Monday, February 19, 2007

Memoria - II

Titan Cup
9th Match: India vs Australia
PCA Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh.

I've always credited this match as my first blood of interest in Cricket. It was during October I heard my father talking something about procuring tickets. I wasn't aware he was talking about a Cricket Match. It was only two days before the match I get to know I am gonna watch a match live for the first time in my life. And the timing couldn't be less perfect. Tell you what, if a writer of fiction had dreamt this one up, he would have been accused of the grossest exaggeration. A full house. Two international teams, battling each other for a place in the final. Spectacular batting performances. Brilliant fielding. Suspense till the very end. And a result in the very last over...

The teams
India had one change in its lineup - Robin Singh replaced Aashish Kapoor to strengthen the batting. Australia for its part brought back Mark Waugh n Ian Healy who recovered from their respective injuries. Jason Gillespie replaced Damien Fleming.

Even being aware of India's propensity to panic when chasing, Taylor fresh from miraculous last ditch win pulled off by Kumble n Srinath and taking in the consideration the dew while bowling second, invited India to bat, and the match was on..

I must confess, initially I was not satisfied with the view I had before my eyes. We got our seats just below commentator box. But it didn't took me long to realize that I wasn't there to follow the score after every ball. As I stood in PCA stadium with thousands of other fans and we witnessed the finest moment of India flourishing under pressure.

Indian Innings
It was an era, where Indian Cricket was in the hands of Tendulkar who was the mainstay of Indian batting. Every match was a battle for him with himself to dash out any pressure on his teammates. If and when Tendulkar fires, and he did that today again, the only task left for rest of the batsmen was to keep up with the momentum. Sidhu was his usual self. After he got out at 54, the next surprise was Srinath walking in fresh from his recent cracking hitting. The move results in a no-show and in came Azhar. The day belonged to him. Or I should say till the time India's batting got over. After Tendulkar's wicket, his blazing start was followed by a steady middle ensured by Azhar and the classy Dravid who emphasized on deft placing and quick running. And at the very end, the perfect timed acceleration from the typical hustler Ajay Jadeja and surprisingly Mongia. All combining to give India an eminently defensible score of 289 for six in 50 overs.

Australian innings
I was too young to think of the fact that every chase got itself a plan already discussed during the slot in which I was more concerned about my Cold Drink. I remember the day more for the junk food I could see around me. Not once it came to my mind that in Cricket, tracks got their roles too. I already awarded the win to India. But the guys in my favorite color Yellow had some other plans that day. The openers struck right on money with Mark Waugh looking dangerous and fortunate Taylor riding on his luck. The first breakthrough came from Robin Singh who came into bowl after seven years and took surprise wicket of Waugh. For skipper Tendulkar, he was worth his place for that wicket alone. But Robin Singh provided icing as the next man to go was Stuart Law in the very next ball. Steve Waugh survived the hatrick n settles very quickly. What a strong lineup they had, that even the wicket of Steve n Taylor later on didn't provided any threat to the next in line Bevan n Slater, who almost batted India out of the game. But it was for this moment, I have always had a soft corner for Prasad, as he got rid of Bevan with his dream slower delivery. With Ian Healy departed in the same minute he arrived, Australia's two quick wickets provoked the third one of Slater. Yesssssssss....finally Srinath got a wicket in this series, he ended a long drought and what more he could have asked for after getting rid of aggressive Slater. The tailenders chipped and nudged the runs, and it all came to the last over.

The nerve game
This one scene alone suffices to encapsulate the game. It is the first ball of the very last over. Australia needs six for a win, with one wicket in hand and six balls remaining. The Indian captain, who has surprisingly not bowled a single over till then, decides to put himself on the firing line and bowl the last over himself.

The field is set. There's a kind of hush all over the ground...

The ball is bowled - an attempted swipe to the boundary, an LBW appeal, two batsmen frantically scrambling a single, the keeper, partially unsighted, reacting with lightning speed at the very end of a long, hard day, throwing a dew-drenched ball with unerring accuracy to run the non-striker out.

Sachin Tendulkar goes up in the air - a picture of sheer ecstasy.

While at the other end, the tall, loose-limbed Glenn McGrath stands perfectly still. Head down. The very personification of misery...

Oh well!

The essence of sport, frozen in that one tableau. India had won, by holding its nerve; Australia had lost, by losing its...

Image Source: Rediff


nitesh said...

gr8 match
and i guess next match was also awsome
in which srinath and kumble steered us to victory with 35+ 8th wicket partnership

dk said...

wo wo wo!!!
amazing matches i must say
i think ESPN were showing these matches,
i wish they broadcast more cricket now!

digit said...

it wasn't the next match. The Srinath n Kumble cameo took place in the previous match between the same two team.

nitesh said...

ohh sorry
my mistake
but that was awesome match

desh said...

awesome match tht one...
it gives so much thrill in just rememberin those matches