After experiencing the jubilant crowds on the streets of Mumbai following India’s victory over Pakistan, the non-cricket lover me, transformed into an enthu Team India cheerer. Of course, I couldn’t stop kicking myself for being uninterested in the game. In all honesty, I suddenly wanted to be in the stadium for the finals. Somehow the universe heard me and and sent me those tickets. In all my excitement, I woke up early, got out and bought a jersey and set out. Armed with my phone, I got all geared up to live report from the stadium for DNA. We expected empty trains, but they were all packed with all shades of blue (still less crowded than a Virar local at peak hours).
After speaking to a few cricket fanatics for my article (read it here), we managed to get off at Churchgate and be one with the river of people flowing towards the stadium.
“25 rupees for one side of face,” he said.
I put my cheek forward and got the Indian colours painted on my face. Once my cosuins, Sai and Viraj were done with getting their faces painted, we started looking for the queue to get into our Pavilion. Meanwhile, we had people selling whistles, Indian flags of all sizes, funky afro wigs and more.
Once in the queue, we evaluated our situation and made friends with those around us.
“The going rate for these tickets was close to a lakh and a half you know?” one chap tells me.
“Sri Lanka is winning,” a man in a green jersey shouted to my cousin. My cousin, Sairaj, has a jinx. Whichever team’s jersey he sports, manages to lose. So he wore a Sri Lankan jersey and had an Indian flag for a cape. We got so many angry glares from people around, a smile from a few Lankan fans was a welcome change!
“Any team jersey I wear, loses, so Sri Lanka is losing!” Sai told the Lankan fan. He was baffled for a moment before realising why my brother said what he said. Today was no day to be mistaken for a Sri Lankan and therefore the cousin went on repeating his explanation to everyone we came across.
As the line moved forward, we heard a loud cheer inside the stadium. And we felt the impatience surge in our tummy! Finally we got closer to the security. The police officers were clued, in, extremely sweet, courteous and not a hint of irritation. Even though the ticket said clearly that no liquids were allowed, women slowed down the security queue arguing and yelling as the police asked them to leave behind their suncreens, perfumes, lotions and what not. An NRI, dressed in designer clothes, really tried my patience. I was dying to go into the stadium and be one of the voices cheering. This waiting outside wondering why yaays and ooohs were all about wasn’t working for me.
“Yeh kyun fake rahe ho?” (please read this in a very fake anglicized accent)
“Allowed nahi hai, madam! Ticket pe bhi toh likkha hai na. Aap kyun laaye yeh sab,” the lady officer was calm.
“Arre itni dhoop mein hum kaala ho jayenga!”
“Sorry madam,” *throws away some more fancy bottles*
“Aisa kyun kartay tum. Arre who bhi? Hum London se ayaa hai, tum nahi phek sakta,”
“Toh kya hua madam. Rule hai, security ke liye.” At this point the officer lost her cool and other female fans started getting annoyed at being held up in a queue by this woman.
“Dekho humareko London se aake maaroge kiya? Yeh garmi mein mera fan mai nahi fek sakta hai. Hum mar jayega,”
“Toh maro. Security hai, nahi chalega, jaldi phekna hai toh pheko nahi toh wapis London jao,” to which the others giggled softly.
“How rude! Acha suno. Yeh sab phenko mat, use karna. Its very expensive, you know.”
Police officer: ‘:-|’
Anyhoo, we inched closer to the barcode scanners, got our tickets scanned and got inside the stadium. After picking up a few refreshments (man the sun was killing us) we walked into our box. The lush green field and the whole atmosphere hit me! I WAS ABOUT TO WATCH A WORLD CUP FINAL MATCH.
After finding our seats, we did a customary posing for pics stunt and sat down. And then, goosebumps happened. Dressed in a red t-shirt, swinging his bat casually, Sachin Tendulkar was about 20 feet away from me. I saw Tendulkar! *faints*
Now, I may not be a cricket fanatic who knows stats, shots, drives, teams and all that, I may occasionally frown at the importance that cricket gets, but that’s because people tend to forget everything for cricke, but I think Sachin Tendulkar is one of the most iconic personalities of India and his integrity and dedication makes him my favourite sportsman. When he turned down a multi-crore alcoholic beverage deal on grounds of principle, he became my favourite Indian.
