Occasion: Final of the cricket tournament – Maharashtra Krida
Teams: Infosys and Barclays
Venue: AFK ground, Pune
Date: 16th March, 2013
Don't chew more than you can swallow is what I was thinking after making big promises to go to the ground and watch the match. It was Saturday morning and I was feeling really lazy. However, a true man will always keep his word, his friend’s secrets and Sunny’s clippings. I had to keep my word.
I reached the ground with another friend of mine. The biggest challenge of finding the ground turned out to be a piece of cake because of Google maps.
The ground was exactly opposite of India’s test venues – only place where one could find any greenery, there was loads of it, was the pitch. Both the teams, my team and opposition, were doing the warm ups. The toss was already done; we had won it and opted to field.
The match started.
Their openers reflected a typical Indian score – 12/2. It was time for Kanishk Singh to walk in – a right handed batsmen who had batting stance like Gundappa Vishwanath. He played a few pleasing strokes but was soon found out by KP, one of the medium pacers in our team. KP played a bit of chin music and Kanishk folded up. In the same over, KP picked one more wicket and I joked, “He is like SIR. When he takes one, he takes two”. If not for a dropped return catch, KP would have taken 3 in four balls but then, I compared with him SIR and that explains. It had to be exactly two in an over.
Since morning, I had not eaten anything but a bit of my toothpaste. I needed something very desperately to avoid fainting. So I, along with a friend, went on hunt for some food.
By the time we came back, they were 47 for five in 11 overs. While Gaurav and KP had ensured that the opposition didn’t run away with a good start and were on the back foot during middle overs, Dilraj and Vinay cashed in with canny spin bowling. Dilraj was really impressive – bowling excellent line, generous flight and getting good amount of turn. He was hit for just one boundary and that too was an edge through the slip cordon. At the other end, Vinay was equally good.
Vinayak, a right handed batsman, was playing a MSD like innings – slow but steady. He guided the tail well. We kept on taking wickets. The match kept moving. Meanwhile KP did it again – two wickets in an over. I laughed.
On the other hand, Vinayak lifted the tempo during the last few overs. As I said, it was quite an MSD innings – slow to start with and finishing with a flurry. He played well.
When KP was bowling to the last batsman, there was a chance for him to pick up five. But again, it couldn’t have happened. It had to be exactly two in an over – I had compared him with SIR after all.
112 is the score what they managed. Unless cricket is nothing but an insect for you, you would know how many we needed to win. We had 25 overs to do it.
Start of our innings was nothing but a laugh riot. Bagchi, wicket keeper and opening batsman, needed 13 more runs to become the highest scorer in the tournament. Unfortunately his batting partner, Gaurav, looked in no mood to allow Bagchi to score those 13 runs. No, it wasn’t the usual “yes, no, sorry” run out story. The way Gaurav was
batting murdering the opposition’s bowling attack, it looked like
Gaurav was going to score all those 113 runs himself. We all kept teasing
Bagchi, “Hurry up else he won’t leave any runs for you to score”
Gaurav had gone berserk, simple berserk. A lofted six over mid off, a lofted six over long on, a pull over mid wicket, a cover drive over the cover fielder – it looked as if the match would be over by the tenth overs. Thrice the ball was lost.
Such was the ferocity was his batting that it all started looking too boring – it was just so one-sided. Maybe that was the mistake Gaurav made – he got too bored and allowed the madness of his methods to take over. A mishit found the fielder and gone he was.
Opposition may have reached the ground at 8:00 AM in the morning but they arrived only after the fall of Gaurav’s wicket. And boy, did they arrive or what.
Baghchi, who had become the highest scorer in the tournament by then, was bowled by their right arm spinner – someone who looked like Abdul Qadir bowling left arm spin, such was his action. He bowled beautifully. The control, the flight and the purchase he got off the pitch was amazing. He was opposition’s second best bowler of the day.
I commented, “Maybe it is a day for left arm spinners”. Later in the day, Xavier Doherty proved me wrong, horribly wrong.
It was the moment when Kanishk Singh caught my eyes for the second time in the day. Bowling left arm fast medium, he showed excellent control. He had it all – line, length, swing and control. He even bowled a ball which spun like a classic leg-spinners delivery. He was their best bowler of the day.
