I was one of those students who dread the Sports period at school. Unlike Calvin, I didn’t have any imaginary friends or the creativity to invent a new game. My idea of a sport was a War Game between G.I.JOEs and COBRA. I HATED SPORTS.
I could never understand Tennis, I still don’t. Tennis had very few colors. Green and White mostly. I found that boring. And I found the scoring too complex for my taste. 15,30, 40 – I still haven’t figured out which series that is. I remember that Dad had a tennis racquet which I wasn’t allowed to touch. I never bothered.
Since there was no Twitter at that time and we didn’t live in Kolkata, I had absolutely no idea of Football. I remember the first time I played football, I broke two legs, one of which was mine. I was too slow for Basketball and I had heard that you need to be really, really tall to be a basketball player. I, being at the shorter end of the gene pool, didn’t find much substance in Basketball too. To cut a cheap story short, I hated sports. Not as much as I hated mathematics but it was enough to burn a few effigies of the Sports teachers.
And then there was Cricket.
My earliest memory of Cricket is when a green plastic sphere collided with my ear. Someone’s tracer bullet had found its target. I writhed in pain and swore my revenge upon that green plastic ball. Years later I shot the same into my neighbour’s grandfather’s ear. I had arrived on the gully cricket scene. And cricket had slowly become a part of my life. Cricket cards joined Hotwheels and WWF cards. Heck, I even bought a cricket kit once. But since my school didn’t have a cricket ground(which forced us to play something called leg-cricket – an underarm, football-cricket mashup, played in a basketball court), I never developed a crazy affinity for the game. However I didn’t stop watching it.
I remember watching a Malcolm Marshall replay and Dad going all gaga over it. Over the years, I’d watch Curtly Ambrose and wonder why he didn’t opt for Basketball. I’d watch the first 5 overs of a Test Match and switch to WWF or Cartoon Network. I’d bowl at an imaginary wicket with a plastic ball in hand, trying to recreate Shane Warne’s Ball of the Century. I’d watch Jonty Rhodes flying off the field and producing a ball out of thin air.I’d do a mock bowling action in a deserted corridor and follow it with a Srinathish appeal.
(via. BBC Sports)
Cricket did its bit to keep me entertained. Venkatesh Prasad uprooted Aamir Sohail’s stumps in what could be termed as the best definition of a ‘Face-off’. I learned my first cuss-words at Saeed Anwar’s 194. Kumble came to bowl with a bandage round his face. Dada pulled off something that Poonam Pandey thankfully couldn’t. Kaif and Yuvraj stole dugna lagaan from England. Not to forget the occasional streaker and the dog. Cricket was fun.
As it turns out stripping DOES motivate the Indian team
And then there was the World Cup. I’ve never really liked the World Cup. It was always accompanied by Final exams. You know, that end-of-the-year disaster followed by that dreadful Parent-Teacher meet, that felt like an Income Tax raid and stung like one too. Remembering which team belongs to which group interfered with the which-creature-belongs-to-which-phylum drill. It urged Cola companies to come up with the stupidest commercials possible. The NRR calculation was way too complex. World Cup was too much trouble.
Yesterday, I had some turning-25 to do. My girlfriend had planned a great surprise for me. I had other plans. ‘Must. Not. Miss. The. Match’ I screamed into the phone repeatedly. After a discussion that lasted some four-and-a-half hours into the wee hours of the night, it was decided that Ravi Shastri is actually right. In the end, Cricket IS the winner. Reservations were canceled. I was bleeding orange. But a final is a final is a final.
I mean, the last-to-last-time India was in a final, I was just a naughty thought.
Last time when India was in a final, Ponting had some naughty thoughts.
This time I wasn’t taking any chances. After all the world may end in 2012. Or Tendulkar may announce his retirement from ODIs, which is as bad. Maybe even worse than the end of the world. Like when they stopped broadcasting ‘Shanti’ on Doordarshan. Like Mahabharata, it’d mark the end of an era. Anyway, we digress.
So, cut to 2nd April 2011.
