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CRICKET

Why India owed me this World Cup victory

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Vinod Kambli was not the only one who cried on March 13, 1996. Somewhere in the heart of a developing suburb called Thane, a twelve-year-old girl was inconsolable. Her favourite God had betrayed her. The four heartfelt trips she had made to the nearby residence of Lord Hanuman had been futile. India had lost the World Cup semifinal and, worse still, "by default". There were angry bottles on the green onscreen pitch and the Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga was now smiling like his country's famed mythological demon. The girl could even picture him flicking his moustache like Ravana, but the Sri Lankan captain didn't have one at the time, thankfully.

She looked around her living room through the blur of tears. It looked like the aftermath of her maths report card. Her father, who hadn't budged from his position on the sofa throughout the match, was now cursing in Tamil. Aloud. Her mother gave up the Gayatri mantra chant, looking a bit distraught. Her sister was too young to understand the complexities of the irrational game, but by virtue of having accompanied her sibling to the temple, two out of four times, sensed that their wish had not been granted. Lord Hanuman had to face a lot of questions that day as a consequence of his country's loss. This should have been her first cue to give up.

But, for some reason, the girl did not lose faith in either religion.

Three years later, in 1999, the next World Cup arrived. Her sister had now grown up enough to learn the hysteric language that the family spoke every four years. So the duo was now united in their potential misery. That year, the Times of India had come out with a very compact, informative booklet with the time-table, names and details of every player and a little bit about their strengths. She memorised it to the point where she could now rattle off names of players in the UAE team (yes there was one).
Scratching had become a national pastime that year. A brand of cold drink had come out with scratch cards that held the the promise of a chance to attend the World Cup in England. But every time we bought one, the card would say "Try again. " Once, in fact, her cousin scratched one and sighed when he saw the first letter- "T". But later, when he probed further with the coin, it read "Tiger biscuit". He was ecstatic.

We watched every match at his place in Chennai, where the entire building would descend to exchange adrenaline - high-fives and grunts followed every ball. These juvenile viewers even gave Tamil names to every new player irrespective of their nationality. Zimbabwe's ace bowler Henry Olonga, for instance, became Podolonga (snake gourd in Tamil). He was seen as the biggest threat and proved to be one, during the India-Zimbabwe match. Just like the recent India-England qualifier match, we stood a tremendous chance here.

We were chasing and had to make 253 from 46 overs. But the wickets crumbled fast.

In the end, though, the men in light blue merely had to make four runs to win from over seven balls. This was hardly ambitious, even for a bowler, they thought. Then Venkatesh Prasad, the last man, came in to bat. All they heard was a loud thud. The pad had hit the ball. LBW. The umpire's finger went up. Though she did not know what qualified as an LBW, it was a pathetic way to lose the match. "He can't even hold the bat properly, " a seething neighbour exclaimed.

Going by the silence that followed, they could have been at a funeral, mourning the death of someone called "patriotism" or "faith". She wept again and, this time, keeping her company was another boy - her cousin. They slept at 3 am that day, after a prolonged tearful hypothesis of what went wrong. Though she does not remember the details, she is sure Venkatesh Prasad may not want to hear that conversation.

This should have been her second cue.

The subsequent chronology was, of course, even more depressing-the match fixing scandal, some more match-fixing exposes and the notorious 2003 final. The clues were now so obvious, they were tangible. That year onwards, cricket lost its endearing irrationality, its superstitions, its tears and its religious aura. It then became just a game, which is never a good thing if you are a teenaged female cricket fan aching for the drama of heartfelt prayers, pop patriotism and innocent crushes on married players. She gave up crying or brushing up on cricket trivia. The faces of UAE players evaporated slowly from her memory. As a result, her knowledge is now in a time warp. Every time a match comes on, she looks for Henry Olonga and Ranatunga. Her husband likes to call it the generation gap between them.

She even started asking deep questions about God and the Force. Perhaps He does not exist or if He does, He is Australian and looks like Shane Warne. Perhaps 1983, the year in which she is supposed to have kicked for the first time inside her mother's womb when India won the World Cup, was just a fairytale. Perhaps this time, too, we may not be able to avenge the dreadful sight of 1996 semifinal or Kambli's tears. Last Saturday, she was proven wrong on most counts. Fifteen years since that fateful India-Sri Lanka semifinal, the Cup was right where she wanted it to be. Paulo Coelho would say she wanted it so bad this time that the universe conspired for it to happen and cynics, on the other hand, would say, "No, it was the BCCI. " Whatever the case, she felt extremely vindicated. And this time, when Yuvraj, Sachin and Harbhajan broke down, she happily joined in. India had just managed to rip through the doors of her heart again. By default.

(The author is now busy memorising the names of Canadian players)

Reader's opinion (31)

himanshu agarwalMay 24th, 2013 at 16:28 PM

Cricket is nothing less than a religion in my India.

