Across three continents, three time zones and three
engrossing contests, March 12 (Sunday) was unfolding
as one of cricket's most dramatic days.
It started in the morning with the news coming in from
Auckland that the first Test match between West Indies
and New Zealand was heading for an exciting finish.
West Indies had ended the fourth day eight wickets
down and 45 runs away from victory. The odds though
favoured the Kiwis.
India began the day with their backs to the wall, four
wickets down and still quite far behind England's
first innings total of 300 all out.
They ended it in a position of strength thanks largely
to Rahul Dravid's 95, vital knocks by the tailenders
and then some incisive bowling by Anil Kumble who had
already picked up five wickets in the first innings,
becoming in the process the first Indian to reach the
landmark of 500 wickets.
It was in the early evening that word spread that
Australia had posted a humungous total in their ODI
against South Africa at Johannesburg. It was a world
record 434 for 4 and many of us changed channels. The
Safs of course would not stand a ghost of a chance!
That evening I had the opportunity to meet Kumble in
his hotel room for an interview. Still fielding calls
of congratulations for his landmark achievement,
Kumble was stunned when told of Australia's score.
Just imagine if it had happened in the sub-continent.
Immediately the flat pitches would have been
condemned. "It's becoming very tough to be a bowler in
ODIs," he commented to me.
From there I headed to another hotel in Chandigarh to
meet England's one-day specialist of the late '80s,
Derek Pringle. Not to discuss cricket, but instead our
shared passion for rock music.
Our chat in the coffee shop was interrupted by former
England pace bowler Jonathan Agnew who stuck his head
round the corner from the lift and told Pringle to
join him upstairs to watch the match.
"South Africa have seven overs to go and Gibbs is still batting.
They have a chance," Agnew said with an incredulous look
on his face. Pringle did not need a second
invitation - he hurriedly excused himself and rushed to
From there I made it as quickly as possible to my
host's home in Mohali where a famous guest was glued
to the TV - spin legend Bishan Singh Bedi.
I made it just in time to watch the final over. With
two deliveries to go, one wicket in hand and the
scores tied, the scene of the tied semi-final of the
1999 World Cup naturally flashed through my mind, as it
no doubt did to millions of others watching around the
world. Mark Boucher of course settled it for the Safs
Yes, they had achieved the impossible with a total of
nearly 900 runs scored in a day, the most by far in the
history of cricket.
Bedi has always been a bowler at heart and his first
reaction was to wonder what the poor bowlers' analysis
looked like! Then his sympathies switched to Kumble
and his brilliant performance that had taken India to
the doorstep of victory at the end of the fourth day.
"Now everyone will forget about Anil and the whole
cricket world will be talking about this match for
days on end." He was spot on. The next day New Zealand won in
Auckland and India in Mohali. But it was the J'burg
miracle that had everyone awe-struck.
One-day cricket will surely never be the same again.
Pity the poor bowlers, reduced to cannon-fodder!