I woke at 11 in the morning, feeling groggy. The last day of the ‘Brahamacharya’ part of my life. I decided to stay off beer just to mark the occasion. Call it superstition or the fact that after a few beers I can’t differentiate between sports and porn, beer was off the menu for the day. So Thumbs Up, Fanta and Sprite were bought. Along with Apples, Cheese, Hide and Seek, Hot and Sweet Ketchup, Eggs, Multi-grain Bread, Dove Shampoo – everything and anything that can be eaten as a snack. We were huddled around the television, all four of us. FOUR. That’s right. Everyone else had ditched us. Betrayed us for bigger screens, booze and boobs, in that order. There were a few laptops thrown around. One for Tweeting. One for liking random world cup pics on Facebook(and for reporting the ones from the stadium as abuse). And one for playing blaring music when Navjot Singh Siddhu was speaking.
The pitch report came up. So did Saurav Ganguly. I didn’t understand any of it but it sounded like India should bat. Followed by the Toss. Or Tosses. Sangakarra had pulled a ‘Cheater cheater, compulsive eater’ on Dhoni. Memories of ‘Maine kuch nahi kaha, mummy kasam’ came flooding by. The poor coin went up in air again and this time landed on the other side of the Ram Setu. Sri Lanka had won the toss. Sri Lanka will bat. R Ashwin will not play. *smirk* Shreesanth will play. *laugh* Navjot Singh Sidhu will talk. *mute*
and then it began.
Meanwhile, I was occupied with other pressing issues.
And then the unimaginable, the impossible happens.
A few mothers and sisters later, electricity returned. Sri Lanka was batting. India were bowling. We were eating.
And then Tharanga fell. We leaped, we cried, we tossed some Haldiram snacks into air.
Then, Dilshan went and Sangakarra went and Samaraweera went and Kapugedera went and Kulasekara went. (Parodesy Noise should do a song on these names).
Between them they had more singles than all the Bharat Matrimony sites put together. So much so that after a while it became real boring. So time and again we switched to Star Sports for some Hindi Commentary gems.
It all looked pretty till Perera walked in. I wish I could have added him to the ‘went and went and went’ earlier but he didn’t go. Instead he sent Zaheer’s economy rate into the stands.
DPMD Jayawardene(Cricinfo, you sweetheart) hit a hundred too. Very gritty and well deserved. Thanks to his efforts, Sri Lanka had posted a Mammoth total.
<digress> (If you do a Google search for ‘Mammoth Total’, you’ll hardly find any mammoths. Had they not been extinct, they’d have felt offended. Very offended. In a very ‘Only 1411 left’ way.) </digress>
I personally had lost all hope.
A few more Siddhuisms, Revital ads and Richfeeled anchors later, Sehwag and Sachin made a grand entry into the Wankhede stadium, to 30,000+ prying eyes. People who had braved gigantic lines, lathi-charges, body-odour, queue-farts and paid exorbitant amounts of money to watch them bat. To watch Sachin and Sehwag create magic.
Sadly, none of that happened.
A wicket and a review down, India had Sachin to look forward to. Someone called Gautam Gambhir was there too. And then Sachin did it. Hit a straight drive that gave a collective orgasm to a lot of people(including me). Now I may not know much about cricket but I can tell a good straight drive when I see one. And good would be an understatement. It was divine(at least to my eyes).
And then it happened again. Yet again.
Wankhede went silent and all the ‘Sachin-doesn’t-do-well-in-crunch-game’ fellows made a mental note to add that moment to their journals, to be quoted on blogs and forums on the interwebs. Being a Sachintard, whatever hope of winning the world cup was left in me, evaporated instantly.
I come from the school of thought that believes that every Sachin dismissal should be followed by a short period of mourning. This mourning period helps you concentrate on other important things, like watching rerun of a Friends episode or ordering a full Barbecue Chicken. So we ordered some chicken. Since we had nothing better to do(and no one better to do it with), we kept watching the match. Someone called Viraat Kohli had joined someone called Gautam Gambhir. Sri Lanka was getting a taste of their own medicine. It was raining singles. Faster than any Samaaj Vivah Samaroh.
