Wednesday, April 13, 2011

World Cup & ME!

It’s been nearly ten days now that India has won the world cup. There must have been thousands of articles written on it and millions of blogs too with trillions of comments on them, mostly illogical. I would like to give a drop in that over crowded ocean.

1975-1979 World Cups : I was born in the year 1983 so obviously don’t have a clue as to what happened in 1975-79. Looking back at the statistics I see that India played horribly in them. Winning just one match that too against a non test playing side. Even Sri Lanka defeated India, even though they were not a Test side yet. Gavaskar 34 runs of infinite balls is the only talked about thing of these two World Cups. I assume that highlights of these two WCs are shown in West Indian countries still, at least just before every World Cup.

1983 World Cup: India won the cup on 25 June 1983; I was born exactly three days later. I was born premature by a month so it won’t be wrong to assume that my mom got so excited after India won the cup that I was born on 28th June.

Like every Indian with a television set even I must have seen the highlights of this World Cup infinite times. During every World Cup season it was our daily dose. I had an autobiography of Kapil Dev in my house. It probably was bought by my uncle. I got hold of it when I was around 12 years old and read the 1983 World Cup chapters’ innumerable times. It was fun. I can only imagine how much happiness the nation would have achieved in the monsoon of 1983.

Right from 1996 to 2011 edition I saw innumerable times India’s matches of 1983 Cup. Sandeep Patil fearlessly hitting an England bowler for four after four in Semi Finals, India falling like pack of cards for 183, Sandhu bowling an amazing off cutter to get Greenidge bowled, Kapil making a very tough catch look ridiculously simple, Amarnath with his dibbly dobblies, India winning the match, Srikanth running like mad, pitch invasion by fans and Kapil lifting the trophy with his trademark smile. He was just 24. Wow, a nation with poor sporting history must have rejoiced. One thing that me along with millions of cricket fans regret is that Kapils 175* against Zimbabwe was never recorded on film due to some issues with BBC.

The world cup victory also coincided with the modernization of India. Asian Games held in India (Was there a similar scam as CWC 2010?) , India getting coloured television, Maruti & Hero Honda setting up, Rakesh Sharma going in space, among a few I can recollect happened around same time. Only sad thing I recollect from this period is that India won its last Olympic medal in Hockey in 1980. Probably it was a sign of change; focus was shifted from hockey to cricket.

1987 World Cup: I was too small to remember anything about the 1987 Reliance World Cup. The only thing which connects me to it was a sticker which was put up on an Almirah in our home by one of my uncles. It had a big cricket ball and flags of all participating countries with “Reliance World Cup” boldly written on it. That sticker was there atleast till 1996 World Cup. Either the quality of that sticker was amazing or utmost care was taken not to harm it!

I still don’t know why this particular World Cup is always ignored by media. I hardly see any highlights of 1987 tournament even during World Cup seasons considering India played quite well in it. Few things I know about it after following cricket for so long is Chetan Sharma’s hat-trick, Sidhu’s explosive batting, India losing to Australia by 1 run, India and Pakistan both losing their semi-finals creating an anti climax and Gatting’s reverse sweep. I have never seen footage of Allan Border lifting the World Cup ever in my life! Infact I was under the assumption that coloured clothing were first used in this edition considering World Series took place two years earlier with coloured clothing. I still don’t understand why such a step motherly treatment I given to 1987!

1992 World Cup: This is the first World Cup that I remember watching on TV. This was the first with coloured clothing, with nine teams and a single group, addition of South Africa and amazing stadiums in Australia and New Zealand. My cricketing knowledge was quite limited at that time, but I remember few incidents like daylight. Greatbatch going wild, Dipak Patel opening the bowling (I wondered why an Indian was playing for NZ, bloody traitor), South Africa showing what fielding is supposed to be (Jonty flying like Superman!), Miandad and More kangaroo episode, India losing to Australia again by 1 run, Zimbabwe defeating England among a few and the best jerseys at World Cups ever. I also remember Ravi Shastri’s photos were garlanded back home by shoes after his slow batting in a match. Yep, Indian fans were crazy even then! But I saw many people wearing replica jerseys of other countries back then. I doubt it will happen again!

India didn’t qualify for the Semis due to average performance and bad luck. They lost a couple of close matches and their match against Sri Lanka was washed out. Nesfit was an energy drink launched with Vinod Kambli endorsing it I remember hazily.

