It was Saturday, the day of the 2011 cricket world cup final. I switched onto Star Cricket at 1:30 PM and saw the usual analysis that was going on and after sometime came the pitch report.
Nasser Hussain, a native of Chennai, but now an ex-England cricketer and our Sourav Ganguly did the pitch analysis. ‘ Win the toss and bat first,’ was what Ganguly said.
He also supported the three-seamer approach which means not playing Ashwin. I was a bit surprised by Ganguly’s analysis and later Dhoni’s decision to do that exactly because traditionally the Wankhede stadium supported spin. Even when Australia was super strong with the likes of Gilchrist, Hayden and McGrath they used to lose in one match in a five-match-one-day series and that match would have taken place in Wankhede. But I was later told that the pitch had been changed. Not sure if they re-laid it or what they did (and later this cost Sachin his wicket. Because Sachin trusted the pitch and went for the cover-drive, for he knew that the wankhede wicket didn’t support lateral movement of the ball, but on that day the pitch did support lateral movement – it was not real movement as we get in South African pitches but the ball skidded after pitching, got Sachin’s outside edge and I shouted ‘Aiyaiyo!’).
The Toss drama:
All the time that I spent watching cricket all these years could be divided into two parts – BS and AS (Before Sixth standard and After Sixth).
During BS I watched cricket without really understanding the game and AS was with super charged understanding.
What I am coming to say here is that in all these years I have never seen anyone tossing the coin two times and that is what exactly happened at the world cup final.
Actually, it was India who won the toss first , but the match referee said that he didn’t hear what was called and so the coin was tossed again and it was SriLanka who won it this time. That upset me a bit initially, I was told that in a world cup final a score like 260 or 270 is like 300 because of the pressure.
Zaheer Khan steamed in as usual and bowled beautifully and Sreesanth complemented him a bit well initially. Sreesanth even touched the 145 kmph mark which was unusual.
There was an early wicket and then Dilshan fell after irritating us a bit. Sreesanth by now was not bowling well. But to be a bit fair, he was not very wayward as he could be sometimes, but the situation demanded more and Sreesanth didn’t offer that extra performance that was needed. He bowls beautifully well in swinging conditions but this boy has to learn from Zaheer Khan on how to bowl when the condition is not good for bowlers.
Jeyawardene and Sangakkara put up a good partnership which irritated me even more and there was a late onslaught in the slog overs as it was expected. The game plan of Lanka was good – have wickets in hand, it’s okay if the run-rate is slow and hit in the last few overs. The conventional plan that was always followed in the 1990s and even now when the pitch is a bowling pitch or if you lose early wickets. But Lanka lacked another 30 runs at the end.
After changing numerous sitting positions I sat silently in a different place as India started to bat. Malinga struck in the very first over as he trapped Sehwag LBW. Needless to say, I was shocked. Quickly I regained my composure and said to everyone at home ‘OK, nothing to worry. We just have to think that Sachin and Gambhir are the openers and we didn’t have Sehwag in this match.’ As long as Sachin was at the crease I never lose hope.
Sachin started to bat beautifully. He did a splendid square cut which was later followed by a captivating cover drive and then the beautiful, Sachin’s trademark shot – the straight drive.
The man was in supreme touch. I relaxed a bit. But that was until a fast delivery from Malinga, that Sachin edged to the wicketkeeper. Malinga the slinger dog started to run as though he had single handedly won the world cup and his team mates chased him. Now that was too much. It was so painful for me. I desperately wanted Sachin to score well in the final match. There was a lot of hype about the 100 hundreds, but I was not really interested in it. ‘If he’s going to score three centuries in a tournament that is going to be great and it will be real good if he does that,’ this is what I thought before the start of the world cup. Before the final match I thought, ‘It would be super great if he can get a century in the final, at least I want him to score well and it was vital that India wins the cup.’
Now Sachin is gone. I desperately wanted Sachin to play and it didn’t happen. Is India going to win the world cup, I don’t know. Virat Kohli came in and he fished for the ball outside the off stump unsuccessfully. Now I was under a lot of pressure. What kind of a shot was that? I lost my patience and decided to go for a walk to cool myself down.
I dressed up thinking about where exactly to go…’oh, well, let me go to the beach,’ I thought and started from my home leaving behind my cell phone.
It usually takes about 30 minutes, by walk, to reach the Kannagi statue part of the beach from my house.
I usually walk through the Bells Road that has the main entrance to the Chepauk Stadium. This road joins the famous Pycrofts road and in between this juncture and along the Pycrofts road there are many second hand book shops. Actually, only two shops are proper shops and the rest of the shop-keepers sell their books on the pavement.
Now this is one my favourite spots. On my way I passed through a TV show room and there were a lot of people standing on the road watching the match. I was a bit nervous to see what the score was, but I couldn’t control myself and looked up at the TV. Two wickets were down, just as it were when I left my house. Gambhir and Kohli were still playing. I let a sigh of relief and continued walking.
