Chennai, April 8: Almost a week gone by and after much flying in 'orbit happiness" it is now time to land on terra firma. For those of us insanely in love with the sport and those of us who genuinely believed in Team India, the night of the 2nd of April 2011 will always be encased in platinum.
It is a world cup that"s been labeled as one of the best in terms of close fought games and banana skin slips for some of the super cricketing nations. And what mattered most was the fact that it was being held in a nation that"s mental about cricket. India is by far the only nation where the game is so much more than just a sport.
But sadly there is with the immense love for the game, a great deal of hysteria. Of the rabbit population that India should not be proud, a small or rather miniscule percentage genuinely believe in the abilities of the Indian team. In the group stages there were close shaves and it was certainly not an easy cake walk to the quarter final stage.
Thanks to platforms like facebook and other new age ways of expressing thoughts, you could gauge the fickle graph of the average Indian cricket fan as he or she swung from superlatives to super abuses all in a matter of 7 hours over the 100 overs.
Thankfully Team India believed in themselves and over the years with a logical captain and an introverted but extremely amiable coach, the squad seemed a cohesive unit. For those who supported the team from the start , they would be rewarded at each step when the knock -out stage commenced. The road to the final was a tough one.The first hurdle was to overcome the Australians who had a superb run to the quarters. High on confidence the team was a formidable lot.
The stage was the Motera stadium in Gandhi land, Ahmedabad. India lost the toss and the Australians took the field hoping to put up a daunting target. They batted in mature fashion but India chipped in at regular intervals with wickets restricting the Australians to 260, with 261 as the target to enter the much awaited semi-final with arch rivals Pakistan. The Indian reply went almost in the mirror fashion to the Australian one and at 187/5 the heartbeats raced. Yuvraj and Raina were at the crease and India"s passage to the semi- final rested on them. Playing with character and an air of confidence the duo took India to the target. So, the first hurdle was crossed with Yuvraj Singh taking the man of the match.
All roads then led to Mohali for the much awaited encounter between the rivals and neighbouring warring nations. An India v Pakistan match is always devoured with much glee and immense emotional appetite. This was going to be no different. The setting was classic. In the semi -final of the World Cup, one would witness a game that promised to be and have all the ingredients of a mouth watering affair. India won the toss and batted first. The innings had its fair share of drama. Sehwag began in swashbuckling fashion but fell in his 30s. Tendulkar had, what one would call a charmed innings, as the Pakistanis dropped him not once but four times! But the bowlers made sure that India did not go ballistic with their scoring. Wahab Riaz produced mean pace and scalped 5 wickets, and in Saeed Ajmal he found his partner in crime. India managed to score 260 giving Pakistan 261 for a place in the final.
Besides all the drama on the field, the theatrics off the field was palpable. Given that this game was being held in the heartland of Punjab where Pakistanis would find nothing different, added to the emotional quotient. Ofcourse the politicians cashed in on the two sides meeting on a cricket field, but that"s another story.
Back to the cricket. Given 261 to win, the Pakistanis started out cautiously but then an allround effort from the Indian bowlers that saw the visitors struggle. All five bowlers that were in action shared two wickets apiece and that gave you the picture of a true team effort. The scenes at Mohali and in the country represented a 'Diwali before time". The reason for the drunken state of the country was well known, and the fact that India"s supremacy over Pakistan in world cups got stronger, and that India were in the World Cup Final again, just gave all the cricket lovers in the country the license to be deliriously happy.
The Final would see India up against their all too familiar rivals Sri Lanka. Mumbai and the new look Wankhede stadium was the stage where it would all unfold. This was India"s chance to end a 28 year wait for the World Cup, and the start of the match held much drama, as a re-toss was enacted. Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat. A deliciously crafted century from their tireless warhorse Mahela Jayawardene assured them of a competitive total of 274. The hosts and the ardent spectators alike knew it would not be easy and then with both trump cards Sehwag and Sachin getting out cheaply - most had lost hope. But not those who truly believed in the team. They kept the faith and slowly but surely the young brigade inched closer to the target. Gautam Gambhir was as solid as a rock, and then captain Dhoni promoted himself in the batting order and the rest is history.
28 years it took the nation crazed about cricket to win the cup that matters. And what was most endearing was the fact that the self belief and confidence within Team India won in the end. Needless to say that the country went absolutely frantic with happiness. The poor, the rich, the young and the old were amalgamated into one whole. This was Cricket Crazy India celebrating being a champion nation. As the men lifted the cup they knew that on a million faces there was a smile and for that minute, that hour and many days after that – the smile would linger on.
For days one flew on the clouds of happiness, letting the fact that India were the World Champions sink in. And now one has landed. But that smile remains.
Here"s saluting a champion country that"s heartbeat is that incredible game – Cricket.