Tuesday, September 25, 2007

India - Twenty 20 World Champions!

I don’t know where to start. The feeling is yet to sink in…. Yesterday, 24th September 2007 - Monday was one of THE best days of my life. My beautiful India was up against the traditional rivals Pakistan in the Twenty 20 World Cup finals!What could better than this? I think nothing...This was easily the best that any cricket lover could get in the year 2007. Not even the World Cup 2007 finals were close to this. This was being watched/followed by at least a billion people all over the world. Hell it had to be some game and it was some game…
I will make a modest attempt at describing the scenes in my Pune. All the events that began yesterday morning promised a day unforgettable for years to come. Let me start of from the time I walked into the office yesterday morning…

Monday Morning: I plod into my office thinking about leaving early today. And as luck would have it, there was not much work for the offshore team (that is us) to be done today. I meet my friend in a corridor and when I ask him about the time he’s gonna leave today, he answers firmly, very confidently – “5’ o clock bud. No chances at all!” I smile at the thoughts that I am not the only person going home early today. As our project team gets together for a breakfast in the cafeteria everyone is discussing nothing but – of course cricket. There is buzz everywhere – everyone wants to talk, everyone wants to share his/her excitement about today. One this for sure – it is gonna be absolute chaos if India pull off a win today!

Monday Afternoon: – No change in the atmosphere…Everyone is still talking about cricket - In the elevators, on the steps, during lunch, in the washrooms, on phones! ….It is cricket everywhere. Just then, I receive a mail. It’s from Dad…. His company has asked the its employees to ‘officially’ to leave an hour early just for the match!!!…. A note for outsiders – This is how serious cricket is in India. For Indians – This is expected. Cricket comes above everything else… I forward that mail to everyone in our team. Just then I get a mail – rather everyone in our office gets a mail. It’s about today evening. They (our company) are gonna show the cricket on big screens in two buildings! Me mate, Hemant sitting in a building a mile away from mine, pings me saying we would watch the match on the big screen rather than going home. After a bit of hesitancy, I say Yes! After all, it’s best to watch with a group of people and what could get better than watching it in the big comfy auditorium of ours!

Monday Evening: – I glance at the bottom right corner of my computer. Time now is 5pm. Only 30 minutes left for a hell of a cricket match. I call my friend - Rama, in the other building and tell him to check out the auditorium and hold a couple of places. I call him again after 10 mins and hez gone crazy. In a while I would too, after hearing what he said. He says – India has won the toss and India’s gonna bat first! I can't wait a minute now in my cubicle. Tushar and me literally run out like schoolboys after the end of the schoolday. The Englishman in my adjacent cubicle is not at all surprised. He knows it's all about Indians and cricket.

Rush to the Auditorium: Tushar and me are still huffing and puffing as we reach the elevator lobby on the ground floor of GLT 2.0. A lift comes down. About 20 odd people get in. The auditorium is on the 6th floor. Only one button is lit up on the inside. No prizes for guessing where everyone is heading. The lift stops on the third floor. There is boo in the lift. No one wants the lift to stop until it reaches the 6th floor!! And as the lift doors open on the 6th floor, Tushar and me start running – it’s a sprint I guess, to the Auditorium on the left. We thought we are the only ones running. Looking back we see a bunch of others following us – running of course! As we enter the dark auditorium, we realize, its full! The big screen is a beaming live pictures straight from Wanderers, Jo’burg, RSA! I am so excited that I trip over something in the dark. I realize it’s a chair. Just then Rama shouts from the very back of the auditorium. Hez got some spaces for us! I thank him profusely.

Indian Innings: The auditorium is full. But still people are coming in. Now, they start sitting on the steps in the aisles. The match starts. Everyone is clapping and the first ball arouses a scare in everyone. Yousuf Pathan is nearly run out. The decision is referred to the third umpire. As the replay is being shown here on the screen everyone realizes that Yousuf Pathan is safe. There is very big roar... so big that people outside come in running. It’s like as if we have won the match! Well, I think, I made the right decision of watching the finals here with everyone on the big screen. Yousuf Pathan hits a big six and there are screams everywhere. People are still streaming into the auditorium. The steps on the aisles are full. They now start sitting on the space in front of the big screen before the first row of chairs. That space is filled in a minute. The auditorium is jam packed – would be an understatement coz if some more people would have come in, they would have to use the walls and ceilings! There is absolutely no space. The atmosphere is wonderful. Soon a wicket goes down and everyone is quiet…. Every four and six is cheered like a victory. As the sixes and fours dry up, everyone cheers the twos and threes!! In between the Indian innings, everyone is excited about Yuvraj and Dhoni. But they fail to perform. No frigging issues with that. There was Gautam Gambhir at the other end who batted brilliantly. What an effort that was….75 off 54 balls! This southpaw is a star! …In the end, Rohit Sharma’s clever stroke play helps India post a respectable 157 on board. I am thinking – Will India be able to pull of another win? My thoughts go into a negative territory for some reason. The lights are switched on in the auditorium. The mood now is bit down. Everyone fears that this total might not be enough. I hurriedly make my way to the coffee machine. There is queue there. People are pondering on the match waiting in the line. Some are busily analyzing the match over cappuccino and lattes. I am just thinking how hard we have to bowl. Tushar is on phone. Rama thinks we are going to lose.

