It’s been 9 years since then!!!

Amithabh Bacchan was just another actor in bollywood before he did Zanjeer. Rest is history. Indira Gandhi’s political career was in doldrums in the last leg of 70s. She heard of some disaster striking Bihar. She reached there before government did. When she met with people in that place, she got the confidence she had lost. She came back to power in the very next elections. India Gandhi considered her visit to this place as a turning point of her political career. As soon as MS Dhoni hit THAT six in the WC11 finals, my mind went back 9 years to this match – which was probably the first instance for me when we won an important match from a position of no hope. This was the first time when we saw that gen-next could win it even when we looked to have run out of steam – especially after Sachin’s departure. This is how I remember that match.

I was staying with 4 of my friends – all males. We didn’t have a TV at our place so we went to our friend’s place to watch the match.

Just before the match, one of the English commentators’ asked Michael Slater about who he thought was going to win. Slater replied “India” almost embarrassingly as if he was saying – “Mate, I am an Australian. How can I say that England would win?”

The match started. English were batting first. Nick Knight got out cheaply. “Great start” we thought. But what followed was a torture. Trescothick, India’s regular tormentor was at his usual best. But real torture came from Nasser Hussain. Every time he faced a ball, he looked like missing it and getting out. But his bat kept finding the edges. Every time he managed to put bat to the ball, he looked like getting out caught. Ball kept falling in empty spaces. He scored one of the most scratchy and ugly centuries. When he signaled at the number 3 written at the back of his t-shirt after completing his century, it said all about the man – he was an annoyingly gritty customer. England scored big.

“326 to chase” said a friend.

“Remember 316?” I replied.

“326, England and not Pakistan, Lords and not Dhaka” he replied back.

“I know what you mean to say. Let’s hope for the best.”

“Leave it dude. Why don’t you go study for your MBA entrance exams? We are just not going to win this one”

“I will go but before that let me see a few overs. Even if Sachin scores a few, I will be happy” I replied.

Indian innings started and boy, what a start it was. 100 were up in no time. Dada was at his aggressive best. One of his square cuts landed on Hussain’s thumb and rocketed for four.

“There you go. That is fracture number 345 for Hussain’s thumb” was comment of a friend.

Ganguly’s 35 balls 50 made even Sehwag look like a pedestrian. Sehwag tried to compete. In an attempt to do so, he ran over Ronnie Irani - by hitting 4 boundaries in an over. If flick to square leg was all wrists, his lofted shot over mid wicket was all power and paddle sweep was really cheeky. But the best shot came when he shaped to play another paddle sweep, saw Irani bowling it well outside off stump and guided it through the third man.

We got a dream start. Every dream ends as soon as you get up. And wake up we did. Ganguly was bowled by Tudor in an attempt to hit him over mid wicket. We missed a few heartbeats. Sehwag was bowled by Giles when he tried to be too cheeky. Heartbeats became a rarity. Dinesh Mongia’s wicket didn’t concern us much because for us, the bigger concern was his presence in the squad. I was very sure that Rahul Dravid, the master in English conditions, and Sachin, the master in every condition, would put up a match winning fight. I was wrong. Rahul Dravid was nailed by a very innocuous looking Ronnie Irani and Sachin fell extremely predictably – to a left arm spinner and falling cheaply in a final. Our heart had stopped beating completely. 147/5 chasing 326 is a position when tracer bullet says “India is down and out for the count”

My friend told me “It’s over dude. Now go study.”

I came back to my flat. Congruence of body and mind is an art which, if mastered, can do wonders for a person. I am yet to learn it. My eyes were on the books but ears were dying to hear a noise – a noise that signifies that a boundary had been hit or an appeal had been turned down or we were getting closer to the victory. But there was none. Maybe not many were watching the match or maybe we were yet far away from the victory – 147/5 was really a bridge too far or maybe we had already lost.

There was a small shop in front of our building which had a small TV set. I decided to go down and see the score there.

Kaif and Yuvraj had taken the score to 200.

“126 more. Only if we had restricted them to lesser than 300 but alas” I thought and came back.

