As a young kid I dreamt of playing cricket for India. I think it was while watching the world cup in 92’ that I experienced what it could be, being a part of a world cup playing India team. Few images endure… Jadeja taking that catch running in from the boundary, Kiran More – Miandad spat and Azha’s limp yet stylish walk thru the tournament. By the time the world cup came to India in 96’ the anticipation was at its peak. This breed of us, the generation born around 1983 was playing the game everywhere and all the time. Heroes were born, one man particularly was acquiring legendary status with every performance. Sachin Tendulkar scored the most no. of runs in this edition. I remember making a little diary with names of every participating player from every team for that tournament, and following up my research with those of top performers. I did not watch the final in 96’. Kambli’s wailing exit at the Eden Gardens was my last image of that tournament. It filled me with resolve that one day I will redeem this. Years passed World Cups came and went, my steely resolve to play slowly melted and reduced to sitting by myself as a knowledgeable cricket lover admiring all skill and every post match emotion when finally today India won the coveted trophy. I know it sounds preposterous, but there is a touch of disappointment.
Why was I not there? There in the middle a 28 year old young man steering India to victory articulately dedicating the win to all of India.
I know, because I have met and spoken to, that there are many such 1983 borns who knew only to bake in the sun aimlessly and live through disappointments of Indian collapses. The romance of being beaten so long the thirst grew bigger and bigger. For me personally it got quenched when while watching the team take a victory lap today, the camera focused on Tendulkar with the bottle of champagne. For a moment the conservative Indian in me wondered, what now…? As always the little master had an answer, he took a non chalant swig not noticing the camera. That indulgence seemed like a luxury he had reserved all these years, the bottle perhaps vintage 28 years. Must have been full bodied. When he passed it on to Gambhir I looked for myself. Then in this moment of exhilaration I thought of all the people who have brought about this success.
One name stood out, I have grown to admire Mahendra Singh Dhoni as much as he himself has grown. He is not to be led by an excited Shastri at the presentation nor any words be put in his mouth. Deliberate yet instinctive he speaks his heart off the field. On the field since his early days he plays a stone faced story teller. He reserved the most compelling image for himself. The six he hit to win the game and the way he looked at the ball for that moment extra was like he wasn’t the actor in the part but the director seeking perfection.
Today as we rejoice, I would also like to salute others who weren’t there but who’s contributions over years have culminated to this victory. Sourav Ganguly, the leader who bread talents such as Yuvraj and Bhajji. Rahul Dravid who showed the nation that no conditions are alien, no opposition too mighty to overcome if you have the sheer resolve. VVS Laxman who changed the meaning of how pressure was to be dealt with and Anil Kumble who knew not to give up. These ingredients apart from the genius of Tendulkar have rubbed onto this Indian side. We’ve been bleeding blue for 28 years, many a battle we’ve won, many a soldiers lost. World Cup 2011 win is another feather in our cap. RESPECT to the great game and our great team.