Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lord's - as I saw it!!!

Cricket is the only game I follow. Hence any remark I make about other games cannot be considered an educated one. But as per my limited knowledge about other games, they hardly involve three totally different kind of skills – bowling, batting and fielding. Hardly any game has as many as three variables – runs, wickets and time. Cricket is not easy.
While I try to put up a brave face and always believe that my team will win, if I think otherwise I have no business in following the game, I am a bad viewer. I chicken out whenever the games get close. Oh that superstition that if I am not watching, Indian team will perform.
I was roaming around aimlessly on the roads when Kanitkar hit that four. I had disconnected myself from the rest of the world when MSD got out in WC11 semi-final.
I get nervous, a bit too much.
I may well die of a heart attack one day worrying if India is going to make it.
Well we did it yesterday. I survived. Here is how I saw those five days.

Day 1 – Where is the bloody pitch?
MSD loses the toss.
“Oh no, he is not even winning important tosses now” messages a friend. I agree. How could he not win a toss when he must have?
“This the greenest pitch I have seen for a very long time” is consensus among experts. How green it could be I wonder.
I reach home. Only thing I am interested is the pitch. I switch on the TV to have a look and fail to understand the fuss about the pitch. I fail to understand because I see no pitch. They have marked some space on the lush green ground and playing on it.
If we win, I will tweet “Dear England. Growing grass is easy. Playing cricket is not. Thanks.” is what I am thinking. I am also thinking of Perth 2008. I am also thinking of Wankhede 2012. Poetic justice is what I am thinking.
We do well in session 1. We jump in a well in session 2.
Sir gets out to Moeen ali. To Moeen Ali. On this pitch. Damn.
My faith is wavering. “Drop him I announce”
From 145/7, I am used to of seeing 150 all out. From 145/7, I see end of day as 290/9.
What. A. Turnaround.
Credit goes to BK. More credit goes to Ajinkya. Ajinkya Laxman it is.
All those complains of retirements and dropping of stalwarts should be put to rest. 300 is no longer an impossible for us now. It had become in those days.
Day 1 – India.

Day 2 – England of 2014 or India of 2011?
No. We don’t get to score 300. But 295 isn’t bad. In past, our better batting line ups have folded for much less than that on flatter pitches.
“They will be in trouble. Our bowling may not be better than their bowling but their batting is surely worse” I tell a friend.
BK, like in batting, comes to fore. For a man who has links with Meerut, BK is astonishingly calm. Calmness isn’t a quality one would associate with people from Meerut.
He runs in. He bowls. He takes wickets. He raises both his arms, smiles, hugs his team mate and goes back to his bowling mark. No histrionics. No tantrums. Just plane simple bowling, batting and fielding.
BK bowls 16 overs on the go. 16.
He has three wickets. Three.
Finally Binny, India’s answer to the search of seaming all-rounder, comes on to bowl. Ballance finds the most difficult gap with precision – the gap between keeper and first slip. Oh well.  
Sir takes Root. Root says he wasn’t out. Stuart Binny says hello. God smiles and marks Rahane as “you are next”.
Yet, England are winning. They are 4 down for 200 odd.
Vijay bowls. You play five bowlers and yet it is a part timer, who doesn’t even bowl for his state side that regularly, needed before the new ball?
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man leading this team.
Vijay gets Moeen out.           
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man leading this team.
Remember Melbourne 2011? India were well placed just before stumps – 210 or so for 2 while Australia score 300 odd. Suddenly they lost SRT – just before stumps. Next morning, they lost RSD. They lost the match.
England are well placed. They lose Moeen Ali. Soon they lose Ballance.
Match is on. The ghosts of Melbourne 2011 has just visited England. Maybe that’s what they complain about their hotel.
219/6, the match is on.
Day 2 – Nearly India.

Day 3 – Twists, twists and more twists
There is a partnership of 50 odd. Prior gets out. Stokes maintains his consistency of trying to achieve what great Sir Ajit Agarkar achieved in Australia. Stokes fails in greatness but cannot be faulted for lack of efforts. He scores nothing. Not golden ducks but ducks nonetheless.
Broad comes. Broad slogs. Broad goes.
280/9.
We may get a lead. Who would have thought?
Oh that last wicket partnership. Not again.
319 is the score when Anderson reverse sweeps Sir. He succumbs. Poetic justice or kind of.
Such situations are tailor made for people like Sehwag, Warner. Dhawan wants to bat like them.
He does. For a bit. Then falls. I think it is that small ponytail at the back of his head that causes the problems. If he gets rid of it, he will surely have better head position and score heavily. Nonetheless.
Vijay and Pujara bat, bat and bat.
Soon it becomes boring. England seems to have resigned.
Pujara does something strange. Fishes. Goes back.
India’s #4 has a history of failing at Lord’s. Virat is trying his best to emulate his predecessor. Maybe that explains hundreds in losing causes. Maybe that explains not scoring two tons in both innings of a test. Maybe that explains failure at Lord’s. 
God decides it’s time to act on his “you are next” thing. Rahane elbows a ball to the keeper and is made to walk back.
Match on.
Vijay is stable. MSD is not. Somehow, God knows how, he avoids getting out.
What a day? What drama.
Day 3 – drama, drama, drama.

