Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Melbourne Calling

I reluctantly opened my eyes in my lavish hotel room situated in Melbourne. Four days had flown by as if only a few minutes had elapsed. It all seemed like one beautiful dream to me. There were still a couple of hours to go for the start of the final days play of the Boxing Day Test that was going on between India and Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or the 'G' as we cricket crazy fans call it!! Sunshine was filtering in through the blinds and I felt like reliving my past four days all over again. I closed my eyes.

Day 1

My first day in the beautiful city of Melbourne. The first time I had stepped on foreign soil. I made my way from the airport to the hotel that I had booked for myself. I quickly dumped my bags in the room and freshened up. Made my way to the reception and collected my Boxing Day Test Tickets from the dude behind the reception desk who said, "Good Day Sir but Australia will win!!" I thanked him for the tickets and replied, "Mate, we will see" and I walked off contemplating if the Indian team was as gung-ho as me about the result. I walked around and had a great breakfast in one of the many Cafe's that will catch your attention in Melbourne.

After filling up my tummy I caught a cab and made my way to the place where I was to take my Hot Air Balloon Flight. As the sun slowly rose, I too in the hot air balloon rose high up in the air. It was a thrilling experience to view the G from the sky. Another favorite of mine was witnessing the Eureka tower. Overall, viewing the city from high up there in a moving balloon was a once in the lifetime experience for me. It was a perfect start to my Melbourne trip and set my heart racing!

The Hot Air Balloon Ride over Melbourne

After the exhilarating ride, I made my way to the MCG. Ah!! What a place it was, I felt dwarfed as I stepped into the stadium. The toss was just minutes away as I found my seat. I was, luckily, in a part of the stadium where the Indian fans seemed more in number as compared to the Aussie supporters. The stadium was already brimming and it was intimidating to be there. As Clarke won the toss and elected to Bat first there was a deafening  roar of approval from the crowd. No wonder the Australians held the first match of the season here, the ground seemed like a Colosseum with the spectators baying for the visiting teams blood!! I settled in my seat and started enjoying the match. After an early wicket, the Indian bowlers toiled hard without any reward. Australia were 108/1 at lunch. It was fun interacting with a couple of Aussie fans (they are not as bad as they seem on the television!!!) and we shared quite a few stories on cricket. The remainder of the day also breezed by with the first day ending with Australia at 356/6. Michael Clarke had hit a sublime century and was unbeaten on 121.

Next up, in the evening, for me was the Eureka Sky Deck 88!! From the time I saw it from my morning hot air balloon I was itching to visit it. It was nearly dark as I reached there. I purchased my tickets and like a small child waited eagerly for my turn to ascend 88 floors! Finally I was up there, 88 floors up in the sky. The city shone like a newly wed bride in all its finest jewelery!! To step in the glass cube which slid out was a heart stopping moment. It was yet another unforgettable experience as the city of Melbourne was under me, my eyes craved for more. The neon lights buzzed in every direction creating myriad patterns. The views were just something which will stay in the mind for life.

The Eureka Skydeck

As I descended, my heart felt content at a day spent well. I was now looking forward to the second day.

Day 2

I decided to give the first session a miss as I knew it fully well that the Aussie tail will frustrate the Indians for an hour or so in all probability. I  have always been fascinated by aquariums since my childhood and I remember pestering my parents to take me to the Machlighar (Aquarium) situated in Mumbai. They would take me there at least two times a year and I would get immense joy at watching all those different fishes in all shapes, sizes and colors. Hence I was eagerly looking forward to my visit to the Melbourne Aquarium and it was probably the only thing that would have caused me miss cricket!!

The Melbourne Aquarium

I was amazed when I got there and I saw it all there. Sharks, Stingrays... I even took an underwater sojourn in the 360 degree Oceanarium!!! Yes, I swam with those menacing sharks and stingrays!!! The Melbourne Aquarium has won several awards and is one of the premier tourist destinations in Melbourne!! If not for the Cricket and a burning desire to watch Sachin bat at the G, I would have happily spent the whole day with the fishes!!!

When I reached The G finally, I got to know that the Aussie's had been bundled out for 439 with the tail indeed frustrating the Indians!! India were 25/1 when I took seat. Soon India lost another wicket and out strode Sachin. The moment had arrived, of which I had dreamed of all along. What a rousing welcome did the little master receive, what Indians and what Australians... 100,000 people rose as one to welcome Sachin to the crease!! A trademark straight drive got him going and He along with Pujara started to take total control of the proceedings. The day ended with India at 278/6, Sachin hitting a masterly 156. Rest of the batting though disappointed and the end was almost near in the first innings for the Indians.

The evening was spent loitering around the famous Federation Square. I saw some film shootings going on, a couple of live performances were being held and the whole place was buzzing with activity and energy. I grabbed a hot espresso and filled up my tummy with the delicious fare available in plenty at the square! Then came some shopping for family and friends. I had a wonderful time there, it was just so much fun.

Federation Square jam packed with people

The second day had also come to an end now and I headed to my hotel room, tired and eagerly wanting a rest but the mind was already dreaming of the third day!!

Day 3

I decided to start my third day with a Melbourne River Cruise. Stepping on to a boat and seeing the great city from the cruise was an altogether different experience then observing it from the ground. The beauty of the city seemed accentuated and we meandered through the Yarra River. Tall skyscrapers, bridges  and gardens made beautiful reflections in the calm water. The hour long cruise ended and it gave me a perfect start for my day.

The Cruise along the Yarra River

I then made my way towards the G again but today I had decided to see the National Sports Museum first. The National Sports Museum houses Australia's most comprehensive sporting collection, showcasing more than 3500 objects related to the greatest moments in Australian sporting history. It was fascinating to know about the sports rich country, Australia. The story of MCG made for an interesting session too. If its Australia sport cannot be far off, the people of Australia are of a naturally sporting attitude. This tour provided a rare glimpse into the golden sporting accomplishments of Australia.

