world cup. My last interview was on 25th of March. Final was on 23rd of March. We had stocked in every necessity in our flat before the match started. The match started. Zaheer Khan bowled a wide and sledged Gilchrist. Gilchrist hammered him. Then he started hammering the rest. By the time 35 overs were bowled, I gave up and headed to an internet café. As soon as I came out, I saw SRT getting out. I asked how much we are chasing and the answer did make me feel like breaking the mouth from where it came out. We lost. It hurts even today. Anyways, in my interview on 25th, I was asked – “What different you could have done in the final?”
My marriage was barely a month old when we met BD in our first match in WC07. While everyone in office was gung ho about the certain points in the match against BD, I was a bit skeptical – “What if we lose today?” We did. Everyone feared that we may well lose to Sri Lanka and crash out of the WC07. We did. This was a heart break for me. Now every wife will be shattered to see her husband heartbroken especially if she is not the reason for it. We had our first official argument which was as intense as this budget season of the parliament is expected to be. It looked as if re-election was not far away. But by God’s grace, Pakistan also crashed out. Now most of you would have taken part in campus recruitment. When you dream company rejects you, you feel terribly sad. When you are told that they didn’t select anyone, you feel relieved. I did feel mighty relieved after Pakistan crashed out. By the time WC11 started, my wife had not even started getting used to the amount of cricket she would need to put up with in her life. She is still trying. One her comments – “What is it? You are always watching cricket. I feel as if I am living in a stadium”
WC11 starts on 19th of February. That will be my 4th marriage anniversary. I will be under severe pressure again. I hope we don’t mess it up in Mirpur.