India win the Second Test and the series… thanks to me!

Written by  //  October 13, 2010  //  Sport  //  1 Comment

India won the second test at Bengaluru thanks to me.

Vijay’s first innings century was probably valuable. Zaheer and Sreesanth’s reverse swing in the second possibly useful, as were the spells of spin bowled by Harbhajan and Ojha. Pujara’s second innings fifty was also significant I guess, but as far as the bigger picture is considered, I was responsible for India’s win in the Second Test.

Ok… me and God himself who scored the double century and the fifty.

Fine… God, me and the sixty thousand odd Bangaloreans who turned up to watch this Test Match over five days.

I’m not being immodest here! Captain Dhoni himself acknowledged my efforts at turning up for the game! I humbly accept the thanks of a grateful nation..

Today’s game wasn’t as close as the Mohali Test, and the match as a contest virtually ended with those two identical strokes by Tendulkar off two consecutive balls from Hauritz. These were no Sehwag-esque slogs and there was no element of brutality in them whatsoever. It was just Tendulkar in such imperious form that he could got down on one knee and send the ball sailing over the deep midwicket boundary with a graceful arc of the bat. Those shots killed whatever hopes Australia had of creating some pressure with a wicket or two as their shoulders dropped when they realized the impossibility of getting past Tendulkar’s blade on this day. The rest of the day after that was basically a formality.

A fifteen year jinx was finally broken. For fifteen years, Bangalore/Bengaluru hosted Test matches without giving the Indian team a taste of success. In each of these Test Matches, Bangaloreans turned out in their thousands on all the days and cheered their team on to little or no avail. The closest India came to a victory at Bengaluru in the last fifteen years was when an unlikely combination of cloudy weather and Anil Kumble bowling seam up nearly dismantled the Pakistani batting, only to be stopped by bad light.

The reports of Test Cricket’s demise are greatly exaggerated of course. At least in India. Sure, the smaller cities like Mohali, Nagpur and Kanpur have struggled to fill up their vast stadia for Tests there, but recent games at Bengaluru, Kolkata, and Chennai have seen packed houses on most days of the match. It’s probably no co-incidence India has won the latter matches in thrilling encounters. A 30,000 strong crowd getting behind the players is probably the difference between winning and losing (or drawing) the match in such tight games.

Not that the following for Test cricket has diminished in India.

Take a walk through any market or crowded place on a Test Match day and you will find dozens crowding around TVs and radios eagerly following the scores. Go to offices with internet connections and you will find workers surreptitiously following the score on cricinfo while pretending to be deeply engaged in work. Should God himself be batting or the chase get exciting the numbers multiply manifold and all productive activity seems to come to an end.

For sheer drama, Test cricket is unrivalled by any sport and the Indian cricket fan knows it. Test cricket fans aren’t restricted to any one demographic and any region. Nothing demonstrated this better than sitting in the stands at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium. One saw retirees with binoculars and grim expressions who can possibly verbatim recall the commentary on the day Gavaskar made his debut. One saw families with children in tow, fathers patiently explaining to the children (boys and girls, mind you) the intricacies of the game and the significance of proceedings. One saw young men (and no small number of young women), taking a break from work or college to relax and enjoy themselves in the stadium, rooting for their heroes and providing the atmosphere so necessary for the game. It being Bangalore, one heard a smattering of different languages in all directions, Kannada dominating of course, but excited commentary in chaste Tamil and loud cheering in Hindi making their presence felt!

Much as the luminaries of other sports complain, cricket continues to be a national obsession, and on the evidence of the last few days, probably a good one at that.

A Coda:

A young man who’d just finished college and gotten an offer from a top IT firm wanted to watch the game in Bengaluru with his friends to celebrate. On the day before the Test, he bought his tickets from the stadium counter, and headed home on his two wheeler. Minutes from home he met with a terrible accident and passed away on the spot, the tickets still in his pocket and unstained.

His family was (and probably continues to be) in great shock at the loss of someone so young. To console himself and cherish his son’s memory, his father wrote a letter to his son’s hero, Sachin Tendulkar, explaining what had happened and asking for a small memento; a photograph of his son, autographed by Sachin.

The match had already begun and tight security meant it was going to be difficult to get the letter and the photo to Tendulkar. Fortunately, the brother of the bereaved father was an ex-Ranji trophy player and he happened to be in Bengaluru. The letter and the photo were handed to him with instructions to get it to Sachin in any way possible before he left Bengaluru. Eventually, the letter found its way to Ravi Shastri and on the fourth morning of the match, with Tendulkar 9 runs from a double century, Shastri managed to catch hold of Sachin and hand over the letter and the photo, briefly explaining the situation.

Sachin nodded, briefly looked at the letter and went up into the dressing room.

At around lunch time, the ex-Ranji player got a call to come up to the India dressing room. There, Sachin handed over the autographed photo, with a message to the family expressing his condolence at their loss, and also handed him an autographed India cap that he wore during the match.

He kept the letter.

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