Sunday, May 11, 2008

Greatest Cricketing Moments

The success of IPL has clearly whetted my appetite for more cricket. At the cost of my wife's anger, i still keep logging into any website that can give me a small peak into IPL. Highlights, interviews etc.

Youtube has become my favourite buddy lately.

Over the weekend I started thinking what were those great cricketing moments I ever witnessed in my lifetime. And i came up with the list closest to my memory.Some of those have blurred over the past, yet somehow i think i recollect enough of them to put it out.

7. Javed Miandand last ball six of Sharma : Sharjah-1986. This moment probably ranks only a close second to Pakistan's World Cup Win of 1992, for any hard core Pakistani cricket fan. This was Pakistan's greatest six ever.

It turned Javed Miandad into a God in Pakistan and by same count, demoted Chetan Sharma to a villain who's reputation got a permanent taint in India. Sharma was permanently married to that last ball.
Never has one cricketing shot had such a reverse impact on two nations. Till that point, India and Pakistan were evenly matched. In fact India had a slight lead on a head-to-head record with Pakistan in one day-ers.

But that day in Sharjah, Javed Miandad changed Indo-Pak cricket forever. India could never really get over that shock. For almost a decade after that, the results of India Pak games became a mere formality, with Pakistan winning 8 out of 10 games and improving the head to head record, many times over.

6. Sunil Gavaskar breaking Don's record : For those who have seen Gavaskar at his peak, he was the ultimate legend. But not for my generation. I started "digging" cricket when Gavaskar's career was on a wane. He was never my favourite. But that winter morning in 1983, when Sunil Manohar Gavaskar walked in the stadium in Delhi, I along with the entire nation prayed. We prayed, that Gavasker would tame the might of Windies pace and break a 4 decade old record.

And he did. He equaled Sir Donald Bradman's record, making his 29th century. Although he broke it in far more matches than the Don; who really was counting? A nation starved of sporting heroes finally had an Indian name against the title - "Highest Test centuries".

5. Shastri wins Audi : For most of the cricketing world, India's 1983 Prudential WC win was always a "fluke". But one lanky Indian had some ideas about changing that notion. His name was Ravi Shastri - a slow left hand finger spinner who was permanently "benched" during the 1983 WC tournament. In fact the only games India lost in 1983 in England, had Shastri in playing 11. So this guy din't have much reputation to guard to start with.

But something changed in the 1985 Benson Hedges WC in Australia. Shastri was sent as an opener instead of his usual tail ender position. And Shastri was not going to leave this chance.

Shastri was from Mumbai, same city as Indian captain Gavaskar. It was rumoured that Sunny was backing his prodigy, even though Shastri was not really up to it. It turned out later, Gavaskar got it right. Shastri with calm and patient knocks would stick around the wicket as long as possible and build up a steady ground for long hauls. Those days a 200+ score was defendable. And Shastri did just that. He would stay around the wicket long enough to see India go through that psychological gate of 200.

India won the finals beating arch rivals Pakistan and Ravi Shastri was awarded the Champions of the Champions award. Apart from a lot of cash he got Audi, making it a household name and a dream car for every male in country.

4. Ajay Jadeja destroying Waqar's career : I really doubt there has been any one-day player in India whose cricketing acumen was as sharp as Ajay Jadeja's. He got dragged into the unfortunate match fixing scandal (and i think unfairly so) and a great prospect ended. Till that time though Jadeja had single handedly won more games for India, than any other. Lot of people do not realise the amount of work he had to do due to his odd rank in the batting order when Indian front order had screwed up (9 out of 10 times)

Jadeja's slaughter of Waqar Yonis at the knock off game in Bangalore in '96 WC, still remains one of my fav cricketing moments of all time. Although Sidhu was awarded the man of the match for that game, for me it was Jadeja's day.
His cameo towards the end was what ultimately became the difference between the two sides. India went from 230 odd to 280 in last 3 overs, thanks to the brutal Jadeja attack.

He single handedly broke the myth of "soft" Indians unable to take on the aggressive Pakistanis forever. Waqar's career took a downhill from that game onwards and after that loss, the Pakistani team was looking for excuses on how to not land in Pakistan.

One of the most absorbing games of cricket I have ever seen. My heart still pounds at the image of that game. The tense atmosphere, the on field controversies (Prasad-Sohail), Imran Khan's flip-flopping commentary and the pouring of entire city of Nagpur on the street's, after India's win are images as fresh in my mind as anything else. That day, India did not win world cup, yet that game had an out pouring of emotions, i have never witnessed.

3. Sachin hits Shoibh Akhtar for a six over 3rd man The rivalry was built up before the game even started. The match, India vs Pak, 2003 WC, was not only between two arch rivals, but two very fascinating cricketers. One, India's favourite son, Sachin Tendulkar, and other, a person with a reputation to destroy the opposition by his sheer speed. A very animated individual, Akhtar, could invite intense emotions both on and off the field.

It was billed as match between Sachin and Akhtar. Akhtar had got the better of Sachin in a couple of earlier meetings. People had started doubting Sachin. Was he afraid of Akhtar, was he loosing his reflexes? Inquiring minds asked.

The atmosphere was charged like hell. The entire Pakistani team in their florescent greens had blood on their tongues. Their pace attack was the envy of other teams. Akhtar, Waqar,Akram - you cannot have a better threesome in one team.

