I don’t write about cricket. I rarely ever have an interest in it. The only “sledging” I know is the kind you take part in when it snows. Sports just never interested me much unless I was right in the middle of the action. You can imagine how my sporting career at school went. Knowing what matches we were to play that season was a major accomplishment for me.
I was happy to just be an observer to the major games, and usually only those which Sri Lanka or India played. Then this world cup had to come along and mess it all up. I’ve never made it a point to “watch a match”. It was just something that was on TV while I was doing something else. Just something on in the background which was fun to watch in the last innings. This time over, I found myself checking the scores on my phone while standing in a bus. When it wasn’t even our team playing.
Speaking of “our” team, I’ve always been torn between Sri Lanka and India. It might have something to do with being called out as an “Indian” most of my life. A side-effect of being born and raised here, but having Indian roots. South Indian roots. The “bad kind of Indian”, if you will, since we look just like you, worship a lot of the things you do and live in places like you, and so must be despised and called “dirty Indians”. The apparent genealogical perfection and adoration from Sri Lankans that the Northern tribes enjoy eludes us, the runts of the sub-continent who get by on call centers and software firms instead of Bollywood and software firms.
I watched the match with five other friends. All ardent Sri Lankans with flags on cheeks and SL jerseys. All the way there I passed roads lined with flags, shops closed with fliers hanging on the shutters. The streets were practically empty.
Even after the game was well under way, I still didn’t know who I was going to support. But none of that really mattered as I watched one of the greatest games I’ve seen in my short, sport-sheltered life unfold on the giant tv screen. I sat there and watched the match, all astute “India or Sri Lanka whoever maann”, but inside I was giddy as a schoolgirl with a copy of Twilight when Mahela started rising to the challenge, dragging his team past the wreckage of the past overs to deliver a thumping total. It was nothing short of awe-inspiring watching professionals play a beautiful game. Even the moans of the utter pessimists I had to watch the game with couldn’t ruin the feeling of “Show the world how it’s done boys!”.
The second innings was quite a bit more confusing. I found myself the only one in the room feeling like his heart was torn out of his chest when Sachin was dismissed for mere thirties. He wasn’t going to get his 100th century in the final. It just didn’t make sense. How could it happen? The man I consider the greatest cricketer alive(not much, I know), on and off the field, sent off with nary a whiff of glory. After that it was a slow but steady journey up the scoring ladder, grabbing singles and doubles left right and center, Kohli, Ghambir and Dhoni taking their time, playing wonderfully to complete the highest run chase in a world cup final. It could have gone either way till the last few overs. Then the 47th, I think, came along and Nuwan turned out to be an expensive choice, with Yuvraj and Dhoni sealing the win.
It felt strange. Dhoni’s six was sailing through to the stands. India won. But Sri Lanka lost. Tendulkar didn’t get his century. Murali didn’t get his last wicket either. The two best teams in the tournament turned out to be my favourites, and one would expect a final like that to be at the very least, mind blowing. I was left with a slight feeling of sadness. Even if it was one brilliant game. Of course, that’s to my untrained eye.
It was a pleasure watching Mahela’s incisions with the bat and Gambhir’s determined strokes. But when it was all over I felt for them. I actually got what people were on about when they said they were “our boys”. Our boys had lost. After a gut-clenching battle, even if the victor was my other favourite team, I felt a tinge of sadness. For a few moments, at least.
Then I realized, India had won! After Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble et al back when I wasn’t even born, India finally won the world cup. And I actually felt something more than “slightly grinny” about it! I had discovered the joys of being a spectator. My friends forlornly picked up the junk generated by eight hours of lounging in front of a television, and I could actually make sense of what they felt.
The next morning I found myself poring through cricinfo.com articles. I’ve never done that before. I was happy.
But I still don’t particularly like Yuvraj.