Friday, November 02, 2012

The Un-Jinxing!!!

I cannot talk about the entire nation but I was in a definite shock. Three buildings within the vicinity of 2 kilometers from the place where I worked were brutally attacked by terrorists. This was just part of the attack. My CEO was caught in Taj during the first night of attack and had his stories to share with all of us. We had all been glued to TV for days watching it happen. For the first time in Indian history I think, we saw live televised version of a terror attack.

There was a fear in all of us, at least in Mumbai, for weeks.

Things were chaotic. Media was coming up with sensational news every day. New agencies were being talked about to improve national security. There was a blast after 26/11 in Assam but I didn’t see anyone getting really bothered. The focus was in Mumbai. I hated this indifference.

It was one of the rare occasions in my life when cricket wasn’t the first thing in my mind. But the moment I realized about England’s tour to India starting in December, cricket was back to priority.

On cricinfo, I read Sachin’s comment about 26/11 where he had said something on the lines of “It wasn’t an attack on Mumbai. It was an attack on the country”.

He doesn’t talk much but whenever he does, he makes sense, was what I thinking.

The cricket was back in Chennai. First day of the test match went in our favor. England had lost half their side within 250. Under such scenario, you don’t expect opposition’s score to cross 300. But we have always exceeded this expectation. England ended with 316. When we started batting, I thought we would score 600+ and try for an innings victory. But our batsmen looked in hurry. English bowler’s hurried them with their determination, discipline, intensity, pace and spin. If that was not enough, Flintoff sledged Yuvraj into submission. 140 odd for 6 at the end of day 2 was a score which had put us in a gigantic spot of bother.

Those were the days when Harbhajan Singh knew what batting meant, Zaheer Khan used to believe that batting wasn’t all about moving down the leg side and try hitting the ball to ZKs in Lullanagar, and rest of the tail could hang around a bit. We still ended up conceding lead of 70+.

With England losing 3 wickets in the second innings for almost nothing, hopes of making a comeback were back. However, Andrew Strauss and Collingwood had other ideas. Twin centuries meant England was out of trouble. With England having a clear edge in the test, it was up to them to decide “how much is enough”. It was a tough call. They couldn’t have gone on too long and ate up precious time.

India had the batsmen who could last sessions after sessions although history had enough evidences of Indian batsmen collapsing hopelessly on the final day.

They couldn’t have given too little to chase and ended up like a bunch of idiots. India had Sehwag.

Finally, England declared. 387 was the target.

I boarded my flight to Kolkata.

I was going to the treasure land - Barbil, a small town in Orissa which is known for abundance of iron ore.

“Don’t tell me we have lost.” I called up a friend as soon as I landed on Kolkata airport.

“Such a pessimist you are. We are 131/1 and will win tomorrow”

“Sehwag?” I was confirming more than asking it.

“Yes. Who else?”

“Gone?”

“Yes but we will win” he was beaming.

Sehwag had scored a 68 ball 83 and India was scoring at more than 4 runs per over. This was exceptional. This was phenomenal. This was historical. My only regret was – why it happened when I was in the air and not on the ground.

Next day went in travelling and seeing iron ore mines. While seeing the mines were a good experience, the roads travelled were the worse I have ever seen. More than that, I feared for my life. The town was in the heart of Naxal activities. Things were scary there. Not more than three months after I came back, Naxals blasted the railway track in that area. And they did it again. And again.

But my mind wasn’t far from cricket. Every now and then, as soon as my cell phone could catch the network, I would call up a friend to enquire about the score.

“Gambhir gone”

“Dravid and Sachin doing it fine”

“Dravid gone but don’t worry. We have Laxman, the crisis man”

“Laxman gone. If Sachin doesn’t erase the memories of Chennai – 1998 today, maybe he will never do it”

“They are going fine but it will be tough”

I decided – enough is enough. I told the Miner’s employee, who was accompanying us, “Boss, I think we have seen enough mines. I don’t think one mine differs that much from another and even if it does, I am not competent enough to differentiate. Let’s go back to the hotel and seal the victory.”

He was more than happy at my suggestion and back we were.

Sachin was batting with Yuvraj and he was batting beautifully. Flintoff was trying his best to sledge out Yuvraj but wasn’t succeeding. Maybe it’s the presence of greatness at other end which ensured sanity of mind for Yuvraj. Well not maybe, definitely it was.

A trademark paddle sweep and we did it. We won the test match. Sachin got to his century. It was, ladies and gentleman, like a dream coming true – not for Sachin but for me.

I would not be becoming a cricketer – this realization had come very early in my life. So I played cricket through Sachin. Sachin will never win us a test match while chasing a tough target – a doubt which had occupied my mind ever since that gloomy evening in 1998. The doubt wasn’t cleared but it was brutally murdered with that beautifully crafted innings which had determination, elegance, aggression, arrogance and finally sweetness of victory.

The ghost of 1998 was buried. The blot on Sachin’s CV that he cannot see the team to a victory while chasing difficult targets was erased. More than anything else, it was a well fought and earned victory while we were all recovering the mental trauma of 26/11. The victory didn’t erase the pain of that horrific attack but it did make us all smile while we were all trying to recover from the trauma. The nation smiles when Sachin does – had been a theory for close to two decades and it was further strengthened on that evening. And Sachin’s word said it all

“In no way am I trying to say that this will make everyone forget what happened in Mumbai. But I'd like to thank England for coming back to play Test cricket. We've witnessed a wonderful match. People are again enjoying cricket the way it's meant to be.”

Few days later, another Jinx was broken. South Africa chased down target of 414 against Australia and for an infinitely small period, washed off the tag of Choker. Maybe the period of 11st December to 21st December should be declared as a period of Un-Jinxing. 

Picture courtesy - Cricinfo.

1 comment:

esspiff said...

Sachin scored a century..so back to normal