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Thursday, March 31, 2011

One night at the Mohali

'What is love, if not steadfastly loyal, biased and all-important'
- NN beliefs

India has entered the final, and what perplexes me is what if this is achieved. What does one do after a dream comes true.

For all the tension that shrouded the subcontinent yesterday, the pressure that every cricket lover felt on each side of the border, the skills that the players exhibited, the presence of two Prime Ministers, the Gandhis, and Aamir Khan, the man who stamped the maximum impact on Mohali, in my opinion, was a magnanimous Pathan called Shahid Afridi. Such is the power grace enjoys.

For there were men who played better. Wahab Riaz showed us everything that epitomizes Pakistani fast bowling - clocking over 90 miles, reverse swinging, and looking handsome. In Saeed Ajmal, we saw the spinner to look out for in the future. In Raina, there was a young boy who had not been told this was one of the most hyped matches he would ever play in and therefore he shouldn’t possibly look so cool while batting. In Bhajji, when he picked up Afridi, we saw fervor.

But then Afridi came back and congratulated Team India, willed them to win the final, and apologized to his own country for not delivering them this victory. What Afridi did was not magnificent, really it is but expected of a captain, but it was the manner and conduct with which he did so that made us feel for him. When we expected him to rail his fielders for dropping Sachin not once, not twice or even thrice, he shook his head, smiled and got back to business. When he did take Sachin’s catch, poetic justice if ever there was, he stood in his trademark pose with his hands outstretched and chest protruding out like a proud monarch. Ian Chappell has criticized his celebratory pose, but I find it bloody beautiful.

The game needs showmen Mr Chappell, and yesterday Afridi proved he has more than that to him. Gaurav Banerjee asked me if we could ‘let’ Pakistan win the next world cup. After careful deliberation, we think it is okay. Such is the spell the man cast on us yesterday.

When the game ended, even sleepy Gandhinagar went ballistic as bikes, cars and maybe even nilagais rode around town honking their horns, waving their flags and screaming India Indiaaaa. And those who were walking were nodding back and screaming a similar response, all oblivious that we were all strangers but united by this victory. There were men and women dancing on the road, just like young Raina and Kohli would be in the team bus and hotel. The World Cup tickets and the ‘efficient organization’ surrounding it might make stadium viewing an experience only for the elite, but out on the streets, in Delhi or Mumbai, Gandhinagar or Guwahati, there are thousands of Indians whose lives have just become a shade happier, at least momentarily, because Dhoni and his boys will be playing for themselves and maybe us, at Wankhede on the second of April, 2011.

They say when you truly love something, the whole world conspires for you to achieve it. Pakistan dropping Sachin five times as he approached his 100th hundred probably reinforces this thought. It has been my longest unfulfilled dream to see India win the World Cup, and you to be part of it Sachin. Once you do, we can both hang up our boots together and one day tell our kids how we were part of India’s greatest win at Wankhede, in our own ways.

p.s The author is leaving for Mumbai on the night of the 1st. He does not have a ticket yet, but will not say no if you feel emotional and want to hand over yours to him. Either way, he is going to be part of the procession that celebrates outside the Wankhede in the aftermath of the match. Inviting every single Indian team ‘loyalist’ to be there as well.