30th March 2011, 2330 hrs; As I rode past the frenzy crowd that gathered on the streets to celebrate a great semi final victory over Pakistan in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 just a few minutes ago, I was amazed to see how a sport can unite millions of people. I was amazed to see how strangers were exchanging sweets, bursting crackers, waving huge Indian flags and congratulating each other. Right then I knew, as a certain Mr. Barney Stinson says, “This is so going into my blog.” it was going into my blog and here it goes…
The buildup was immense, more than a billion hearts prayed and hoped, the analysis by the experts was knowledgeable, the statistics were interesting and there was only one thing on everybody's mind - India vs. Pakistan, 30th March, 2011. Touted as the most anticipated and the most important game in the history of cricket, the semifinal of the Cricket World Cup 2011 between India and Pakistan generated excitement even in the hearts of non-cricket lovers. Everyone was looking for a break from the daily routine; everyone was finally looking forward to something that would cheer them up, something that would bring a smile on the face, and something that would just up their blood pressure so much that they would BLEED BLUE.
The mind games began with the Pakistani captain Shahid Afridi stating that his team will not let Sachin Tendulkar score his 100th international hundred. Umar Gul chipped in by making his wish to rip through the Indian top order public. The Indian contingent did not respond. It was all adding to the excitement. Everybody was trying to guess the starting line ups, every group had its own analysis, discussions and finally, everybody wanted to be in Mohali.
My friends and I tried to make plans for the big day; little did we know that we would get lost in the moment on that day and none of the plans would be implemented. The match was also going to be screened in the amphitheater at work. The buildup had its share of drama. On the night before the big day, it hail stormed in Mohali making everybody think what would happen if the match is abandoned. It would be a bitter disappointing anti-climax because if that is the case, Pakistan would go through to the finals. Amidst all this, the big day arrived and people in Mohali rose from their beds to clear skies and a bright morning sun.
I, not being a great fan of the sport, was not that interested in the match. The day was passing like any other day till 1400hrs. India won the toss and elected to bat. I was at my desk working, but my cricket crazy friend, Viswanath, came running to my desk and dragged me along with him to the Food Court where the match was being screened on a big screen. As Siva, Viswa and I approached the food court, we could hear whistles and applause from the food court. As expected, the place was crowded; people were waving flags, blowing whistles and chanting ‘Jeetega Bhai jeetega, India jeetega’. I knew I was going to listen to this chant for many times that evening. It was then time for the national anthems of the two nations. Pakistani anthem was followed by the Indian anthem. All the people abandoned whatever they were doing at that moment (few people were having lunch) and stood up to sing the national anthem; it had to be a goose bumps moment, I am a patriotic guy.
The roar from the assembled crowd was incredible when Sachin and Sehwag entered the ground and Sehwag was doing his customary swinging of arms warm up. The first four in the third ball of the match came from Sehwags’ willow and the food court was in utter chaos. People went into frenzy, my friend was constantly blowing whistle right next to my ear. The crowd was cheering every run that was being scored. Sehwag continued his flurry of boundaries before he fell. A lot of people left the food court and went back to work. Viswanath, being a huge fan of Sehwag, was not interested in watching the match anymore. I was just happy that I did not need to watch the match anymore. We went back to our desks. Though I was not interested in watching the match, I was interested in what was going on. I was not able to concentrate on my work. So, I just started to roam around the office from one cubicle to another. People at their desks were watching the match on the internet. People were cursing every wicket that fell and were applauding every boundary scored. As expected, I got bored of the match and started to get on with my work.
I thought of going home at 7:30, but then I thought I would watch the match till 9PM and then leave so that I can avoid the rush hour. So I went to the amphitheater with my friend and started to watch the match. Boy! That was some ambience. Everybody was on a high. The crowd was cheering for every dot ball and danced for every Pakistani wicket that fell. My friend, Siva, became all superstitious and freakish about the places where we were sitting. He didn’t want anybody to move from their place. It was just amazing. The atmosphere was electrifying as the last Pakistani wicket fell. Everybody got to their feet at once; people congratulated each other, danced to the “De Ghuma ke” song. It was jingoism at its best. It usually takes me 15 minutes to go home, but it took me 40 minutes that day. So much to avoid the traffic, but it was totally worth it.
All done and said, it was one of the best screenings I have ever attended. The credit goes to the people who made the screening possible and to the cricketers who played an amazing game and of course, the CROWD.
Hope India goes on to win the finals in Mumbai on 2nd April, 2011.