If you were one of those millions who watched the match yday hoping against hope that the day wouldn’t end with you sighing resignedly Scarlett O’ Hara’s famous words, ‘Tomorrow is another day’, read on. If you are one of the faithless who gave up too early and instead went shopping, stop reading right away. This post is not for you.
I’d written at the beginning of the WC that no matter what the cynics say, winning this cup matters for it offers something to a people who have pretty much adapted to a life without anything. I am one of those people too. However, my desire to see India win did not stop me from appreciating the fact that Pak was in splendid form during this tournament. If Bill Gates & Steve Dubner are to be believed, it is performance which ought to be rewarded, not hope or faith. I’d like to think all 3 ought to be and that’s why India deserved to win all the way. We outplayed ‘em pakis by a mile and anybody who doubts this can go start a fire in Siberia.
I dunno about you, but when I reached home and started match watching, I didn’t think 260 was a defendable total. I’d pretty much decided to watch the match alone when 2 men joined me – dad in kol, and yt in london. While yt kept cursing our team and making his usual dire predictions, dad assured me that we would win and munaf would do it for us. My reply to him was to keep his hopes in check for we didn’t want to rush him to the doctor with chest pains once the match ended. We had to do that once. No kidding.
Now yday was a day I’d planned in advance. Cleared my desk of pending work and was all set to leave early when boss handed me a 40 page document which he wanted me to check and redraft. Anticipating my protests he whispered with the sort of urgency which my daughter uses when we are out and she needs to pee and there’s no restroom in sight. Between yt’s updates and crininfo, I was reassured that Sehwag was unleashing the kind of ruthlessness that he reserves for our neigbours from across the border. I was happy. But the Gods envy our happiness and suddenly things started to go wrong. I don’t need to take you through the magic Yuvi, Gambhir and Kolhi displayed because like me, you suffered through it too. This dismal state of affairs continued, we closed at 260, and Pakistan kept scoring slowly but looked very much in control even after they’d lost 2 wickets. Then the tide changed and He decided to smile on us. Yuvraj gave India the third breakthrough when he clean bowled Shafiq and in a moment of sheer magic the camera caught him pointing at Shafiq to start walking. It is a gesture that I usually detest for it has rudeness and insolence written large. But we needed it at that point for it carried a whiff of confidence that was hard to miss. It was also the moment when I realised something else – you can’t say you love something if you are willing to pack your bags at the first sign of trouble. You just can’t. Watching Yuvi was so delightful that I messaged yg and amita – two of my greatest cricket-discussion buddies. Both messaged back that they were unable to sit through the ordeal of the match and were not watching it. I was stunned and then angry. Gth I muttered. What kind of people stop watching an India Pakistan match because it seems we may not be able to win it?
I’d faced some flak when I wrote earlier that a tiny part of me would be regretful if the Pakis lost. Flak from all quarters. Pbably only Dad understood the sentiment behind it. Yet, truth be told, watching Munaf and co debilitate their batting, I didn’t feel a shred of regret. That came much later when the camera panned across Afridi sitting with stoic calm in the stands.
Now, Afridi is a player I love to hate. Everything from his classic bowling to his on-field aggression, legs-apart-pelvis-thrust-out posture, to his hint-of-a-smirk, makes me see red. Blessed with enormous talent, good looks and acclaim at a very young age, Afridi has not taken any of this with equanimity. He reminds me of the Emran Hashmi character from ‘Once upon a time in Mumbai’; he reminds me of those pada loafers who would eye us girls at the Maddox Square durga puja pandal. While his batting has been patchy, he has bowled superbly in this WC. Even when his team’s required run rate slowly climbed over 8, the camera showed him smiling and relaxed. I don’t know why but I suspect he had faith that with batsmen like Akmal and Misbah and the batting power play yet to come, he wouldn’t return disappointed. Maybe he thought he could pull a few rabbits from his own hat, like in the past. There was nothing hesitant about his batting and at one point I thought we may see a captain’s innings from him. But it didn’t happen. And his face changed. There was defeat, there were dashed hopes, there was a growing realisation that Time had done its deed and the bat no longer responded to his touch like in his best years. There is nothing sadder than the knowledge that what was once your’s, is now no more – health, love, success, priviledge, fame, talent. It is like calling up your ex-lover knowing he will answer but with a resigned shrug; it is like fumbling with the piano keys when Parkinson has ravaged your body. Frankly, one shouldn’t have to go through this and old age is a travesty. His speech at the end and his body language in congratulating the Indian team was something I’d never have expected from Afridi.
So, that’s how it ended and everybody seems relieved. Lekin, ye dil maange more. No matter what happens and how it all unfolds on Saturday, don’t go shopping or start playing on your Xbox. There will be time enough for all that later. Don’t give up on hope.