The Rawalpindi express comes roaring in. The entire crowd behind him. Sachin watches off the first 2 balls carefully. He is seeking a revenge. We know. Sachin knows. But will that moment ever come? Not till the 4th ball of the over is bowled. Sachin flashes his bat to a wide ball outside the off stump. For a fraction of a second, the entire nation's heart is in their collective mouths. Where did the ball go?

Luckily for India that day, it went past atleast 15 rows behind the 3rd man boundary.

The battle had ended in one over. Rather in one shot. "..A shot that had ended a decade of Indian inferiority against Pakistan.." said Ramchandra Guha, the famous historian. The "Express" finally knows, why Sachin is what he is. No one dares to "bill" another of these battles anymore. The genius prevails over the challenger. The express comes to a screeching halt. To rub salt to his wounds, Shoibh Akhtar is taken off the attack immediately. The ultimate insult to a paceman's ego.
Sachin wins an individual battle and the day for India.

2. India wins 20-20 WC : Pakistan need 13 runs of last over. Misbah-ul-haq, an unfancied young cricketer has brought Pakistan in sight of an improbable victory. The dashing Indian captain, Dhoni who's heralding a young and restless Indian squad, has a hard choice to make. Whom should he give the last over? Will it be one of his regular bowlers or the Haryanvi Jat, Joginder Sharma, who's balling is at best ordinary.

The chutzpah of Dhoni, he gives the ball to Joginder Sharma. Joginder Sharma's last name is same as the guy who let India down 2 decades ago against the same team. A sense of Deja vu prevails across the watchers. Will it be another Sharma, putting India's face to shame. The similarity is uncanny.

Dhoni follows his instinct. Backs up Sharma to do the job for India.

First ball, its a wide. Pressure is palpable. Second ball, a swing of the bat, but a lucky miss for India. No run scored. Still 5 balls and 12 runs needed. Sharma bowls a loose full toss. Misbah crashes it past long off boundary for a huge six. Pakistan is now precariously close to win. Dhoni walks up to his man, and calms his nerves. Dhoni's neck is on the line. If Sharma gives another six, its all over for both Dhoni and Sharma. The Indian crowd can be that unforgiving.

But destiny was not going to let India down again. India had never lost to Pakistan in a cricket world cup. India manage to retain that ONCE again. The entire nation erupts at stroke of midnight as Sreesanth takes his career's most important catch. Misbah mistimes a shot he will live to regret for ever. India win by just 5 runs. Unbelievable scenes across the globe. For me this was clearly the cricketing moment of the decade.

1. India Win Cricket World Cup'83 Anyone who has seen Kapil Dev grinning ear to ear, holding proudly the Silver cup in hand after drubbing the Mighty West Indies at the Lords balcony, cannot but call this the greatest cricketing moment India ever produced.

It was a wet day in end of June in 1983 and my first day at school after it reopened post summer vacation. I came back and joined the audience at home, trying to watch the game on a black and white TV. Thanks to the screwed up Government run Doordarshan, we were seeing the game only in installments. To add to it, the Maharashtra State Board of Electricity (MSEB) chose the exact same day to trip something and create a blackout. On no other day did the sale of transister batteries go so high as people got desperate to keep pace with Score of the match.

India had made a modest total of 183. Most had resigned to idea of Windies easily overhauling it. But there was hope and prayer. We had seen miracle happen earlier. And the emotional and religious Indians were praying every minute even when putting up a facade of being "cool" even if "we loose".

Vivian Richards, the most feared batsman in the world was crusising along easily, playing the "easy" Indian balling like he would play school kids. His confidence, his body language, his arrogance was mesmerising. But David was ready for Goliath that day. A lapse of concentration by Richards took him to loop the ball in air. Kapil Dev, the Palmolive da jat, ran almost 40 yards towards the boundary line in backward direction and took a catch that was going to change India's cricketing fortune for ever. One of the greatest catches ever witnessed.

By scalping Vivian Richards India tasted blood. This was going to be their biggest day. Their only chance to be visible. Their only ever hope of making it in the big league.

As Mohinder-deceptively-slow-Amarnath got the last wicket, that of Michael Holding, a momentous day was permanemtly etched in million memories. Thousands of bell bottom pants and big side locks and bushy hair styled desi Indians invaded the Lords pitch even as Michael Holding lay low on the ground trying hard not to sob.

The Devils had given Indian cricket fans the greatest gift they could ever imagine. A lump went to the throat of my mother as she saw Kapil Dev holding that trophy. Truely the greatest cricketing moment.


Rathchakra said...

Great list. Brought back many many memories and my chest fill up with emotions - sad and happy. There are many more such moments. To me the one where Sachin broke the most centuries record in Test and One day is a memorable one too. I am still waiting for the day when he will break Lara's record of most runs in test matches. Kumble's 10 wicket haul against Pak . The century that Sachin scored in 2003 WC after returning from his father's death is also a very special moment for me. This post sure brought back all these memories.

Blue Bike said...

awesome description... I used to watch cricket till 2003... but then it became way too commercial :(
I'd really wish if we could see the white collared shirts and V neck sweaters again...
if we could ever see David Boons walrus moustache on some other cricketer :D
those players with huge sidelocks and sense of humor ...
the days when umpires wore aprons...

Rohit said...

Good one! I have couple more fav moments -
Laxman's knock against Australia, I mean Damn! And, Tendulkar's 145 something against Australia in the sharjah cup league matches - during a sand storm...Those were the time when Tendulkar would be the lone man standing...And Tendulkar followed up with another century in the finals..