Then I saw the heartbreak. I saw the shock on the face of Brian McMillan when the revised target was shown 21 of 7 balls. After a few seconds when the giant screen showed 21 runs off 1 ball, the look on McMillan’s face was priceless. It can be a serious contender for Mastercard ads. After India was out I was supporting South Africa. I screamed loudly in disbelief “IT’S CHEATING”. I asked my Mom for explanation of the mess it was. She tried to explain me but I was repeating again and again “IT’S CHEATING”. I also told her that if I was a South African player I would have broken the stadium down or punched the Umpire (Typical Indian fan attitude!).

After the match was over the South African players shook hands with the English players and assembled in the ground. My Mom told me, “See, even though they are wrongly defeated they are still smiling and shaking hands with their opposition players and umpires. This is called Sportsmanship.” Her words still ring in my head whenever I try to cheat in any game. One more thing, I saw a South African player wearing a skirt when they assembled on the ground, I swear. I don’t know who he was, but I clearly remember it. Can anyone confirm this?

In the finals I was sure Pakistan will win and so were everyone in my locality. I saw many Indians celebrating Pakistan’s victory and if someone is now getting funny ideas, let me put it this way, “People of all religions in my area were bursting crackers like it was Diwali”. I am sure something like this would not have happened atleast in 2011 World Cup. Pakistani players dancing with the crystal trophy is crystal clear in my memory.

1996 World Cup: World Cup was coming back to India. I was 12 and now had enough skills to give better commentary than Doordarshan’s Hindi commentators. There was lots of hype during this cup. Times of India gave a free magazine with the profiles and statistics of each and every player in the tournament. I and my brother had read that book atleast hundred times. Don’t believe me huh. Ok, Sachin had 101 matches and Azhar 199. Kambli had a forty plus batting average. Nolan Clarke was the oldest player, Bevan had an average of 82+ with highest score of 78, and Mark Taylor had yet not scored a century. I had that book for a long time. Wish such a book was published for each World Cup.

Before the World Cup I saw a program in which many ex cricketers were asked who they think has the brightest chance to win the cup. Duleep Mendis said, “Sri Lanka”. I and my brother rolled on the floor laughing. Alas, how wrong we were!

Jayasuriya & Kaluwitharna took everyone by surprise. South Africa won every league match easily. India again lost to Australia in a close match, Sri Lanka defeated India badly, Prabhakar’s career was over in four overs. Against Zimbabwe India was in trouble but Kambli & Sidhu saved the blushes. West Indies losing to Kenya was funny. How on earth did Tariq Iqbal catch that ball when Lara nicked?

West Indies and Australia refused to play in Sri Lanka and forfeited their points. A combined Indo-Pak team played friendly matches against Sri Lanka instead for the crowd. In those days Asian cricketing countries cared for each other.

Then I saw the second South African heartbreak. Lara showed his class. Sri Lanka beat England easily. India-Pak match at Bangalore was fantastic. Aamir Sohail – Venkatesh Prasad episode is well known. Australia also beat a spirited New Zealand.

West Indies who were cruising at a time panicked worse than they did in 1983.That day I became a Shane Warne fan.

India picked two wickets in first over, but Aravinda had other plans. He took the team to a respectable total. India fell like pack of cards by Jayasuriya’s spin. Calcutta crowd went crazy as usual. I cried for first and last time after watching a cricket match. Vinod Kambli wasn’t the only one that night.

I bet five rupees with a school mate on Australia’s winning the cup. I lost the bet but never gave the money to that guy.

Sri Lanka chased easily and was crowned the champion. One more cricketing giant had emerged from Asia. Jayasurya was role model to everyone. I heard a boy bragging once, “I have been coached by Jayasurya’s coach.” Bullshit I thought.

1999 World Cup : “Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao.” Britannia created an amazing marketing campaign. Every Britannia product had some “Runs”. Collect 100 runs and you get a booklet. Every booklet had a scratch area. Everything we bought during that time from butter to bread was from Britannia. After collecting 100 runs we ran to the store to scratch, but getting “Try Again” always. The booklet however was an amazing knowledge source. There was one for every World cup plus one for batting and bowling of World Cups. There wasn’t internet, so these booklets satiated the statistics and trivia hunger of mine.