I went down again.

Kaif pulled Tudor to midwicket.

“12 runs in an over, wow.” I thought.

“Are we onto something in here? Call your friends who have deserted their TV sets. Tell them that we may well see something very special today” shouted Harsha Bhogle on TV.

My friend didn’t call me. How could they? I didn’t have a cell phone in those days.

I decided to stick on. Kaif and Yuvraj kept scoring singles. They kept hitting boundaries. Runs kept flowing. This was the best exhibition of running between the wickets I have seen from India.

“Is it happening?” I thought only to see Yuvraj getting out tamely. “Damn, I am better off upstairs” I went back.

Every passing second was like a year. Several years passed by.

I came back again.

“What? 14 in 3 overs? Kaif is still there” I thought “We are winning. Yes we are winning”

Harbhajan decided to be a hero and he flopped. Kumble tried playing square cut between the keeper and the first slip but he missed the ball by 6 inches. Steve Buckner took his shot as an insult to cricket and ruled him out. Two wickets in an over meant we had again fallen behind the 8th ball.

“Is there another twist in the tale?” shouted tracer bullet on air.

I decided to stick around this time. 6 were needed of 7 balls. Kaif’s edged flew to the third-man boundary. Target was down to 2 of 6 balls. But Kaif had lost the strike.

First ball of the last over was down the leg side. Zaheer signaled wide to Buckner. Buckner smiled back as if he was saying “Let me do my job son. Did I shadow-play a pull shot to you?”

There was almost a run out on the next ball which again turned out to be a dot ball. 2 were needed of 4.

It was 597th ball in that match in Lords on 13th of July 2002 when an overthrow changed the world. We had won. Yes we had won. I was jumping along with the shopkeeper. After all we had won.

But what followed next was an image that would remain with us for the rest of our lives.

I had heard a lot about Lords during my childhood. It was known as the Mecca of cricket. You were considered as useless batsman unless you had scored a 100 in lords. For most part of the last century, women were not allowed to enter the long room or MCC balcony in Lords. There was a dress code if you wanted to enter the ground or perhaps few sections of the ground. Any chanting or shouting by the crowd was treated as an act of barbarism – only three claps were allowed. It all sounded like a fort of whites – something sounded similar to what British Raj might have been. Sunil Gavaskar was insulted and denied entry in 1990 at the Lord’s gates. In short, Lords had given the image of a rude, arrogant, old man who always looked down at others in an insulting manner.

On the other hand, Flintoff had run around naked in Wankhede when England leveled an ODI series just a few months back. That act of his looked like a huge insult to us – we can pee in your drawing room but you just cannot cross our doorsteps.

I saw Ganguly waving his shirt off, displaying his torso to the world and shouting some words which must have been expletives. He was topless, in lords, in its balcony. He was letting THEM know about his love for the ladies in their houses.
“To hell with your pride and orthodoxy and history and all that bullshit, I am peeing on it” he looked like saying “If you had the audacity to do it on our ground, I am doing it here in your balcony. So @##$#$”

I had an ear to ear smile on my face. His act had shown that Lords is nothing but yet another ground where 22 people compete to win and 2 people officiate in black & white. His act had avenged Gavaskar’s insult. His act had erased the horrendous memories of Flintoff’s torso. He had turned it around. His team had turned it around. And a new era had begun exactly 9 years back on this very day.

Till now we were a generation used to of mediocrity, had cried so often seeing many victories been converted into painful losses (some paid for, rest not), and respected strange traditions which were forced upon us from colonial ages e.g. celebrating our victories in the most modest manners. On this day, we turned into a generation which had tasted excellence, won a match when silencing Sidhu would have looked easier, and celebrated like a crazy kid who knows no traditions. It happened on this very day. So gentlemen, take some time out of your schedule today, go to your balcony, take off your t-shirt, and wave it as if a crowd of thousands is dying to see your tummy.  Feel your 9 years younger self today. Cricket is not a game for ladies – hope you get my point.


Spiff said…
I am agree..

Dada is rocks

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