As the sun shone brightly in the golden sky, the streets wore a deserted look, the traffic lights shone red to no cars, and the occasional honk of a car conspicuous in this numbing silence reminded you of the civilisation this city was ordinarily home to. On a Wednesday, it looked as though the city was engulfed by a stringent curfew and people were hiding away in their havens.
Inside a house of four, a father drops all things work-related and marches towards the television, quickly kicks off his shoes, rolls up his sleeves, and switches on the television set purposefully. Minutes later, the kids obediently walk into the dining room and sit patiently on their respective seats. Their mother brisk-walks into the dining room and lays down the plates hurriedly almost shoving the plates into her kids’s faces as her eyes lay trapped on the television set. Moments later, this family of four comes to a standstill almost frozen in time. Roars are heard from the television set and the family ebbs away from its stoic stance and leaps with joy. Toss; India had won the toss against bête-noire Pakistan.
Unity in diversity, anyone?
Story of every household, you say? I concur. If cricket is religion, an India vs. Pakistan semi-final is Mecca. Perfection makes a presence in reality in the form of the envious unity through the lengths and breadths of India. As the Men in Blue batted for a billion throbbing hearts, the cheers struck new decibels with every ball, run that went in our favour. With an unimpressive and achievable target of 261, pessimism made a guest appearance, hope, in the lead role, ran amuck in every nook and corner. News programming had metamorphosed into strictly-sports programming. Whilst on one hand Shiney Ahuja had been convicted of rape, a first in the industry, the eye-balls displayed loyalty to cricket. Looming over this rare cricket encounter were the often ill-fated talks between India and Pakistan, idyllic for news-breeding. In spite of that, the news bureaus only stressed upon the language of cricket. Such is the mania.
In the gathering dusk, the green brigade approached their dusk too; their faces soon mirroring the colors of their jerseys. Synonymous of Diwali, a festival celebrating the home-coming of Lord Rama after 14 tumultuous years in exile, firecrackers fondled with the night sky as India inched closer to sweet taste of victory. A la Diwali and weddings, our triumph was a day of jubilations and celebrations for we had proved to be better than the green brigade.
With over a billion hands folded offering prayers to a million gods, one of them had to answer our prayers. Unified by our indelible love for cricket, we are drenched in victory. Inquisitively if you ask someone if we’d bring the cuppa home, the answer that is shot off is a loud ‘YES’ with subtext saying ‘We sent Pakistan packing, the world cup is over’.
A mammoth game awaited a mammoth country of 1.2 billion people. An encore of Wednesday could be seen on the roads and in the countless households. Self-proclaimed cricket experts hailed for the toss to be the deciding factor. Fate, being the party pooper as always, drew up a comedy of errors. The coin was flipped twice and as always it evaded the good books of our team.
With volatile Sreesanth in the playing XI, flak was in close proximity too. Bowling to the highest run-getter of the tournament, Zaheer and surprisingly Sreesanth too kept the run rate under tabs. A dream run by Zaheer ensured that we had wickets just when faces began to look sullen. Sreesanth’s second spell had many murmuring expletives under their breaths. Yet again, as against Bangladesh, Sreesanth helped Sri Lanka to get to a score which boosted their confidence. Having been the stronger team, Sri Lankans departed the field unable to contain the confidence that echoed a total of 275.
Tall claims of India’s invincible batting order were soon to be dwarfed by Maggi-haired Malinga. He took away two key players and most of our hopes. With every wicket that fell, our hopes were pinned on the batsmen next in line. For most part and for most of the Indians, hope was synonymous with Gambhir. Unfortunately, he fell short of his century and was replaced by Yuvraj Singh on the crease. Dhoni had promoted himself up the order and up until now had been labeled ‘out of form’ for the tournament. Little did we know, Dhoni was set to script out a dream for all of us. The duo achieved the target fearlessly in the 49th over and leapt into each others’ arms. Mirroring these images, were the visuals that played out across India. The Indian flag danced in the wind from the sun-roof of swanky cars, dhol–wallahs took to the street and hooting hit the supersonic decibels. The Men in Blue had even caused the otherwise calm and composed Sonia Gandhi to make an appearance at India Gate in glory of the win. Unity in diversity, anyone?
A fortnight later, the Indian Premier League (I.P.L.) serves two matches on a daily basis, but hold on, the hangover of the World Cup triumph has still not subsided, and we are not prepared to see our boys play against each other. United we stand, divided by the sad I.P.L.