The campaign started. India played disastrously. When we lost to Zimbabwe in that close match one should have seen the atmosphere the next day. It seriously looked as if the whole nation was mourning. No one was smiling. Everyone was on just one topic. Sachin’s father had expired so he missed that match. He came back and rocked Kenya with a century. In Taunton Ganguly and Dravid smashed all over. India defeated England in a match that was continued the next day due to rains. India somehow managed to reach the Super Six stage.

Klusener took the world cup by storm. He was blasting away & never looked like getting out. Pakistan defeated Australia easily which was the last time Australia was on losing side for more than a decade in World Cups.

India defeated Pakistan but lost to Australia. Me and my brother tried all the permutations and combinations and with a heavy heart concluded that no matter what happens, India cannot qualify for semis. What nonsense was this Super Six!

Then happened the mother of all encounters. Klusener single handedly keeping South Africa ahead. Nine of six balls. Whack. Another whack. One of four balls. A near run out. A suicidal run out. What on earth were Donald and Klusener smoking near the stumps? What a sad end for South Africa in World Cup again!

Pakistan beat New Zealand easily. Then Australia beat Pakistan more easily. Boring World Cup final. I am in twelfth standard now. Have to score good marks in Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics to get admission in an engineering college in Mumbai or will have to go to a remote location. Engineering is very difficult says my friend Kishan who is in first year. He leaves home by seven in morning and comes back by eleven at night. He was one of the most intelligent guys in our building but still got admission only in a college in Vasai. What will happen to me? Being a cricketer is no longer an option now. I hit even the balls pitched on off to leg side (Robin Singh spoiled my technique) and no matter how much I tell myself, I am not going to be the next Saqlain Mushtaq.

2003 World Cup: So I am in third year of Mechanical Engineering. I have got an admission in a college which is just 10 kms from my home. World cup will start again. Britannia has again launched “Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao”. I am not interested, I don’t even have time to copy assignments and trace drawing sheets who will spend time collecting “Runs”, I can’t believe I actually did something so stupid four years ago. And I don’t even have a passport. Even if I win it, I can’t go. Pepsi has launched a blue colour cola. I tried to drink it once. My mind couldn’t accept that it’s not kerosene. It even smelt like kerosene to one of my friends.

So as is the norm, India lost to Australia. They even struggled while playing Holland. India will struggle to reach Super Six we thought. But hey we were proven wrong. India went on to win each and every match after that. Ganguly’s leadership and the team huddle were working. When Ashish Nehra took six wickets against England, I was making a stupid robot for inter college festival at a friend’s place. My friend Chaitanya had recently come from England and he got a booklet similar to one Times of India gave in 1996. It was really nice with good humor at many places.

India-Pak match in 2003 World Cup had lots of hype. Pakistan had all their stars but they were getting old. Saeed Anwar scored another century and Inzamam was run out again. Pakistan scored a good total. Sachin was hitting Shoaib Akhtar all over. We were cruising. I was a serious Judo player that time. I went for my Judo class leaving Indo-Pak world cup match because my coach will not take this as excuse. He hates cricket. The road was deserted, looked like a curfew. When I returned Yuvi and Dravid eased to the total. Pakistan was out of 2003 World Cup.

Also in 2003 South Africa found out yet another way to lose a world cup trophy without doing much wrong.

India reached finals. I heard funny reasons why India will win the Cup. Here are the two gems:

1. West Indies won their next World Cup after four years, Australia won the cup by twelve years and so following the sequence India must win after twenty years.
2. World Cup has always moved from a left hand captain to right hand one and again to left hand. Eg. Llyod (LHB) to Kapil (RHB) to Border (LHB) to Imran (RHB) to Ranatunga (LHB) to S Waugh (RHB) to Ganguly (LHB)

So nearly 99% of India’s population was convinced that India will win due to above two scientific reasons.

If Pakistan showed in 1999 how not to bat in a world cup final, in 2003 India showed how not to bowl in a world cup final.

Ponting scored an amazing century and there was no chance for India to win the match. I went to play cricket during the break. I was so angry that I bowled nearly everyone with yorkers. Yeah, I had stopped bowling off spin and had started bowling fast for the past three years. Saqlain’s career has been spoilt by PCB.

So close yet so far. There was no way India could have beaten that Aussie team, so the disappointment frankly wasn’t too much.

