They say every generation has at least a couple of events that are so impactful, that people remember where they were, what they were doing and who they were with when the event happened. Think JFK’s assassination, 9/11 attacks, bombing of Hiroshima-Nagasaki and many such events. Most of them are ghastly, tragic and shocking but for most Indians of my generation, the thing that will forever be imprinted in their memory is what happened at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, on the night of April 2nd, when India defeated Sri Lanka to become the ICC World Cup Cricket 2011 Champions. For a nation that had been waiting for 28 years to savor the moment, the win could not have come faster or with a better winning shot.
For a long time I was pretty much insulated from the WC fever, simply because my interest in cricket had waned. Growing up, thanks to my dad’s passion for the game, I was devoted to cricket. Ravi Shashtri, Dilip Vengsarkar, Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh were some of my favorite cricketers but the man whom I admired most was Mohammed Azharuddin. His excellent wrist flick strokes had me captivated and so had his calmness, earthy disrespect for top bowlers, excellent fielding and that black charm dangling from his neck when he chucked the helmet (which he usually did).
All was great till my idol fell into shame. Azhar, as he was popularly known, was found guilty of match fixing charges, got a suspension, chucked his wife and kids and had an extra marital affair with an Indian actress. Along with his fame, respect and game went my interest in cricket. So crushed and cheated was I with my idol’s behaviour, I stopped following cricket. But then God appeared. Sachin Tendulkar, the God of Cricket, got me back into it. No more as fervent a follower, I could not resist the game when Sachin played. And played (or rathery plays still) he did. Shane Warne got nightmares the day before he was supposed to bowl to him, the Pakistani fast trio, got their pride busted, humbled and ground to dust when bowling to him and Brian Lara and Don Bradman (the other greats) thought no one plays superior cricket. But that’s not all, what makes it even more ethereal is his humility, groundedness, team devotion, focus, values and spotlessly clean persona (barring the outlier of a ferrari custom duty controversy). He brought the dignity back into the gentleman’s game, and cricket is richer for it.
So it is perhaps the biggest tribute to him that the team, under Mahendra ‘Phenomenal’ Dhoni, came together to bring the World Cup home – the only cup missing from the Little Master’s cabinet. First the Aussies, then the Pakis and finally the Lankans, one by one they all gave way to the Indian cricketing spirit and to destiny’s glory for Tendulkar. No wonder every member dedicated the trophy to the man who will (or should in my opinion) go down as the GOAT (greatest of all time) of cricket.
As for me, I will always remember I was at my dear friend Honey Jains’s place watching the match with her. I will remember hugging her like crazy when we on, crying tears of happiness, calling my dad to share the magic, cooking a lovely pasta lunch, and finishing an entire bottle of wine while recording the whole thing :D………. some things last forever …