Sandeep was adjudged LBW when he tried playing across the line. Two more were clean bowled by Kanishk.
Every time we lost a wicket, I inquired, “Do we have enough batsmen?”
“Till number eleven” is what the answer I got, every time.
When KP was caught at deep cover, we were six down and the answer to my question changed to “We have two more”
While Gaurav’s cameo had ensured that required run rate was not a problem, Kanishk and their left arm spinner made sure that wickets were.
With more than 40 needed at less than three an over but just four wickets in hand, we needed some sense to prevail. We needed to see off Kanishk and the left arm spinner. We needed someone to be smart, play normal cricket and drop the urge of becoming a hero.
Suddenly the bowling which looked toothless had found some venom – the discipline is what they lacked at the start. Suddenly the fielding which looked terrible was notched up by multiple notches – so pathetic it was at the start. Suddenly a team which could have complained of getting molested was suffocating the other team – such is the beauty of the game, it turns and turns suddenly.
The laughter of contempt for opposition’s inability to compete in one camp had changed into shouting of encouraging slogans to go for the kill in other camp.
For the batting side, runs had totally dried up. Number of balls didn’t matter. The fielding side knew exactly how many balls did they need – four balls, four wicket taking balls.
If few overs back I was wondering how the other team managed to reach the final, they were showing me how they did that. How it all had changed.
The game was on.
It was the time when Dilraj and Hrishikesh got their senses together and started a partnership which turned out to be a match sealing one.
To start with, Hrishikesh looked edgy. A brave leave was two inches away from being termed as a terrible misjudgment. An outside edge went between the first slip and the keeper. An inside edge went between the keeper and the off stump. Good thing was that Hrishikesh kept fighting.
Right from the start, Dilraj looked cool as a cucumber – as NS Sidhu would have put it. First over he faced from Kanishk, who was looking tired at the end of his spell, worked as a shackles breaker – two covers drives for four.
Both the lefthanders started rebuilding in their own ways. Hrishikesh did it mainly in singles whereas Dilraj did hit a few boundaries. There was a moment when both the batsmen were at the middle of the pitch and anyone of them could easily have been run out but fielder’s confusion of which end to throw saved them. Having options is a good thing but not always.
Sensible thing both of them did was to see off Kanishk’s and left arm spinner’s over. After that, it was easy, well relatively easy.
When just ten more runs were needed to win, I came out of the ground to click a few photographs from outside the ground. I saw Bagchi ruing to Gaurav about the ball he missed and lost his stumps. Bagchi could easily have explained the pain of his dismissal without using any words – it was all written over his face. You may say that cricket is a boring game because once a batsman gets out; all he has to do is to sit in the dressing room. But that’s what makes it challenging. Because once you get out, you cannot do anything but sit idle in the dressing room. So don’t get out, just don’t. The pain of getting out was visible on tournament’s highest run getter – he had played two matches lesser than the second best.
As I started to strike a conversation with Gaurav, I saw him shouting “Oye Jeet Gaye” and off he went running inside the ground. Dilraj had hit a straight six, taken out the stumps and was dancing.
Soon everyone joined him. The team had won the championship.
There were handshakes all around. There were cheers for the winning team. There were cheers for the losing team. If Ravi Shastri was around, he would have said “In the end it would be fair to say that cricket was the real winner”. In his absence, yours truly did the honors.
I couldn’t stay for the presentation ceremony as I had to rush back but my purpose of going to the ground was fulfilled. I wanted to find out the difference between “Our team winning” and “My team winning”. The difference lies in happiness of jumping in front of the TV and sheer joy of jumping with the team – the difference is gigantic, the difference is pleasant.
In an hour’s time, I had to disconnect a friend’s phone when he was telling me about Shikhar Dhawan’s majestic debut because I needed to explain it to my son – why I missed the Parent-Teacher’s meeting in the morning. Seeing my explanations were not hitting any luck, I turned his attention to the character I consider the biggest obstacle in me watching cricket – Doremon.
As they say, there are no permanent friends or foes in life – it is just the change that maintains its permanency.