That match. That day.

2004 Dec 17 by

From among the pandemonium we could make out that Maindad was running with his bat pumping up in the air and the non-striker trying to embrace him while running too. Kapil's was a face of disbelief. Chetan's was a face of humilation. Ours' was a face of shock!

I was going through some cricket article on rediff a couple ofa days ago about Rameez's visit to India regarding the restoration of cricketing ties with the Pakis. (It looks like the bank accounts of Pakis are running a little low. They badly need an India series to bulk them up! And the bookmakers weren't particularly enthusiastic about the series with Bangladesh either! Kapali picking up a hat-trick or Asadullah Iqbal scoring his first fifty do not exactly set the cash registers on fire in Dubai!) There was a little link in there that anchored to the World Cup match between Ind and Pak - the just concluded one.

Wasim Akram on song against the Aussies in the 92 world cup.

Wasim Akram on song against the Aussies in the 92 world cup.
I was going through the write-up on the match and the 15 or so pages comments (yeah, yeah, it is a slow day today!) in effect reliving that memorable day all over again. I thought of bringing up this "My Match - My Day" topic where I could share the most exiciting match that each I have witnessed in my lifetime (till date) and why it has made it that memorable.

As much as the recent Ind-Pak clash sent my adrenaline pumping and my heart thumping, not to mention the soaring blood-pressure and the oft-filling bladder, as much as I loved witnessing GOD size up the opponents, I would have to vote for the Australasia Cup finals match (1986) - yeah, that infamous last ball sixer match - as my favorite till date. Please cut me a little slack (or give me a long rope, for the English purists) as I am recounting most of this from those unused part of the gray cells and I am not real accurate on the statistics (yeah, I could go to the archive records, but that would reduce the experience to a mere exercise of match report). I think we were in 9th class and there were some unit test examinations going on at just that same convenient time. As we belong to that class of people, who believe more in the one day version of the game than the test match variety, the unforgiving syllabus coupled with the defiant nature of not noting down what was dictated in the class, caused a mini-meltdown of sorts. And in line one day philosophy, every thing got packed until the last overs of the session wherein, I had to memorize 10 or so lessons in an 8 hour period, discounting the break periods, the lull periods and the saturation periods that one often encounters during the examination preparation session.

Our guys breezed into the final conveniently beating NZ and Pak, on the other hand, pushed themselves hard against Aussies and earned a berth to compete against us. So the date is set - one day before my unit test. However hard it is to visualize, up until 1985, Indians thrashed Pakis on a regular basis at Sharjah, before the bookie culture took roots and before Ravi Shastri hadn't fallen prey to Amrita's charms. We were the obvious favorites coming into the game, but Pakis loaded their fire-power in Imran and the then upcoming Akram. Since it was a day match, the match usually started around 10:30-11:00 and continue well into the dusk.

I remember I haven't made good strides with the syllabus right till the start of the match. But the prospect that my Babu Rao wasn't going to let me see the match, even if I completed the syllabus, revised and revised, in any case, made me to go a little slow and space the chapters up in the 10 hours till sleep time - 8 hours to read the 10 chapters and 2 more hours to revise the whole thing. This schedule was without taking into account, any breaks - even for nature's most curious and urgent calls, drink breaks, meal breaks. This schedule assumed that I steam right ahead and continue cramming right till the end - which continued to be the case for every examination till my formal completion of parting ways with structured education.

I don't remember who won the toss, but we were put into bat first. There it was - Sunny and Srikkanth (note the two "k"s. Srikkanth must have spent a fortune discovering that it was not his batting style but that little glitch, the lack of an extra K in his name, that was holding him back from his centuries!) striding up toward the crease to face Imran. Sunny, who had this habit of covering his face up, like he was adjusting something in his skull cap so as to not allow photographers take pictures of him FREE OF COST, walked toward the crease to take guard and aim.

I was growing restless from my inability to concentrate on the task at hand and my utter resentment toward my father, for insisting that I concentrate on my career (or precisely, the unit test on the following day) more than I give importance to some trivial game. My irritation grew even more, when he took the day off from work and seated himself comfortably before the TV. There usually comes an important and a crucial point during the preparation of the exam - the make or break point - when one decides that he either is going to stick to the discipline and continue marching on irrespective of the external corruptive, but quite enticing, influences or to just let go of the ego and realize that marks and ranks are not THAT important in a broader scheme of things and that there wasn't usually much difference either from a humanistic stand point between somebody, who got the first rank and became the pet of the teachers, and somebody who RENOUNCES the unit test and thus the ego. It was when you free yourself of the exam, marks, ranks and career guilt, that one can enjoy the little aspects of the life - like Australasia finals, Chitrahaars, Chitralaharis and the like. Wisdom dawned upon me then, and I, suddenly, rid of the all the materialisitc burdens, walked off coolly and took a seat next to my father. I was counting on the fact that he didn't want to disturb himself by bringing up the often troubling aspect of our relationship - studies - when he was just about to enjoy the game. His "have you COMPLETELY and COMPREHENSIVELY completed the syllabus along with the revision and re-revision and that I can question you from any part of the textbook" question was answered with a serene, calm and peaceful "yes, faddah" reply. My lucky starts shined (just for that day) and he did not insist upon bringing up the topic till the end of day.

