05 April 2011

28 Saal Baad

I must admit i was a late-bloomer in the 2011 Cricket World Cup campaign.

More out of 'not wanting to tempt fate' than lack of belief. And to add to that I was put off with the massive hype create by the media. It was almost as if all we had to do was show up and we would win the world cup !

It all started quite nicely when we beat Bangaldesh convincingly, it was big deal since we'd lost to them in the last world cup (the less said about 2007 the better!).

I was in Bangalore, coincidentally, the day of the India-England game so planned to go see the game at the stadium.... ended up being a nerve-wracking game. India was well on top for a good part of the game with Sachin scoring a brilliant century.... but then we played some pretty ordinary cricket with slack bowling and fielding and let England cruise to a winning position..... and then came the back-lash with Zaheer Khan bowling a superb second spell.... the crowd got into it too. Suddenly we were in a position to win. Ended up being a nail biting TIE!

With that game, suddenly i was interested in the world cup.

Ever since the momentous win 1983, I had followed India (much like millions of Indians) through heart-breaking world cup campaigns.....

1987, the first world cup in India, I went to see India beat Australia at the Ferozshah Kotla... only for the team to come undone in the semi-final against England at the Wankhede.
1992, the world cup down under where India really came undone and the highlight was beating Pakistan (that was to become a repeating and solitary highlight of subsequent world cups)
1996, the world cup back to India and the heady world cup quarter-final win against Pakistan in Bangalore... I was in Bangalore that day but had our IIMB convocation the same day... followed by the terrible terrible loss to Sri Lanka at the Eden Gardens....
1999, the world cup back in England... while we did beat Pakistan but for me the highlight was watching Sachin Tendulkar scoring a century against Kenya. Having just returned from India after his father passed away... he raised his arms and looked up to the heavens with tears in his eyes. Poignant moment. And then we went on to lose to Australia.
2003, so close and yet so so far. We were well beaten by a far superior Australian team. The highlight was the beating of Pakistan again. I will never forget Sachin beating the living daylights out of Shoaib Akhtar.
2007, India never showed up for the world cup, well actually I wish they hadn't!

And then came 2011... the world cup back in India and was likely to be Sachin's last. What a travesty it would be if he were to retire without winning a world cup.

India lost to South Africa and stumbled a little bit against Holland, Ireland and West Indies but got through to the quarter finals...... up against the "mighty" Australians. 3 Times defending World Champions.

This match was to show the first real signs in this world cup that this team were potential world champions.

Over the past few years, we had done some unthinkable stuff against the best, both home and away. No. 1 ranking in both test and one-days, won the T20 world cup too.... but the 2011 world cup campaign had been luke-warm at best.

Playing Australia in Ahmedabad changed all that, suddenly there was belief that these guys could go all the way.... Yuvraj, Sachin, Gambhir took care of that. With Pakistan winning the following day, it set up the biggest cricket match in world cricket. possibly the biggest match-up in world sport......

Mohali was the center of the sub-continent, maybe even the world for that one day when India played Pakistan in the world cup semi-final. India played out of their skins and Pakistan helped by dropping Sachin 10 times ! We celebrated like we'd won the world cup.... but the magic was in the fact that we were back in the world cup final for a third time and the dream was well within grasp now.

The world cup final comes around once in four years, say that to yourself once again, once in four years and your country will probably be in it just 3 or 4 times in your LIFETIME. thats how special that day is. India vs Sri Lanka at the Wankhede in Bombay, doesnt get much bigger than that ! the first half went well and we restricted Sri Lanka to a decent enough chase-able score. The whole of the nation couldnt wait to see Sachin and Sehwag lead the chase and annihilate SL. (In the break we watched Manchester United come back from 0-2 down to beat West Ham 3-2 with a Rooney hat-trick, that was a good omen for sure).

To say it started badly would be mild, Sachin and Sehwag gone in no time, the stadium silent, a country gone quiet. We sat in the room, some quiet, some abusing, some ready to go home. I'm thinking to myself - is this the day the young boys will come of age and win this for india?

And so it was... Gambhir, Virat, Yuvraj and Dhoni delivered for India.... if you didn't see it, i cant explain the feeling to you and if you did see it, i dont need to. Still get a tingle down my spine when i think of it. World Champions again, 28 saal baad.

All over the country, people poured out onto the streets to celebrate.... dancing on the street.... high 5s everywhere....

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