The toss was a let-down for most Indian fans as a loud sigh came out in unison as Sangakkara won the toss and elected to bat. As the flags for both the countries were brought on the field, the speakers boomed with Vangelis’s score for 1492: Conquest of Paradise. The powerful music score, the thrill of the match and the fact that our flag stood next to the Sri Lankan flag, just made us all misty eyed. ‘The cup is ours,’ everyone told themselves as the trophy was displayed. And then, the teams walked out of the Pavilion, lead by children and a cheer rose in the stadium.
The feeling evoked as Jana Gana Mana was sung by 40,000 odd people (Sri Lankans were few so discounting them, we’d have been 37k odd people, but whatever) was incomparable to anything, anything I have ever felt before. And when the big screens showed Sachin singing earnestly, my heart took flight. I just cannot find the words to describe the feeling. Don’t ask me to!
The match started. I won’t go into the details of the match because I am sure we all watched it. The sun was right above our heads now and focusing on the ground was getting tougher. The cousin was sent out to get us cold drinks and he came back an hour later, after the fall of a wicket. All refreshment stalls but one in our part of the stadium were closed. There was a mile long queue to acquire drinks, they had run out of mineral water and ‘cold’ drinks were all warm! By the time the drinks came to us, they were flat and warm. We made do with the warm cola and hoped that the sugar would charge us up for the wickets that were about to fall. We weren’t let down!
While I struggled to get a single bar of network, the cousin’s phone rang.
Apparently a friend of his had called to announce that SL was going to score around 270 runs but the Indians would walk away with the cup. And then our neighbours in the stadium started sharing BBM updates about how the score will be 84-3 etc etc. Among speculations, it was amazing to watch Team India do their best to hold the runs down.
By the time Sri Lankan innings got over, we had fetched a second round of drinks. Cold 7Up and a boxful of food provided by Croissants etc. were opened to fuel us up for the Indian innings. The box contained food enough to keep people going for 12 hours. Kebabs, chocolates, brownies, kheema rolls, Puffs, a main course with a bread role and a box of juice were demolished by the cousins in a go, while I just pecked at the puff and the chicken and got ready to jump and cheer.
As Tendulkar and Sehwag walked towards the pitch, a huge roar filled the stadium. That excitement was short-lived as Sehwag went out for a duck. Before we knew it, Tendulkar was out too. I was hoping to see Sachin make his 100th 100 and to see the dejected look on his face broke my heart. I cried a little. The energy in the stadium dropped. Some fans did start chanting ‘jeetega bhai jeetega’ but their voices seemed unconvincing. The rest of the match was spent saying our prayers, gasping as the batsmen took risks with the runs. As we edged closer to the 50th over, uncertainty loomed. And then we needed hardly needed four runs to win… I held my breath as the Dhoni swung the bat and the ball flew across the field and as soon as it flew over the boundary, euphoria hit. There were tears, there were hugs and there was a loud cheer! INDIA WON THE WORLD CUP AFTER 28 YEARS!
And as the team paraded around the stadium my heart went out to the few Sri Lankan fans in the stadium. Every one in the stadium, including the emcee, had cheered for India. They were a minority. And their players had been booed. They had come all the way to see their team lose, but they clapped for their captain. After all, they had played good cricket, winners or not. But when some Indian fans booed at them again, I realised that the match may have made Indians world champions, but the way Lanka supporters took loss in their stride, made them winners of sport. Had we lost the match, I fear to think of the violence and abuses that would ensue. But we won! And the city went crazy celebrating the victory.
I am just glad that I got to be one of those voices screaming in delight as the winning six was hit. And I will tell my grandchildren the story of India’s win…
GO INDIA GO!
And Mr. Dhoni, R E S P E C T 🙂