Three figures arrived and Kohli left.
Captain Cool walked in. Though applauded for his nerves(who else plays Shreesant in a final?), he hadn’t achieved much with the bat in the tournament. Not many Helicopter Shots, not even Cessnas. I didn’t expect much from him. I was too busy chomping on the Barbecue Chicken that had just arrived. Bliss. The Butter Naans were still warm when India reached a 200. Mazak mazak mein bahut run aa gaye. That is when we had that ‘ungli mein tingli’ish sensation that India may actually win this match.
Emergency plans to celebrate this victory were hatched. In the next five minutes, we were on the streets, looking for an autorickshaw to take us to any cafeteria where we’ll find screaming people. The autowallah had Sheila ki Jawani on, but we totally ignored that. Our eyes and ears were fixed on the cup. Could this be it? Will we need booze? What if we land up amidst shareef people who treat Cricket with the same respect that teenagers treat the Lok Sabha Channel? Too many questions.
Anyway, we reached such a cafeteria. A gang from my company was already there. They had brought some videsi pepul too. They too had tricolors on their cheeks. We just had to get one. A happy-go-lucky person was going around with some water colors, painting everyone’s face for – wait for it – FREE. The Marwadi-portion of my soul leaped with joy.
(I had left the Right Cheek blank. Just in case.)
The screen was a bit to short for my taste and we could hardly see anything. So we did what we did at the IPL match in Jaipur. SCREAM. LIKE A BOSS.
(The one with the Spring Break)
Slogans came easy to us.
‘Laal tamatar taaaza hai, India wale raja hai’ (This used to be ‘Electronics wale Raja hai’ in college but what the heck)..
The usual ‘Ek do teen chaar, India ki jai jaikaar’ and the ‘Sachin Sachin’(even though he wasn’t there, who cares?)…
and the quintessential – Gacch gacchar gachar gachar, hu ha hu ha.
Don’t ask me to explain that one. Some of our Tamil brethren took a liking to Gacch Gachar. Since they didn’t know how to pronounce it, they did it their way – Something, something, something, something, hu, ha, hu, ha. Unity in diversity, I say.
Then Gambhir decided to go for it. And he went because of it.
A friend of ours also tried the ‘Singh is King’ slogan when Yuvraj walked in, but nothing with Akshay Kumar in it works these days. It didn’t work too.
Occasionally one of us would turn around and pop the question, ‘Abey score kya hua? Kaun jeet raha hai?’ The over-all cheeriness of the people at the front assured us that India is still winning.
We were almost there, I remember. It is a woozy memory, blurred by all the shouting and the screaming and the happy-women’s-day-balloon-bursting.
(McDonald’s had some Happy Women’s Day balloons left, which rose up to the occasion, literally and figuratively)
And then Dhoni hit it. The winning runs. Six.
To describe that shot, that moment would be futile. The crude confidence with which it was executed felt like a message to the World: Screw your Security Council seat, THIS is what we live for.
To say that the people went ballistic would be an understatement. My vocal chords retired from service before we could reach the presentation ceremony. I didn’t cry though. Some people would have. It was worth it. Every single bit of it.
A lot has happened since then. Blog posts written. Videos shared on Facebook. National Circulatory Systems compared. Some boots hung. Others axed. A tournament that will divide the country temporarily into regions again, looms large upon us. We must quickly choose our memories from this World Cup and preserve them. On our walls. In our wallets. On our sleeves. And in our relatively small hearts. Preserve them before they fade again. Till the next World Cup victory. And the next. And the next.
And while you do so, let me feast on that Sachin straight drive once more.
– This post was supposed to be published on 3rd April 2011. So let us all assume that it was.
– I am also assuming that you have already read @Sidvee’s, GreatBong’s, @Daddy_San’s, and @Ujj’s posts. If you haven’t, please do. Also read @Livetimefe’s post, which was one of the first accounts of the game that I had read on the internet.
– Rest of the images courtesy: Vignesh
Psst. Did you know that you can watch Padosan on Youtube? I did not.0