As soon as I came out of examination hall, I enquired about the score. They were 200 odd in 42nd over. 240 maximum I thought and started paddling my cycle as fast as possible. As soon as I reached home, I saw Jonty Singh Siddhu making an unbelievable save at the long on boundary. “Good. We are in form” I thought. In the penultimate over, Vass hit it straight to Azhar, standing at mid wicket, and ran. Azhar could see only one stump from his angle. He threw the ball and hit the wickets direct. “It’s going to be Azhar’s day” I thought again. After all, it was Eden Gardens. Azhar was Eden’s favorite son.
We were chasing 252. It was quite hazy. These days, during a day night game, all that commentators talk about for the team batting second is the dew factor. Commentators had yet not discovered this side of nature in those days.
Our innings started. Siddhu played a fierce square cut but it was intercepted by Jyasuriya at point. We lost our first wicket.
“Hmmm…250 is a long way to go” said Geoffrey Boycott on air.
“What stupid comment. We are going to win easily” I thought. As a youth, you think experience is nothing but more candles on your birthday cake.
Then the magic started. SRT played like he normally does – the lofted shots over mid on, the effortless straight drives, the powerful square cuts, the daft touches, the paddle sweeps, it was all there. SRT and Sanjay Manjrekar were going on very smoothly. Although required run rate had started to rise marginally but we did not care. You don’t care much if God is on your side, do you?
But soon we realized that God is not infallible. Not as long as he is on this planet. In a bizarre event, SRT lost his balance and there was an appeal for stumping.
“I think he knows he is gone. It’s written all over his face” said Tony Grieg on air. I never gave much respect to his commentary. I still don’t. But for once, he looked to have made a correct remark.
But we still waited for the replays in hope.
“May be the keeper has dropped the ball before breaking the stumps. May be SRT has got back just in time. May be the batting crease has been erased completely so a decision will not be reached. May be third umpire will get a heart attack before he gives out his verdict. May be ICC has just decided that a batsman cannot be given out stumped if he is batting against a left arm spinners. May be the wires attached to square leg camera has been eaten up by rats.” are some of the thoughts that came to my mind. All of them turned out to be false. SRT was gone. The God had slipped and fallen.
When the war of Mahabharata ended, Krishna asked Arjuna to get down from his chariot first. This was against the norm. Arjuna wondered. Krishna insisted. Arjuna agreed. Arjuna got down from the chariot and Krishna followed him. During the war, countless lethal weapons had hit Arjuna’s chariot but nothing happened. It was Krishna’s powers that those weapons did not have any impact. As soon as Krishna got down from the chariot, it caught fire.
It was SRT who had made batting look easy on that pitch. Otherwise, it turned out to be a minefield. This time, Krishna seemed to have got down of the chariot ahead of Arjuna. Suddenly the ball started turning, bouncing, jumping, and all that. Suddenly scoring became more difficult than breathing. Suddenly it looked as if Sri Lanka had placed 25 fielders on the ground. It was total disaster.
Azhar played it straight to Dharamsena. Manjrekar was bowled around his legs. Srinath was sent ahead of Jadeja to hit spinners out of the attack. He did hit a boundary which was the only boundary to be hit after SRT’s departure. Just to make sure Srinath didn’t get out to spinners, he ran himself out. Jadeja tried to keep a Viv Richards type face – chewing gum with arrogance. But he looked scared while looking at the pitch. He was also bowled around the legs. Very soon, we were 8 down with only one specialist batsman left – Kambli.
There was an ad break after 8th wicket fell. As soon as the live telecast resumed, we witnessed strange scenes. It was total chaos in the stands. There was a riot going on. Posters were being burnt. Bottles were being thrown in. It looked as if there were multiple riots going on. All the players were standing on the pitch – the area farthest from the spectators
Amid crowd disturbance, when continuing the match looked impossible, match was awarded to Sri Lanka and rightly so. We were out of the tournament. It was over.
Sometime an act can turn out to be image of your life. For Marilyn Monroe, it was her skirt act. For AK Hangal, it was “Itna sannata kyon hai bhai.” For ex-prime minister, HD Devegowda, it was him sleeping in the Parliament. For Vinod Kambli, it was his crying after the match was awarded to Sri Lanka. Some said he was crying because he thought he was denied a chance to win the match on his own. I don’t think if even Kambli would have believed it. Some said that he started crying because he didn’t get a chance to bat long enough. Not many would have wanted to bat on that track. Some said he was crying because bookies had told him that he would not get his share of money as he did not get out. I find it hard to believe. Whatever said, his crying turned out to be THE IMAGE for India in WC96.
All I can hope that something like this doesn’t happen this time. No, I am not talking about losing. We have lost matches in the past and we will lose matches in the future. That is, as MSD would put it, part and parcel of the game. I just hope that what happened in Eden that night after we were 8 down is not repeated.