Day 4 – Sir owns the world
For some strange reasons, MSD tries to be Dravid. Whenever he has done so, he has failed miserably. Today is no different.
Binny comes. Binny goes. Oh my dear Langer. What have you done?
Vijay has been batting like Dravid in this series. He decides to do a Dravid – gets out on 95 in his first test at Lord’s.
Suddenly, India is looking in deep trouble. As Ravi Shastri would have put it “India is staring down the barrel and there is little light at the end of it”
India needs a miracle.
Out of nowhere, Sir Jadeja converts the bat in his hand into a sword. Or it is Adam Gilchrist at number 7 once again.
Sir Jadeja. The words are enough.
Full balls are cover driven with amazing power. Short balls are pulled with disdain. He has no fear. He has instilled fear in the bowling side.
His shellshocks England.
My faith is restored in him. Apologies Sir.
Within no time, the match has turned. On its head. Funny part is, England don’t even know what just happened.
319 is the target. 319 is what England scored in first innings.
Sir Jadeja at it again. Knocks of the first one - Robson.
Then there is a partnership.
A friend invites me to his house – for Chai Pakoda. When it is raining outside, who can say no to such invitation?
I enter his house expecting to watch the match. He, with another friend, is watching Holiday. Akshay Kumar is romancing Sonakshi Sinha. India has lost a big prospect of fast bowling to Bollywood. Well, Sonakshi has the built for the same.
India is looking for wickets. Akshay Kumar is looking for the head of sleeper cells.
Both are not happening.
“Finally a wicket” comes a text from a friend. Akshay shoots the main villain.
Soon there are 2 more. Then again a partnership.
4 down for 105.
6 wickets and India win.
214 runs and England win.
All two results are possible. Thirds looks a remote possibility – a tie. Clear forecast means draw is ruled out.
Day 4 – India

Day 5 – It happens
Will it be today? Or not?
JohannesburgWellington and London or Johannesburg, Wellington but not London.
I will not watch. The age old superstition.
That bloody partnership. Runs, runs and runs. Not a single wicket.
Damn. Not again.
“What a scorcher from Ishant? Made Raina out of Moeen” messages a friend. Thank God. There is a wicket. But Ishant? Scorcher? Seriously?
And there it starts. Phone just keeps buzzing. It is a collapse. It is a procession.
I have been told it is the short pitch stuff that’s doing the trick. Somebody tweets, “Can’t believe bowlers just playing with batsmen’s ego and batsmen falling for it”
What the hell is happening?
I reach home. I have got two TVs at home. I hardly get to watch any of them. I lose the battle for remote – always.
One of them is connected to inverter. Other one is not. And as luck would have it, there is no power at home.
My younger one is watching Krrish 3. For 319th time I am sure. Damn.
“Sir is Bijali” a friend texts.
“Yesssss” that’s the loudest yes ever to have come out of my mouth. I know we have done it. Somehow, after immense pleading, I get hold of the TV set. We have done it.
And how.
It is Sir running out Anderson. With a direct hit.
In movies, Mr. Anderson easily dodges bullets from Neo. In real life, Mr. Anderson fails to dodge a throw.
You know why? Because Sir is not “the one”. Sir is “the only one”. Or whatever that means. PJ.
21st July 2011 it was. Lord’s test was starting. Two of the best sides in the world were competing for supremacy – India the number one side versus England the number two.
While England was a strong side especially because they were playing at home. India fancied a win due to the team they had – they had one of the best batting line up to have played for them, their left arm pacer was having a dream run, their off spinner wasn't far away from being in top form, their young pacer had taken 22 wickets in a test series in West Indies and the entire team was on a high. Not to mention the captain who couldn't do anything wrong.
Few weeks later, it all changed for worse. And it kept getting worse.
21st July 2014 is the day we won again. At the same ground where our slide had started.
Life has come a full circle.
Hope we rise again.
Hope it is not a flash in the pan. Hope.
Hope is all we have. Hope is all we always had.
We also have Sir. Hail Sir Jadeja.
PS: Yes I tweeted “Dear England. Growing grass is easy. Playing cricket is not. Thanks.”

Image courtesy - Indiatimes and others