Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eight years and 1,148 ODIs later!!!

By the end of 2002, I had shifted to a new place with 3 friends of mine. We had yet not bought a TV. Anyhow, India was getting hammered in New Zealand so we didn’t regret much. WC03 started. India won its first match against Netherlands although the win was not entirely convincing. I was busy preparing for my MBA entrance interviews scheduled next month so I pretended I didn’t mind absence of TV at home. I pretended.
Before the next match started, we bought a TV. India was hammered by Australia in the next match. With that, the hell broke loose. Every expert thrashed India. Players’ personal property was attacked, effigies were burnt, and the players were almost declared national criminals.

Necessity is mother of the invention. There was a necessity. The famous huddle was invented.

“We are not getting much support from outside anyhow” said Ganguly “So we decided to generate the maximum support from within the team.” He was India’s best captain ever. Period.

We started winning. Our level of cricket improved – match by match. Batting was dangerous, bowling was murderous, and fielding was at its best. Every match had a new hero. Every performance was near perfect. Every victory was a result of collective brilliance. Most importantly, India’s WC03 campaign was a lot about SRT instead of being all about SRT during previous campaigns.

We reached the semi final – an achievement which deemed impossible by the most when we lost to Australia. In hindsight it looks that meeting an opponent tougher than Kenya in the semi final might have been better. It would have prepared us better for the final. But the way we played in that tournament, we would have won against any other team with the same ease or difficulty as we won against Kenya. Only exception might have been Australia whom we met in the final.

It was fitting that India and Australia, two best sides in WC03, met in the final.

While India’s every win was comprehensive, Australia’s victories had been fearsome.
While India’s campaign was like a typical romantic movie in bollywood – after all the running around in the movie, hero and heroine meet and mate in the end, Australia’s campaign was like a boring documentary about how tigers mate – you know how they mate and they mate exactly the same way you know.

While India’s campaign was like rags to riches story, Australia’s campaign had been like “never been poor.”

It was 23rd March 2003 when the final was to be played. I had an interview on 25th of March but I didn’t care. Not every day your team reaches a world cup final. MBA entrance exams are held every year.

We did all the preparations and sat in front of the TV. Pre-Match show started. We watched Mandira Bedi. We heard the experts.

Ganguly won the toss and asked Australia to bat. In the very first over, Zaheer put all his efforts to unsettle Gilchrist by sledging him. Only if he had put half of those efforts in his bowling, things might have been better. Zaheer went for 15 in his first over and I think we lost the match then and there. Australian openers started hammering us all around the park.

I was forced out of the room by my friends saying “You are unlucky. Better go and study for your interview” I left the room.

A wicket fell.

I came back only to be forced out again.

Again a wicket fell.

I came back again. New pair of Ponting and Martin was proving to be more dangerous than the openers. This time I was forced out of the house. “Every time you stop watching, a wicket falls. Why don’t you just roam around outside for a few hours? We might get rest of them out, very soon” I was told by my friends “Go surf the net and read about the budget. You will definitely be asked questions on this year’s budget. “

I went to an internet café. “To hell with the budget “I thought. I was hoping that superstition of me not watching the match will work “Anything for the world cup”

I came out of that café after 2 hours and saw a few guys watching the match in a shop. As soon as I entered the shop, I saw the ball slowly moving towards the boundary line. The Australian fielder chasing it was even slower. The ball reached the fence. "Had the fielder ran a bit faster, he would have stopped the ball for sure. May be Australians are jaded" I thought "See, I am not so unlucky. As soon as I started watching, Sachin hit a boundary“

But as it turned out, it was the action replay of the shot Sachin had played before I entered the shop. Next ball, he was out. That was the first ball I saw, live. Suddenly the shop was deserted.

I asked the shopkeeper, “How many did they score?”

“I just got a call from your engineering college. You have been stripped off your graduation degree. Your boss called up to say that you have been fired. With such credentials, you can not appear for your interviews as well. BTW, you owe me 10 lacks. In case you don’t pay it immediately, I am going to take out your left kidney, liver and both eyes to recover my money” he told.

Actually all he said was that we were chasing 360 but it wasn’t any better than if he had told me what I wrote above.

By the time I came back, we were 3 down. It was getting a bit cloudy so Australians operated spinners to rush through the overs. Sehwag feasted on them. We cheered every six. We cheered every four. We even cheered a dot ball - at least it wasn’t a wicket taking ball. We, especially yours truly, were all shouting at the top of our voices. For a very brief period there was a scenario under which, if D/L had come into the picture, we were close to the par score. Slight drizzle started and we desperately hoped for it to get converted into a full throttle rain.

“Stop it. Stop the bloody game. It’s raining so heavily. They will get drenched.” I started shouted like a madman “Oh no. It’s not normal rain. Its acid-rain. They will all die. Stop the match. Save lives. Bloody ICC, where is the human rights brigade?”

“Calm down. You anyhow don’t have much of a chance in your interview. A sore throat will make it even worse.” I was told by a friend of mine.

Drizzle seized and so did our hopes. We lost. Australia won. But there was no shame in the loss. We had lost to an opposition which was miles ahead of the rest. We had played our best cricket in that tournament and made a remarkable turnaround after initial hiccup. But it was a loss nonetheless and that too in a world cup final.

“Don’t be sad. It’s okay. We played so well” my father rang me up after the match “Did you eat something or not?”

“Yeah I had a very heavy dinner. I am going to sleep now” I lied. I didn’t eat anything that night. “What about you?”I asked.

“I had a heavy dinner too. Go rest. You have a big day coming up. Good night” he said.

Later my sister told that my father also didn’t eat anything that night. India’s food consumption must have gone down heavily on that night.

Things have changed since then.

Zaheer was young bowler then, may be a bit over enthusiastic – over enthusiasm can be self destructive as it happened that day. Now, he is one of the best medium pacers in the world.

Yuvraj was the fittest member in the side. Now, he is the fattest.
Harbhajan was India’s second best spinner in WC03. The best spinner sat in the dressing room on that day. Now, he is India’s leading spinner. The best spinner retired three years back.

Sachin was Sachin, is Sachin, and will always be Sachin. Same is true for Sehwag. Rest watched the WC03 final in the same way I did.

As a team, our performance in WC03 was much better than what it has been in WC11 till now. Australia is nowhere close the team it was in WC03. They are very much beatable.

On 24th of March 2011, 8 years and 1,148 ODIs later, we are meeting Australia again in a world cup final. From now on, every match is a final, isn’t it?

Hope we return the favor this time.

6 comments:

monu said...

Well written :)...time kab nikal lete ho ?

Duggad

Anonymous said...

one difference you forgot to mention .. there is no leader like dada this time around .... dhobi is more focussed on IPL .. as he said .. winning is not everything .. the process is imp .. (the process towards winning the real big thing ..IPL)

Mohit said...

Amen....

Spiff said...

dhoni is from jharkhand

Sachin Gulhane said...

Dada is not there , plus we didnt expect 2003 to reach finals , in 2011 we were expecting to win WC .. so expectation pressure is there .. but WE WILL WIN .. it's time to take revenge

Mohit said...

Well written dost !! I remember those # 206 days and hope to see India win this time