An ode to the Wind of Change - When India won a World Cup after 24 years
When the inaugural T-20 World Cup kicked on, I was too young to bother with the intricacies and technicalities of the game I’ve grown to love so dearly today. Being a fan back then meant painting my face and waving the national flag with uncontrollable excitement on the stands. 7 years after the historic triumph, I still wonder if I would have enjoyed the tournament as much as I did if I actually understood the field of play the way I do today.
A little prelude to the World Cup will be apt. We had been humbled in the customary 50-over version of the Cup and were going through a tough transition phase in the shorter format. Indeed, cricket in the country was near its lowest ebb in a long, long time.
Like all other kids my age, or any age, I revered Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid. Their back out meant whatever motivation I had to watch the slam-bang event went right out of the window.
True to my words, I was hardly bothered with the first few games, not even the cliff-hanger against arch rivals Pakistan. Pitted against New Zealand, England and South Africa in the “Super 8s” and losing to New Zealand, the weakest link in the group, meant it was déjà vu all over again.
When Yuvraj woke up the nation
More than a good game, the team and the nation needed inspiration and belief. When it did come, I was sleeping in the comforts of my bed.
“Wake up, wake up. Yuvraj just hit 6 sixes.” I heard my elder brother screaming at me.
I rushed to get my first genuine taste of the tournament. Indeed, cometh the hour, cometh the man. After a good opening partnership, it was Yuvraj who really bought cricket back to the nation. I had literally been awoken, the nation figuratively.
We are a country that bank on the supernatural. A decent innings, a decent player has never been enough to light the spark. Yuvraj was more than decent, though. He provided the perfect ignition.
And he continued from where he’d left off in the game against Australia, smashing his way to a belligerent half-century.
Little did Sreesanth, who bowled the spell of his life that evening, know what life had in store for him almost half a decade down the road. Little did I.
The faith, however, was back. We fittingly met Pakistan in the finals, the other surprise ouster in the preceding World Cup. Destiny had played its part well.
Joginder Sharma’s miraculous last over
The injury to Sehwag meant we were jolted even before the match began. Dhoni responded in style, handing Yusuf Pathan a debut in the final of a World Cup game.
However, Gambhir, his opening partner, stole the thunder, standing tall in the face of adversity to top score with 75. He would do so again 4 years down the road. Rohit chipped in with a vital 30 lower down the order as India stuttered to 157.
Pakistan’s top and middle order, barring the flamboyant Imran Nazir, responded with a shambolic performance to say the least. At 6-77, the fireworks were as loud as the distant rumbling of thunder. 20 minutes later, you could hear the sound of a pin falling. An old youngster we used to call ‘Inzy ka chota bhai’ had turned the game on its head.
6 balls, 13 to get. Harbhajan had an over to spare, but had not been spared an over earlier by Misbah. Dhoni turned to Joginder, the other option.
The Haryanvi started with a wide and was then creamed over long-off for a monster. 5 balls, 6 to get. Joginder came on to bowl the next ball, Misbah shuffled up to play the ramp shot. Cruelly, the camera angle was such that it looked like a six. I peeked with my hands on my face. Amid the clamour, I saw Sreesanth juggling the catch. It settled nicely into his palms. Nice and warm. Calm. Silent. Content.
It is as impossible as breaking Wilfred Rhodes’ tally to describe what emotions I went through that night. But what I do know is that the feeling will never come back.
The childhood innocence of a fan has died within me. Today, cricket is a craze, a drug, a necessity that is everything but innocent. The game has consumed my mind more than it is loved from the heart. And the most unfortunate aspect is not that I cannot go back into being an oblivious fan, it is that I thoroughly love it this way.