Cricket’s the religion…..My World Cups
It was the last day of the year 1984 when I saw that tall and lean young man for the very first time on my very first visit to the Mecca of modern cricket. Mohd. Azharuddin was playing his debut test series against the English team at Eden Gardens, Calcutta. Needless to say, when he ended the series with centuries in three consecutive test matches, he became my big time childhood cricket hero. I do not remember much of that test match except him and his 110 runs. A 9 years old kid started off with the addiction of Cricket officially, on 31st December, 1984.
The Reliance World Cup of 1987 was the next best memory when India came very close to defend their Championship until Graham Gooch swept their dreams away in the Semis. The brilliant knock of 64 from Mohd. Azharuddin went in vain when Kapil Dev decided to throw his wicket just when he was supposed to build his innings after a phenomenal start of 30 runs from mere 22 balls. I still strongly believe that Azhar’s LBW decision by an Australian umpire was a disgrace in the history of Umpiring. These statistics remains and will remain with me till the day I die. I do remember of donating my ticket of the final match between Australia & England, which was played at Eden Gardens Calcutta.
It still irritates me when I recall the summer of 1992 when it was cricket all over in Australia & New Zealand and I was engaged with my preparations of the Board Exams. India’s performance though was disgusting but a little boy wonder was stealing a big chunk of attention among the big names. I was happy to see my hero captaining the squad which included big names like Kapil Dev, Ravi Shastri, Krishnamachary Srikaanth and so on. I somehow managed to watch the semi finals and the final where whole lot of my favorite Cricketers like Ian Botham, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Moin Khan, Martin Crowe etc.were at their best.
1,20,000 people roared to the best of their abilities, when Sri Lanka was two wickets down for 1 run in the very first over of the 1st Semis at Eden Gardens on 13th March 1996. The sigh of relief of seeing the back of the devastating Jayasurya faded fast when a craftsman called Mad Max opened his arsenal of copybook cricket strokes. The quick fire 66 from 47 balls made all the difference between the Indian Team and the world cup trophy. The world silently witnessed a formidable squad of 11 warriors who raised their cricket to the highest possible level and won the crown after a convincing win at Lahore against the aussies. The hard work of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar though, can never be forgotten. The sheer agony and irritation of the spectators exploded in the form of violence and the match was abandoned on the 35th over. A sad end indeed.
Ever since the super debut of Maharaj at Lords in 1996, the global cricket followers were eager to see him in his first World Cup venture. He opened his account with a smart 97 but was not of much use since India lost to RSA. He soon followed with an epic inning of 183 which tore apart the Lankans at Taunton. Rahul Dravid’s 145 with a strike rate of more than 100, even, looked placid beside the fireworks of the Prince of Calcutta. A historical century of Sachin just after his father’s sad demise was the only other memorable event in that world cup for India. The sheer brilliance of Australia’s total cricket helped them pick the second grand slam of cricket, easily against the scattered challenge of Pakistan in the final.
The world cricket fraternity never ever came across a more brilliant, dominant, aggressive and determined Indian Captain in any of the World cups played till date. The disgraceful defeat against the Aussies in the first round was a good enough lesson that was required for the team to turn around. Dada put things together with ease and the team was unbeaten till the final match. Everything went well in that world Cup for India, except the defeat in the final. Sachin milked most of the bowlers around through all the matches he played except the mega final. Though India lost the gold, they truly established themselves as a formidable force and the second best in World Cricket.
2007 started off with the disgrace of losing against Bangladesh. The defeat resulted India crashing off from the world cup before the knock outs. Undoubtedly, the worst performance of India in the World Cups, considering the team combination and availability of resources. Rahul Dravid looked the most confused man in the world and was all over the places with his captaincy. Not a world cup Indians will want to remember.
Being a serious follower of this game for the past 27 years, I consider myself to be still somebody caught in the adolescence, as far as the love and affection towards this sport is concerned. I also consider myself to be fortunate enough to see cricketers like Vivian Richards, Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohd. Azharuddin, Wasim Akram, Javed Miandad, Curtley Ambrose, Sachin Tendulkar, Mark Waugh, Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Brian Lara, Anil Kumble, Aravinda De Silva, Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Saurav Ganguly, Virendra Sehwag etc. LIVE at Eden Gardens. World Cup cricket still brings the same old romance of 50 over format which may have lost it’s glory in the age of Twenty20s. People needs popcorn thrills nowadays and they are reluctant to wait for 7 hours to see a winner. I guess those people hided their faces after the nail biter of Sunday the 27th Feb.
What could possibly be the best sight ever in the history of cricket ? Sachin Tendulkar lifting the World Cup at Wankhede Stadium Mumbai on 2nd of April 2011. No better tribute can ever be given to that warrior who made the nation eat, sleep & live cricket for 21 years. I dream and visualize the scene Mahi, do you???
Go bring the glory….. billions are praying for you all…… best wishes……