25 September 2007

Delirium

In the end, what transpired, was the stuff of India-Pakistan matches only. It was always going to be down to who held their nerve best after Dhoni called right and chose right. I will remember Misbah getting out just like I remember Sohail and Prasad, Sachin's lone hand and Akram's lap of honour at Chennai, Sachin against Shoaib, Miandad and Chetan Sharma, Jadega and Waqar, Miandad and More, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble getting pumelled in Chennai, Ijaz Ahmed on a rampage, ten wickets in an innings, Sachin's debut, Akthar bowling into Ganguly's ribs... and the several other pearls that pepper conversations.


Poor Misbah. The brave lone act that brought his team to the brink - certainly not unique in the history of Indo-Pak cricket: he did the same thing just a fortnight ago. But it was difficult to feel sorry for too long. Shock had taken over.


It was an Indian win, and I was shell-shocked until very late into the night, while crackers, dancing, alcohol, rowdiness - general happiness, I guess, embraced New Delhi. Phone calls from across the country certified that similar scenes were being xeroxed all over. That photo on top is a scene from India Gate, way past midnight. I was there among the sweaty men, milking the "Chak De" song for all it was worth. Nobody cared enough to notice my disapproval of the anti-Pakistan slogans, "Pakistan ki maa ki ..." interspersing the "Bharat mata ki jai".

What a match!! What excitement! What pressure! Robin dropped Misbah and I thought it had come full circle, but then Sreesanth held on, didn't he? Dhoni again went with Joginder for the climactic over, and a charmed choice it turned out to be yet again, Pakistan falling five short of a target that Misbah had all but dragged into the Pakistan dugout. A see-saw from the very first over, Yousuf Pathan striking a clean six, then a stumble, then the repair act by Gambhir, and finally a little eruption from Mister Rohit Sharma - all adding to a score that seemed less-than-competetive. But nobody - nobody but my ever confident friend Baban - wanted to make a call on the outcome of the match. Context was everything, and there was a history of pressure-cooker accidents.

And then after the break, the tension really started to mount and mount till something had to give every now and then. RP Singh, you beauty, you made the match competetive. And honestly, I am still surprised at what an amazing bowler you've become, capable bowling at 140 plus, mixing it up with some bhaiyya guile, and looking threatening on the flattest of pitches. You're a hero today, and people will remember you as a champion. And Irfan!! Haven't you put our selectors in a bit of a pickle? The third left-arm seamer to have a great season, and what an astounding performance to wrench the game back after Younis seemed quite likely to win the match with his dabs to third man! And then there were the others. Joginder Sharma, the unlikely man who wanted to bowl the last over again, Sreesanth - the man who took the catch with just a few billion people breathing down his neck, Yousuf Pathan - who walked in to open the innings with a swagger, Bhajji - whose tight bowling in his first 2 overs contributed to Pathan's wickets. People stepped up to be counted. Or more, like Yuvraj. Time and again. Debutante or experienced, here was a team that played absolutely fearless cricket. Only a captain without fear would nonchalantly open with Yousuf Pathan, or throw Joginder Sharma the ball when the cauldron was bubbling over, or know exactly what to do in the event of a bowl-out, or look beyond the storm during a particularly average spell of bowling from Sreesanth.

Cheers all of you. I don't know when we'll see that again. But last night, it really paid off being a crazy fan of Indian cricket.

4 comments:

Uncle J rod said...

Best thing that could happen to world cricket is Pakistan and India becoming powerful sides.

Dhoni and Malik could be the men for the jobs.

Ottayan said...

Uncle j rod,

Maybe it will be good for world cricket, but it is sure to be my undoing.

Soulberry said...

I couldn't make it to India Gate...there were my son's friends who had come over with mean looking fireworks and I thought it would be wiser to hang around them as they went about putting those to test.

Was it packed?

Misbah wouldn't have wanted a second time...people can be very unforgiving if you mess up once like Chetan Sharma did...but twice in successive matches is inviting serious trouble in these parts. I have to applaud the maturity with which the Pakistan people welcomed back their team unlike the scenes just a few months ago we witnessed in this part of the subcontinent.

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