Pakistan Innings: I head back in the lit auditorium, again amazed to see the number of people. I hadn’t seen so many people in this auditorium for any seminar or presentation. I sit back calmly waiting for the innings to start. It does…. First over – Fifth ball, the auditorium goes up screaming as Mohammad Hafeez tries to steer the ball to third man, but straight into the hands of Robin Uthappa! Now, my thoughts go back into a positive mode. The next over is mess from Sreesanth. Imran Nazir butchers him. It’s 21 from that second over. Third over – RP Singh sends Kamran Akmal’s off stump cartwheeling. Pakistan 26/2! India’s gotta chance. With every wicket, the crowd is going berserk. We are shouting, chanting – Ganapati Bappa Moraya every time a wicket falls! The previous time, I had experienced such an explosive atmosphere was in Crown Casino, Melbourne watching World Cup 2003 (India vs. Pakistan, March 1, 2003).
I thanked myself again for staying back and watching the cricket in the auditorium. The biggest celebration was for Shahid Afridi's wicket. Shahid Afridi spooned the ball in the air and was comfortably caught by Sreesanth running from Long off… or was that mid off. Whatever, I can’t remember. It was a good catch. With Pakistan 77/6 and Shahid Afridi gone for a duck, everyone knew that it was India in the driver’s seat (as the commentators love calling it). But then there was this guy – Misbah-Ul-Haq. He proved why he is dangerous. With some brilliant batting helped by Sohail Tanvir, he brought the target down to 13 off last 6 balls. I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought of crawling and sitting down between the chairs. Misbah hit a big six and there was a silence in the whole auditorium. How could India give the cup away like this I thought? Joginder Sharma comes in running and Misbah tries to scoop it behind the wicket. The ball goes up. I think it is running off to the boundary. But Sreesanth takes a comfortable catch! There is an eruption in the Auditorium. Pakistan all down. India has won the match! India has won the Twenty 20 World Cup! Yes, We are World Champions! I couldn’t believe it. I was absolutely ecstatic. I hugged someone– dunno his name. It didn’t matter. Everyone was celebrating. Screaming. I almost fell on the floor! All of them were celebrating - The security guards too!! It was the best moment. Everyone congratulating each other and Team India!

Victory Lap on the roads: Hemant, Kshitija and I were heading home from office. We took the North Main road. Suddenly we saw flags everywhere. People were celebrating the victory. I yelled out loudly – “Go India”. The guy in the car across the road responded back! There it started. I started shouting and screaming at every group of revellers on the roads. They were doing the same. There were bikes everywhere with boys and girls shouting and chanting “Chak de India, Cheers India, Go India”. Some were carrying Indian flags. It was a beautiful sight. Seemed like the match was in Pune and the crowd was just coming out of the stadium!! We decided to take MG Road today, as it would be crowded! And it was! There was a group of people celebrating. We parked our car and then went there. What scenes! There were Indian flags and the familiar Dhol Tasha music. Soon it began to get crowded and everyone was enjoying. Others who didn’t want to dance lined up on the sides of the roads and watched the fun. The revelers stopped all the vehicles and soon MG road was jam-packed!!! A car driver got so excited that he stopped the car in the middle of the road, turned off the engine, opened the boot of his car and turned up the music. The crowd went wild. All of ‘em started dancing and screaming like madmen. A two-wheeler stopped in the middle too. The guy stood up on the vehicle and started waving the Indian flag. It was absolutely amazing. Soon there were more flags and more people. I could see the young and the old, the rich and the poor celebrating together. How wonderful it was to be in India at time like this. Cricket, or for that matter any sport, UNITES! And there is no better example than today!!! I cannot describe how energetic and amazing the scenes were. In the end – I was tired and bruised and my body started to ache. But then, who cares. Days like these don’t come every day. Congratulations Team India!! You beauty!!!