I heard a numerologist saying a few days after the world cup, “I told Ganguly to wear this number jersey and see he scored three centuries in World Cup”. Well I checked and came to know that indeed Ganguly scored three centuries in 2003 World Cup. One against Namibia and two against Kenya. God bless the numerologists!

2007 World Cup: Hey the World Cup is in West Indies. This is going to be the most colourful world cup of all times. So much hype as usual. Pepsi this time has come up with a golden cola.

Wow this format is also fun. This will be a very competitive world cup, super six was stupid. This format is ideal. From super eight onwards there will be all tough matches no mismatches at all, yipeee!

India loses to Bangladesh. Pakistan loses to Ireland. Both also lose to Sri Lanka and West Indies respectively. Both are out in first round. Pakistan coach dies under mysterious circumstances. I am also struggling in my career. I am working in a service industry where I handle customers. Next day after India is out of World Cup, customers remove all their frustrations of Men in Blue on me.

The Super Eight stage goes on forever. No one is interested. I believe that 2007 world cup is still going on in West Indies. They are at half way stage.

Who won? Australia, who else? What a farce was the 2007 final match? Stupid umpires and referee. Also Gilchrist played that blinder due to his skills not due to that squash ball. If squash ball makes such a big impact, give a squash ball to every child who wants to play cricket instead of telling him to practice.

2011 World Cup: So everyone wants to win the cup for Sachin. Everyone other than Sachin himself is saying that it’s his last World Cup. Every member of 1983 World Cup Squad except Sunil Valson is seen in news channels giving expert opinions. India TV takes one step ahead in stupidity and launches a program BIGG TOSS with Rakhi Sawant and Veena Malik as experts

India is the favorite to win the title. They hammer Bangladesh. I have a projector now so we plan to watch all major India matches on “Big Screen” at home. I watch the India-England match on projector, it’s tied. I watch India-South Africa match on projector, India loses. I watch India’s batting against West Indies on projector, they play like nuts. I shut the projector and watch the match on TV. India wins. I swear never to watch a match on projector no matter how much I get tempted.

In this Cup I expected that 300 runs would be normal and quite chase able. How wrong was I? In this world cup I expected India to steam roll all opponents. How wrong was I? This time I thought Pakistan will struggle to make Quarter Finals. How wrong was I? South Africa will screw atleast once. I wasn’t too much wrong here, they just screwed themselves twice.

So there were hundreds of matches and after that it was decided which teams will be top eight. The same top eight teams since 1992! At least a repeat of 2007 was avoided.

So India beat Australia with some tension. Pakistan beat themselves against India (well this is what most of my Pakistani friends would like to hear). And India defeated Sri Lanka with Dhoni hitting a huge six.

Wow! At last World Cup has come to India. Saw big men crying. Kapils devils of 1983 never cried, they were infact shocked with happiness. This just shows how much more hard work it was for the batch of 2011 to get the cup home. I had never seen so much happiness around me, not even when we won the 20-20 World Cup. Crackers were bursting all over. Fans purchase crackers before the start of the match. What do they do with it if the team loses? Forget it dude. We are the world champs.

Also the child who was born three days after India won the cup in 1983 is now nearly twenty eight. He had only seen disappointments after every four years. Now he knows how it feels when your nation wins the world cup. He should consider himself lucky that he wasn’t born in England, New Zealand or South Africa. He should also consider himself lucky that he is not representing Ireland in cricket.


Electra said...

Good one again. But you cheater never thought of you mom's word regarding sportsmanship when you had to pay 5 rupees to your friend after losing the bet? Anyways coming to World Cup, 1996 wc final is what I remember about the celebration after SL won at Gadaafi stadium, after which I got an interest in cricket and to cheer for my team India in 1999 WC, I had cut my fingers and wrote in blood many a times" I love my India and India will win the WC",13 yr of age I was then.
Keep updating your blog, its always good to read them.

Selve said...

Very true and beautiful article

dhirajnarayan said...

Very nice Fazayal,God bless you. Keep it up.

Safy said...

Nicely written, surely true from heart.

Syed Aelina said...

Nice writing.May Allah keep you blessed with this skill always.

Anand said...

Very good memory. It is difficult to keep in memory each and every team, how they played, with their team members. I was remembering that INDIA has won world cup in 1983 under Kapil Dev. This blog is like "got to go" kinda to refer any info on World Cup. Well written. keep that spirit.. Judoka he he

Nivipooh said...

Very well written dear friend.
really interesting article. Keep writing..........