I entered the first ‘proper’ book shop which had a TV, and needless to say the shop keeper was watching the match. The TV was a bit inside the shop and hence I couldn’t see it. I was browsing through the books and I heard that that the shop keeper was actually talking to his TV set. “What are you smiling at?” he asked the TV (probably to some Sri Lankan player). “You won’t be smiling at the end of the match.” I was smiling to myself and left the shop seeing that that the books there didn’t interest me. Some of the shops were closed(or bundled out) as it was night time.
I bought a book at the next shop and continued walking. After reaching the Kannagi statue I felt that I had calmed down a bit. Suddenly Tendulkar’s dismissal came to my mind and I started to fume.
Tension began to mount as my mind started showing me endless replays of that dismissal. Sachin has missed out on a marvelous chance. If he had scored at least a half-century it would have been great.
What would the anti-Sachin people say?
I again started to walk and after about five minutes I came across an interesting group of people.
There were about 15 people, all about my age or a bit less and they were practicing hip-hop dancing (they were even dressed like hip-hop dancers including their body language which reminded me of black people). I stood there watching them a bit and then carried on. It was a very beautiful night. It was so pleasant walking there( I was actually walking on the inner pavement along the service road – not the pavement near the main road). I ambled on and on until I reached the Gandhi statue. That’s a long way! I didn’t intend to walk this far.
I stood there for some time and looked at all the happy children playing there, the families and the couples, everything looked happy and pleasant. I decided that it was time to head home and started to walk back.
By this time I was very curious about the match. What was the score? Will India win this match? I crossed a lot of people and whenever I heard the word ‘score’ I would stop and strain my ears to hear what they were saying. I saw a person using his cell phone and asking someone what the score was. I went to him and asked for the score, he mumbled something which I couldn’t hear and said three wickets. Okay, this is good news. Only three wickets down. I started walking towards Bells road and suddenly I was a bit confused. Was it three wickets down or three left? I saw a boy about my age walking ahead of me hearing to Hindi radio commentary on his cell phone.
“Excuse me, score enna?” I asked him.
He mumbled something which I couldn’t understand and said three wickets. Why is everyone mumbling today?
He again said something and I understood that he didn’t know Tamil.
“Are you saying that there are three wickets left or three down?” I asked him firmly.
“Only three down”
I was happy. “So India will win today,” I said smiling.
“Yeah,” he said and pointed to the TV showroom at the Bells road that I had come across earlier. “People are watching the match there.”
“I’ll join them,” I said.
It was fun to watch the match there. People were hooting and cheering for all the runs being scored. There were people with their faces painted in tri-colour and one of them was waving the Indian flag.
“We are going to win!” shouted someone.
I was very relaxed after seeing the scoreboard. Gambhir and Dhoni were playing and India was well set for a victory. They needed about 110 runs to win from almost the same number of balls.
The government buses that went by were all empty and the drivers stopped at that spot to check the score.
I stood there watching for about 15 minutes and then started my walk back to home.
The reminder of the match was smooth, except that of Gambhir’s dismissal towards the end.
It is great to win the World cup. I am not a fan of Dhoni, and for a personal reason I even say sometimes that I don’t like him. But I would always point out that the Indian team needs Dhoni whether I like him or not. What he did in the finals is really great work. I am not talking about his 91*, but about his decision to come in the place of Yuvraj Singh. That was a valiant decision. It was important to note that he was not in form throughout the series. I don’t understand what made him to take that decision. Hats off to you, Dhoni! You deserve this victory.
But anyway, I rather enjoyed the captaincy of Ganguly than that of Dhoni’s.
Finally, Sachin is a member of a World cup winning team. This was something which he badly wanted and so did his fans. But he missed out on a golden opportunity at the finals. He could have made his critics shut their mouths forever. I can argue that it was Sachin who got us into the finals. He did his best for us to reach the finals…..but see, I used the word “argue”. I don’t want to argue, if he had scored a half century at the finals what is the need for arguing? But now I am finding myself again in the position of arguing.
He is the greatest batsman in cricketing history alongside Sir Don Bradman, and yet some people don’t understand his greatness.
Well, there are some people who don’t believe in God!
He is a champion of all champions and I want this champion to continue and so will every hardcore Sachin fan. Some fans even want to see two more Tendulkar miracles. Both of which are a bit difficult…
1. Sachin Tendulkar playing in the 2015 world cup
2. The right and left combination of Sachin and Arjun Tendulkar opening in a ODI match
I am a bit uneasy about the first one, because if he plays and if India loses in the 2015 world cup people will blame Sachin and they will forget about his game in the 2011 cup. But I want him to continue playing Test cricket as long as possible and he should play ODIs for a long time.
Okay, I am getting side tracked here and the last few lines has given me some new ideas. I’ll share them in a new post. This one is already long enough!
We are the Champions and we rule the world!!!