Let me start with a song.
The winner takes it all
The loser standing small
Beside the victory
That's her destiny
Oh the song from ABBA. Nothing captures the brutal reality of life in a more apt way. And in a cruel way. Nothing captures the truth better.
Sydney Cricket Ground. And truth is what we shall all face tomorrow. In SCG. Sydney Cricket Ground. That circular part of your body located at Moore Park Road.
SCG has always been one of my favorite grounds. No, no. I had never personally visited the ground till 2014. But I always liked it. The sound of it. Not sure when did it start.
Maybe it was in 1992 series when the only test we competed was played in Sydney. I had read before that match that it turns there hence should suit India in case they play a spinner. We played four pacers. On final day, Manoj Prabhakar was doing something he did as his last appearance for India – he bowled off spin. Tendulkar took a wicket. Ravi Shastri took four. Australia drew the test. They won other four.
Maybe it was VVS’ 167 which won my heart. On that forgettable tour of 1999-200, VVS’ 167 was the only positive one could take out.
After that, VVS changed as a batsman.
He played in Eden. Year was 2001. After 2001, everything changed in cricket for us.
God showed the world something it had never seen in 2004 on SCG. He showed us how to make a double hundred. A double hundred without playing a single cover drive. Not a single cover drive. None. Zilch. Nada.
Even a loss in Sydney 2008 turned things for us. We spanked Australian ego of considering Indians a pushover on fast bouncy pitches. Perth was victory. Sydney was inspiration.
Oh yes, we won first final of CB series in Sydney. Sachin got a 100. More than that, he was still there when MSD scored the winning runs. MSD must have been disappointed. Winning stroke was a four. Not a six.
Dear Sydney. You have always provided me reasons to like you. They all are in SCG – that circular part of your body on Moore Park Road.
Then there is that most beautiful view of sun setting behind the pavilion. That’s one of the best views for a cricket fan. My only regret during my visit to SCG in 2014 was that I couldn’t see the sun setting behind the pavilion. I couldn’t have seen it that day. Not only because there aren’t any visits for tourists in the evening but also the clouds. But come 2015 and I would like to see something. I would like to see Sydney do what it has always done. I would like SCG to give me one more reason to like it.
Just think of it. We landed in Australia with one of the weakest teams ever. Earlier teams have always had better bowlers – a Kapil, a Kumble, a Harbhajan, a Zaheer.
Who did we have this time? I don’t even remember.
Yet we competed and competed well. We did lot better than 1999. If we had bit more luck, we might have done as well as 2004 or surely better than 2008. I am not even naming 1992 or 2012. For me, those series didn’t happen. No, they didn’t.
Even though we lost the test series by a margin of 2-0, there was lot less shame in it than earlier losses. We made people appreciate our performance. Friends in Australia tell me that people loved the way we played. It was all in papers. Last month when I was in a pub in Melbourne, I bumped into a stranger. The moment I told me where I was from, he was going all gaga about how good Kohli is. He asked me if I was there for the world cup. I replied with a sad face that I would be going back next week. He asked me who I think would win the world cup. There was just one answer he could have got for me. “Mate, Kohli is your man if you are going to do it” was his parting reply.
Okay, we were nonexistent in the ODI tri series. I wish the tri series itself was nonexistent.
Come the world cup. 2015. The #WontGiveItBack propaganda. The Mauka Mauka hype. The everything.
Lot of people had given up hope. Lot of them were wondering if it would be like 2007. I was wondering if there was a world cup in 2007.
But I knew, like last time, it wouldn’t take lot to change perceptions. Such is the format that 3 lucky nights can turn you from a hopeless side to a world champion. In my mind, there was never any doubt of not making it past the league round. Challenges were always going to appear after that. But yes, our performance in league stages was going to tell a lot of things. It was going to build, well, momentum.
It started. And as it did, we were there.
We were there doing everything we could and we should.
We were there winning.
Pakistan was never going to have any chance against us. Never.
I had no doubt that we would lose to South Africa. After all, they had all the artillery – the best fast bowler in the world, and opened who scores 100 faster than Virat, Faf, a 360 degree batsman, Philander, Morkel, fielding and above all, aura. I forgot they lacked one quality. One quality they’ve always lacked. One quality which always makes them lose when they mustn’t. Calmness.
After victory over South Africa, we weren’t going to lose. Bangladesh in Quarter Final was just a mere formality.
And we have done well. This team is weaker than the one we had in 2003. There is no God, God of off side, the name who named God of off side as God of off side in the batting line up. Our bowlers were laughable till this tournament started.
This team is weaker than 2011. We played at home in 2011. And we had Yuvraj. Oh yes, the unplayable Zaheer. And yes, the God.
This team was weak to start with. Openers weren’t settled. Middle order was too reliant on one man. Best finisher hadn’t finished a game in 2 years. Spinners were competing with the medium pacers for pace. Medium pacers didn’t have pace. This team was weak.
But as an eternal optimist, I had hope.
Just before the world cup started, I had written a piece in hope. Hope that more sounded like a wish. The wish has come true till now. All wishes have come true till now. And unlike most wish lists we have, this wish list isn’t endless. This will end. This will end soon.
Dear Sydney, it will end in two steps.
First of that step would be tomorrow.
To all the matches we have lost to Australia this summer, to all the sadness of losing, to all the sledges, to all the rubbing in the salt, to all the everything else, I sincerely request you to be nice on one last occasion. I request you to be nice to us tomorrow. I know you have a friend called truth who is always desperate to bite. Please ask him to spare the color blue.
Dear Sydney, give me more reason to like you. Let that reason emanate from that circular part of your body located at Moore Park Road. Let than reason emanate from SCG.
As the lyrics of that song say
The Gods may throw a dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
Please make sure that loser isn’t me. Please.