Willow and leather. A beautiful game. Played under amicable and cordial enthusiasm. Celebrated with spirit of the game. Bringing in peace and joy to players and watchers alike.
An era of mysticism and awe surrounds those who make the godly 11 in the battle field. Tears roll down when Sachin leaves those 22 yards. Smiles come in when the Delhi marauder, Sehwag swings his blade. We enjoy the daring raw talent of the long haired Dhoni and we pump our fists with the all whimsical Sreesanth. The fragrance of brown leather soothes the mortals and the long wide blade brings in unabated pleasure. India, cricket, emotions are synonyms for a fan of this beautiful game. Cricket – It’s not just a game. It’s a seven letter rainbow which embodies the world of sports.
The journey, as they say, is sweeter than the destination. True indeed. From the dusty lows of the 1950’s to the legendary highs of 2012, we have witnessed it all. Be it the mind turning googly of Bedi or the nerve-wrecking patience of Gavaskar, all have added glory to the game. Let us once again bask in the glory of few magical moments which still bring out the true Indian among us.
Till 1998, the glitter of our master magician remained confined within the home edges. But the Sharjah pasture inspired Tendulkar to produce a master piece; as if it was a duel between the Sharjah sandstorm and the Indian God to symbolize supremacy over the stadium. The Australians, wrapped in their yellow clothing, lost the one-sided war. The ever-so-daring captain, Steve Waugh, beautifully captioned the auspicious moment by his comment – “We didn’t lose to Team India. We lost to Sachin Tendulkar”.
In 2001, the city of trams witnessed a classic encounter where two gems were on display. Laxman, with his magical Hyderabadi wrists and Dravid, an embodiment of professional Bangalore, promised to enthrall the men in yellow. The Mighty Kangaroos came in with a dream to extend their sweet 16 wins but left with a souring series defeat. The 376 runs scored by the magical duo ensured that the Indian flag kept flying high. Not only is the Kolkata test considered the most amazing thriller, but it is reckoned that this changed the way we played the game. It embodied the turn of the century for the Indian cricket. The unsaid rules were spoken. We were no more afraid of them. We would no more go down without fighting.
In 2002, the exuberance and passion was at its best when Dada swung his t-shirt in the Mecca of Cricket. Maybe it was revenge for Flintoff’s Wankhede heroics a few months back, but it sent out a clear message to the founders of the game. Indian cricket was not colonized anymore. Be it Lords or Wankhede, it was now a game between equals. The young guns, Yuvraj and Kaif, symbolized the breaking of shackles from the long generation of traditional cricket.
In 2003, the left-outs for decades, South Africa, got a chance to prove their mettle in the World Cup played in their own backyard. But it was the tri-colored nation which amazed the fans by lifting the runners-up trophy. The Indian superman once again proved his mettle against the arch rivals in green. The famous six against the Rawalpindi express which began the demolition was a sheer treat for the fans. If Miandad could do it in 1986, Sachin could in 2003. India won comprehensively in that historical encounter. But this time Sachin was not the lone raider. The carnage was well supported by Sehwag, Yuvraj and Dravid. That World Cup would be remembered for the famous Indian hurdle which shared the sheer collectivity of the players. The power of a team was recognized and the matches were won as a team.
The next few years proved to be forgettable as we lost many and won few. The old guns were tiring and it was time for young blood to take up the gauntlet. Indian cricket seemed to be in turmoil with captains throwing in the towel and seniors looking clueless for the future. The question resounded if the magical era, which showed glimpses of resplendent promises, was at dawn. Then came the unexpected. The crown of thorns was cajoled onto the guileless and simple wicket keeper from Ranchi. Dhoni was a player with a simple mantra: Hit hard if the leather lands in your territory and play as if there is no tomorrow.
His attitude and ability rubbed on to the ten other warriors.
In 2007 came the T20 World Cup and the cricket arena considered the Indian colts as the newbies. Without the legendary trio of Sachin, Saurav and Dravid the team looked earthly. But as the days unfolded, the street-smart Indian cricketers made light weight of the established super stars of Australia, South Africa and England. In the finals played at the Bullring, the men in blue came out victorious. Dhoni with his inspiring leadership transformed the cricketing logic of the world. We didn’t need a star-studded team to life trophies.
All was well, but the summit was still out of reach. The Everest which Kapil Dev conquered in 1983 seemed to be too long back. After all, the 2011 World Cup was being played on our own turning pitches. The expectations seemed to be bubbling with each passing match. With each contest, emerged a new hero. Sometimes it was Sehwag with his swinging blade and often it was Yuvraj with his all-round skills. Sachin, Zaheer, Kohli and Gambhir chipped in when opportunity beckoned. The final between the two neighboring nations proved to be the match of the tournament with fortunes swinging every moment. It was fitting that the winning moment was scripted by the captain who had shaped Indian cricket. The six over long on was witness to the memorable Indian Cricket journey which travelled for decades before it finally reached the long awaited destination.
Cricket. A beautiful game indeed.Published 16 Sep 2012, 00:51 IST