National Sports Museum at MCG

I was back to watching cricket as the tea break beckoned. The Indians were shot for 321 earlier in the day and Australia were 86/4 in the second innings. The day ended with the Indians finally showing some spunk in the field as the Australians ended day three at 137/5. It was turning into a fascinating test match and I was feeling a bit guilty at missing chunks of action.
Nevertheless, I made my way towards Melbourne Zoo next!! Normally the Zoo closes at 5 pm but on special days it is open till 9.30 pm and today was one of the lucky days!! Visiting the Zoo is another one of my childhood fantasies. Hence I was looking forward to coming in contact with the wildlife. The best part about the Melbourne Zoo was that the animals are kept in landscaped settings. Rain forests which had tigers roaming, monkeys swinging from branch to branch and also koalas, platypus, kangaroos... There was even a Wild Sea section which had among other exhibits Victoria's iconic Little Penguins and Australian Fur Seals.

Koala at the Melbourne Zoo

I had an absolute ball at the Zoo and then made my way towards the St Patrick's Cathedral. It was a place seeped in silence and absolute beauty. The tranquility of the place was like a soothing balm after 3 days of exhausting travel. The altar mosaics, spires, gargoyles and the exquisite brass items were the main things to look out for at the home of God!!

St Pats Cathedral

Before finally returning to my hotel room I visited the Flinders Street Station and stood under those clocks of the iconic Melbourne Station!!

Iconic Flinders Street Station

Day 4

With the Test Match standing at such a delicate situation, I was never ever going to miss the 4th day for anything else!! The day was a bit overcast and I hoped it would turn into a wonderful day for cricket as the day wore on with glorious sunshine bathing the G! The overnight not out Aussie batsmen, Mr. Cricket and Wade, took to the crease as the Indian fielders took their respective positions in the field. The first ball swung wildly down the leg side but it became clear that the clouds would help swing and seam movement and if the bowlers bowled with control then the rewards would automatically follow. The tussle between the bat and the ball was fascinating with the capacity crowd enjoying every little bit of it. After the first hour Australia were struggling at 177/8. They were soon bowled out for 185 which set up the match perfectly leaving India with a target of 303 with about 5 sessions remaining. Lunch was taken with India at 14/0.

By the time the post lunch session started the Sun decided it was time for him to watch some of the action as well. With the Sun on their backs, the Indian batsmen felt more comfortable and the pitch lost the zip and the venom it seemed to possess in the morning. Sehwag and Gambhir went about the job fairly untroubled other than on few rare occasions. Sehwag soon launched a full frontal attack and raced to his century in the session. The Indian score stood at 142/3 with Sachin and Kohli at the crease. Tea was taken.

MCG bathed in sunshine during the lunch interval

After tea the Indians were a lot more circumspect, it was only expected after the fall of Sehwag, with Sachin and Kohli both, only occasionally unfurling full blooded shots. As Kohli fell with the score on 199 and Raina once again was out fending ungainly at a vicious short ball from the rising Australian Pat Cummins, the score was 201/5. Out walked the Indian skipper Dhoni as he joined Sachin in the middle. The last recognized pair were now out and India were still 100 away from the target. The day finally ended with India at 228/7 with Sachin still available to take guard the next day.

It would be a cracker on the 5th day. India needed 75 to win a historic match while Aussie's required 3 more wickets to seal the match. Sachin stood like a rock between a victory and a defeat. I knew I would barely be able to sleep that day.

Day 5

"Why is he not up, yet? Yesterday night, he was jumping up and down about the match situation." I heard the faint voice of my Dad in the background. I jumped up with a start in horror. I just hoped and wished that I had not missed the last days play. It was 6.15 am as I quickly switched on the TV. I had actually got up at 4 am and then probably slept at around 5 am as there was still half an hour for the start of the 5th day. But what a dream I had just had!!! A dream in a dream!!

India were 259/8 with Sachin still holding fort. India were still 44 adrift. My Dad joined me as we watched the enthralling match unfold. Every dot ball was met with a sigh, every run with unbridled joy as we both put all our weight behind India. India finally won the cliffhanger by the skin of their teeth, by a solitary wicket. Sachin had silenced critics that he does not take India to victory often in big pressure matches. He was calm though amidst all the screams all around him... the helmet came off, grabbed a stump and looked upwards towards the sky while saying a silent prayer. I jumped in joy and there was a huge roar heard. Surely many people were watching the match within the confines of their homes. Sachin won the Man of the Match for making tons in both the innings.

I then narrated to my Dad the dream that I had dreamed of in my dream!!! I told him about my Australia adventure. He told me with a huge smile that maybe, the next time India play Australia at MCG on Boxing day, we might just plan a trip down under. He was serious as he said to me, ‘…it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!’ I just gave him the widest smile I could muster, hugged him and replied, ‘…it's OUR time to visit Melbourne NOW!’

PS - The post is written for the '…it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!' contest held at Indiblogger and sponsored by the good folks of Tourism Victoria. Check out all the attractions of Melbourne at - Visit Melbourne

PPS - All the images used in the post are taken from http://www.visitmelbourne.com/in

If you like my post you can vote for it here - Melbourne Calling


Harisankar said...

Great Post!!..:)


C Suresh said...

Hey DS! You sure you really did not watch the match in Melbourne? This sounds too real! Great work, mate!

T F Carthick said...

This is just beautiful. I hope they give you an Australia trip for this amazing effort.

Asif said...

Did have the passion for cricket, but didn't know the passion to write about it. At least I can't but you did it wonderfully.