It doesnt feel good to be 35.
Portion sizes need to be watched. Exercise is needed just to stay alive. Trusting someone else becomes difficult.
And, worst of all, people expect you to be responsible.
Sometimes though, it’s not all that bad. Being old that is. Because unlike many of you young tykes, I was there. On both THE days.
In 1983 I was old enough to understand we had done something great. In 2011 I am old enough to understand why it is so.
Throughout the tournament, Dhoni had made some bizarre selectorial calls, mostly involving preferring almost everyone else, including Sreesanth, over Ashwin. (It was an ironic testament to Ashwin being chronically ignored that during the presentation when Ashwin’s name was called, Sehwag stepped up to receive his medal). But then for every misadventure in selection (which Dhoni to his credit has owed upto), he had also captained well in the field, with aggressive bowling changes and field placements.
But my main concern was that, as India’s best ODI finisher and more importantly as the leader, he had not performed, not contributing in pressure situations in the way a World Cup winning captain should do. In order to win the World Cup, Dhoni had to lead through batting , bringing to the fore that one “leading from the front” performance that Kapil, Waugh, Ponting all provided as parts of their successful campaigns. Without his individual contribution in the runs column,which had been lacking so far for some time, I just felt the final trophy would not be possible.
Well today, Dhoni played his Tunbridge Wells. During the match, I had tweeted how impressed I was when he came out ahead of Yuvraj—-it showed intent at a “knife edge moment”. Intent though is one thing and execution is another and Dhoni was perfect. Best of it all,unlike what happened to that epic 175, there will now be video footage for people to rewind, review and say “I was there watching it live when it happened.”
If Dhoni became Kapil, Yuvraj, with his all round skills, became the Mohinder Amarnath, finding redemption, of the kind usually seen in sports movies, on the largest stage possible.
And then there was this other man, who had had a rebirth since 2007, the second highest scorer in the tournament, sitting on the shoulders of Yousuf Pathan, representing to me my favorite generation of Indian cricketers, one that sadly will never hold the Cup, resting with that one thing that had eluded him for so long.
There are some things that are so valuable that for them even Gods must wait a lifetime.
In 1983 hockey was the game of the country. Indian cricketers were paid a few pounds a day as daily allowance. None expected them to win anything. There were no corporate sponsors. Newspapers kept cricket confined to the sports pages. Given all that, on a sunny day in June, a motley crowd of no-hopers scripted a fairytale, bringing down one of the greatest war machines that ever took the field.It would remain the greatest upset ever in the history of the game, a shock the equivalent of “shooting a bullet at a piece of paper and having it come back and hit you”.
As a seven year old, I had remembered jumping about in joy, understanding by looking into my father’s eyes that we had done something whose magnitude I could not comprehend.I felt great, as great as I would feel when the first sugar rush of rosogolla would hit the tongue. And that was all that mattered.
June 25, 1983 changed India. That’s no hyperbole. It laid the foundation for the phenomenal growth of Indian cricket as a commercial enterprise. It brought a new generation (the one that now hold the cup) to the game of cricket as a career choice. In a more intangible way, for a country consigned to the list of “developing” (since the word “underdeveloped” was not politically correct), the victory taught us, to quote Indira Gandhi, that “India can do it.”
April 2, 2011.
Unlike in 1983, Team India were no longer long long shot underdogs. On the contrary they were one of the favorites, number 1 in Test rankings and number 2 in ODIs, both of them well-deserved. India, as an economic power-house, had changed dramatically from the 80s.
So had I. For me cricketers were no longer “heroes” whose pictures I would cut out and paste in my scrapbook. I have become too cynical for that. I still follow the Indian team, still want them to succeed but in a certain difficult-to-define impersonal way, maintaining a certain emotional distance from all of it. There are too many games, too many tournaments, too much corporate media babble of the “Bleed Blue” and “The Color of Passion Is Red” variety and too much money (either way–loss or victory) to believe that any of it makes a difference. I do get excited when India wins and depressed when they lose but for a moment only, after which I just shrug and say “Who cares?”
But when off the last ball, Dhoni brought out his iconic shot, the one he had kept in the freezer it seems for years and the ball sailed into the night, it was back—– the tightening of the throat, the hint of moisture at the corner of the eyes.
Yes this one matters.
It matters because it unites billions, all across the world, in one thread of pure emotion.
It matters because it makes us believe we are part of something bigger than our insignificant selves.
It matters because it creates a new pantheon of legends for a new generation.
It matters because of the broken dreams of those who could not attain it—-the Dravids, the Kumbles and the Gangulys.
It matters because it defines a milestone in our lives—one to which we can all turn to years later and say, misty-eyed, “Do you remember….?”.
And finally, it matters because it helps many of us realize something very important.
The seven-year old still lives.