A Special Guest Post from my friend Leo (Vinay) who writes wonderful poems, stories and haikus at his space - I Rhyme Without Reason and is an ardent cricket fan...
Today, the 16th of March 2012 will remain etched in history. Not of the nation, but of the national cricket team. Oh! who am I kidding? Of course, it’ll be part of the nation too.
For one year, and four days, every match India played was anxiously awaited. Every time, he stepped foot on the cricket field, he was received with cheers, and there was no necessity for any public announcement as to who the next batsman was for the Indian team. After all, for the best part of 22 years, he was the one who guided India to many victories; his name had become synonymous with the Indian team name, and an ambassador for the game the world over. If even a single taken by this batsman was cheered, it was because the entire nation; nay, the entire world; was expecting that that first single would be succeeded by ninety nine more.
If it was Rampaul in the West Indies tour that denied him and Siddle in the Australian tour, the expectation of him to reach that century was becoming a responsibility to him. On a sultry Friday afternoon, when the clock was showing a time between four and five in the evening (sorry, I was too busy cheering, to notice exact time), Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar went past that elusive milestone of a hundredth international hundred. A lazy flick, to mid wicket, was captured by multiple cameramen, and the audience at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium in Mirpur rose to their feet to give the “Little Master” a standing ovation. And I joined them, to applaud the feat that might never be eclipsed.
Just around fifteen balls before, Rameez Raja in the commentary box had told something. “Come on Sachin, you are making me nervous with all this drama and dot balls.” He was referring to the carefulness with which the little master played after crossing the eighty run mark. A maiden over to Mortaza, and dot balls to both Razzak and al-Hasan… yes, the country was anxious too, and in retrospect, I wish he’d not have been as careful. A few runs, maybe even ten or twelve from those dot balls… and the match could have been more secure. Yes, the pitch was on the slower side perhaps, and the Bangla bowlers bowled well, but a little more Dhoni-esque innings, like how he played once he got to that century, that’d have been a welcome relief to both the nation’s nervousness, and also the target on board.
(image courtesy : cricinfo.com)
To the match itself, when the innings break was on, I remember telling myself, “290 against the Bangladeshis is quite a decent score”. Perhaps I spoke out loud, and my father heard… he immediately told me, “Don’t think so. This Bangladesh team is much stronger than before. Don’t take them for granted”. Golden words to live by… I didn’t take to heart, and when Nazimuddin fell early, I remember writing in Indi thread that they’re already facing Everest, and telling DS that Bangladesh will collapse. I eat my words, and with wholehearted words, I commend the deserving victors, the Bangladesh team. If it was Tamim and Jahirul who steadied the ship with a well paced partnership, it was the all round skills and power hitting of Shakib al Hasan and cool mind of Nasir Hossain that pushed them nearer. And by the time Praveen Kumar got the lucky wicket of Nasir, the skipper Rahim had hit some lusty blows to the fence off Irfan, and the match was well and truly settled.
As an avid supporter of Team India, I am truly disappointed, and I try to convince myself that this loss was just a bump on the road, that it was only that we had met better opposition. As an impartial mind, seeing from a neutral perspective, I still see the dot balls clearly... whereas the Bangla players took the batting powerplay as a launchpad to launch a frontal assault in the final 15, the Indians had gradually slowed. Maybe it was the lack of more runs towards the end that cost India this match, but a total of 290, no matter what my dad say; against Bangladesh… it could’ve been defended, right? I do hope that in the celebrations and attention that our hero (and no doubts about that, he is a hero) will get, that this loss to Bangladesh, and the collective failures in the recent past, they won’t be forgotten…