Srikkanth and Gavaskar, suprisingly, stood till the end of the first 10 overs, which was a miracle in itself, considering Chikka fancies himself by bunnying up to Akram and Gavaskar average in one-dayers (around 29) did not speak of him too greatly. We were roughing the bowlers up and going great guns. Abdul Qadir proved useless. Mudassar proved valueless and Imran witless. As tough as it is remember, thanks to the early onslaught that most openers launch during the first 15 overs, back then, the philosophy was to preserve wickets till the 39th over and then gear up for the final assault. Chikka was out for a gallant 75 and Vengasarkar joined Gavaskar and in an unusal coicindence started clicking well together. Any score over 240 was a huge insurmountable task, in those days, and thanks to Sunny and Vengi, India was looking to go well past 250. Gavaskar was on 92 when Imran took over the death overs. We were enjoying the game uptil then, my father making those smart alec comments, and I contributing with not-so-funny rejoinders. Sunny moved to the side trying to make room to hit Imran over the long-on/off fence and was cleaned bowled completely missing the ball. That was a minor jolt to us and my father immediately receded to his shell, retreated to his original position that he assumed during the beginning of the match and started to chant Hanuman Chalisa and may be Vishnu Sahasra Namas. That was the cue to shut myself up, lest the issue turn somehow towards studies and I would no longer enjoy to the privilege of watching the match at the cost of my unit test.

Akram took over from then and what seemed an easy and a comfortable 270+ was reduced to 245 at the end of 50, which was not too bad in itself, but considering the explosive start and a solid middle orders, was little below the expectations. Lunch was declared and I gobbled up my quota at the table without any whimper and excused from the table immediately afterwards. I was running out of ways to avoid my father during the recess, lest he really wanted to test my knowledge of the subject that I was going to fail, without any fail, the following day. Gods smiled and the game resumed before any untoward incidents happened on the homefront.

We plucked their openers quite easily and the middle order was really wobbling. Pakistan, at that time, was known more for their bowling strength than for their battling display and the only exception was this seemingly normal person, unassuming but higly scheming and intelligent beyond his years - Javed Miandad. It can categorically be said that no other batsman troubled India more before and after this match than Javed and the fact that he emigrated (his family, in fact) from Poona in his childhood, somehow made him wise of the Indian way of cricket - or atleast that what I thought, when he stood rock solid when wickets were tumbling all around him. What looked like a cake walk, after sending their top order to cool their heals off and warm up their asses for whipping in their dressing rooms, started to get a little uphill, once Maindad completely reigned over and started to take runs in 2s, 4s and 6s. I could hear my father's breath muttering both disdain for the Pakis and chants for our team. And by the time, everyone realized what was happening, it came down to the last over. Pakis needed to me 10 runs off the last over with 2 wickets in hand, and praise Kapil's Rapidex English speaking course enhanced acumen, for calculating the overs incorrectly and bowling the penultimate over himself and leaving the ball in the hands of the not-so-safe weak-duckling Chetan Sharma.

By this time, we have left our seats and gathered around the TV in a semi-circle, just a few inches away from the screen. Let me digress a little and talk about the television transmission quality in Machilipatnam in those days. These were days when Vijayawada relay station hasn't been setup yet, and so the quality depended a lot on the prevailing weather conditions. It was usually good around the day-noon portion and got progressively bad from then on. At around this time, it was wise for one to go upstairs and play around with the 20 feet antenna, adjusting the different directions, which was conveyed to the one looking at the TV adjusting the booster, through a middle man, who was positioned outside the house, equidistant from the man upstairs and the man infront of the TV. These Benjamin Franklin adjustments to the antenna yeilded nothing, most of the times, what was is life without hope of the odd thing that happens for reasons unknown?

Coming back to the match, the transmission got really bad by the time the last over was about to be bowled and that it was getting really hard to make up the faces of the players from the millions of dots all over the screen. And thank God, the audio was still good. Chetan started off the over with Javed facing him. The first ball was carted to a 2, the second ball a single and the third ball, A RUN OUT!! We leaped with unbound joy at the prospect of a great victory and a sweet memory in a couple more deliveries. Maindad was intelligent enough to cross the sides before the run out. 7 runs were needed off 3 delivers. 2 runs were taken off the next 2 balls and 3 was the winning requirement off the last ball.

Miracles, according to me, happen only in stories. I have never ever witnessed a miracle in my life. Yeah, the occasional getting of the US visa, making up the academic attendance deficit through 108 pradakshinams in Hanuman temple chanting his chaalisa to avoid detention, doesn't exactly file under miracles, as far as I am concerned. But that day, what I was in the presence of was nothing short of a miracle. Kapil had all the players, but 4 including the keeper as per the restrictions, on ropes, literally and figuratively.

The only way Miandad could win it for Pakistan was hitting over the heads. The tension/pressure(blood and regular) was mounting up. At this time I could clearly hear my father unleashing his most potent of weapons, reserved for only special match occasions - the Gayatri mantra. Maindad was without helmet - his mane falling off to the side, his unorthodox stance (with a leg stump guard leaning on the bat facing the mid on), his resolute face trying to prove that grit was more important than talent. Chetan ran from the stadium end and released the ball.

It all happened in a split second - the crowds roared, the commentators voiced drowned, every body was running towards the dressing room. From among the pandemonium we could make out that Maindad was running with his bat pumping up in the air and the non-striker trying to embrace him while running too. Kapil's was a face of disbelief. Chetan's was a face of humilation. Ours' was a face of shock! We could believe what we just heard that Javed belted the FULL TOSS (THAT MORON!!!) into the stands for a six and Pakistan won by a single wicket!!

Epilogue That was the starting point of the numerous humialiting defeats at the hands of the Pakis (and some bookies in the later years) in Sharjah, from whose specter we were able to recover only recently, to make the contests between the countries, equally poised all over again.

Subscript I remember doing well the next day at the exam, thanks to some pushing prodding of my neighbors! I think it is just law of conservation of luck. Whatever luck the Lord taketh away from one, he giveth it to somebody else (specially during his unit test examinations!)