Durjoy Jul 5th, 2011 at 19:47 PM

nice lot of emotion involved

Shiraz BhurwaniApr 20th, 2011 at 10:01 AM

Nice Article.

Eshani ShevdeApr 19th, 2011 at 22:44 PM

Fabulous !!

Cashivaram Apr 15th, 2011 at 15:03 PM

No words... Goose bumps all over...

Subra NatarajanApr 15th, 2011 at 10:49 AM

I was depressed after 1987.Never watched cricket till the recent world cup. But Mr Cool leading like my hero Kapil changed my mind. After world cup, every day, I see an old match but new for me. From 61, I am 16. But my taste for tennis is as fresh as a smelling rose. Som Dev is my hero.Why not?

hakimuddin JabrotApr 14th, 2011 at 05:24 AM

Excellent and heart-warming Article. It took me to the memories of 96 and 99 World Cup. Great Job done. Even I stay vindicated

Nilesh RayApr 14th, 2011 at 00:24 AM

Just awesome..its so true..

Riteshnc04 Apr 12th, 2011 at 10:49 AM

Nice piece of writing.. All those incidents just flashed in my mind the moment i read them.. I too cried(happy tears) with Sachin this time ;)

Suchit KulkarniApr 12th, 2011 at 08:22 AM

nice!!

Pratyush SharmaApr 12th, 2011 at 06:52 AM

very touching topic , just about the entire nation ... we indeed are crazy people ..

Radha KrishnanApr 12th, 2011 at 05:58 AM

Such is the attachment Indians have towards world cup.There are prayers,there are apprehensions and palpitations as the enter the field to start the final.A dream event that every one wanted Team India to win.The frustations of the past were still in our minds.At last the story of kapil's success

Ashwin LullaApr 12th, 2011 at 03:15 AM

Well written...beautiful article

Ankit KaushikApr 12th, 2011 at 02:44 AM

Dear Ankit, there are no comments on this article yet.
Why don't you post one?

here it goes....very nice toucy article... last lines were toucy....

Rahul KuchimanchiApr 12th, 2011 at 02:34 AM

hEY NICE ONE I CAN RELATE TO ALMOST EVERY WORD U WROTE THERE.

cHEERS
Rahul

Sumanth BelawadiApr 12th, 2011 at 02:30 AM

Felt the same way as the author of this article. After several disappointments such as the 1996 and 2003 world cup matches fans of the Indian team and having spent endless amount of hours/energy supporting our team, this cup will be accepted by all of us a as a token of appreciation for the years.

Antara SarkarApr 12th, 2011 at 01:20 AM

I rem how I use to memorize names,watch every match, stick posters on my wall! When other girls played with dolls,I use to collect articles/pictures for my cric diaries! But then I could do it NO more...I was too heartbroken.
2/4/11 turned me into a teen again! The rush, the feel..it's all back!:)

Rajarshi DharApr 12th, 2011 at 00:18 AM

Great article! Truly a die-hard han!Yes i can understand the sheer joy that I get when India wins!it's pure.truly gr8 victory ans yes even i cried as well..but they were tears of joy....hopefully i get to cry like this again after 4 yrs...

vineet shetyeApr 11th, 2011 at 23:40 PM

Awesome writing!!! Great naration.

Chetna MathurApr 11th, 2011 at 22:13 PM

i like the way u write.....just so i could read further i had to join crest. captivating.....just as the winning match was ;)

Prajakta AdsulApr 11th, 2011 at 21:46 PM

Beautifully written! I could relate well because I share the same age as the author!

Lalit ChowdharyApr 11th, 2011 at 20:56 PM

who is name of the author and what is her profession?

Paramesh NApr 11th, 2011 at 18:52 PM

Nice one....Enjoyed Thorougly....

Ravi Apr 11th, 2011 at 17:43 PM

good one. really enjoyed reading

Ankur SaraswatApr 11th, 2011 at 17:25 PM

I must say this is an piece of work.Showing the faith this game has in the heart of more than a billion around the world. How little happiness and sadness of each and every Indian is associated with this game.

Pooja AroraApr 11th, 2011 at 16:28 PM

superlike... the writer has beautifully woven the emotions and the facts evincing the nuances of the bond he just made.

Mumbai Apr 11th, 2011 at 15:44 PM

great one ..........

Lokesh Apr 11th, 2011 at 14:22 PM

Something similar happened to me as well. And though I don't call it the generation gap, I still bowl people over with decade-old cricket trivia but fumble with the current stats. Hope that will change now :)

Priti Apr 11th, 2011 at 13:15 PM

Very well written piece! Goes to show how cricket is actively cricket is followed in India!

Rohit BewoorApr 11th, 2011 at 00:26 AM

Nicely written....the long wait made the win all that more special for everyone!

Fazayal SyedApr 9th, 2011 at 12:08 PM

@ sharmila

your memory is too bad. You should have known this by now so a little bit of research would have helped you big time. Some factual errors:

1. The UAE team was present in 1996 world cup and not 1999 world cup as mentioned by you.

contd.

 
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