Thursday, March 16, 2006

12th March, 2006: while I was travelling

5.00 pm IST: Channel surfing was never so much fun. Kumble was taking the English middle order on a ride at Mohali on one button and the Australian captain was batting like some eye-candy Terminator at Johannesburg on another. Found time to message my friend Samir about the folly of Smith referring to Ponting's Aussies as 'chokers' in press. Little need of charging such rivals up on the eve of a decider, I opined.
5:30 pm IST: Australia have crossed 400 and are still going strong. I thought of postponing the imminent 3-hour evening journey back to Haldia (my workplace) and stay back at Kolkata. "Great batting is sure to continue in the South African chase dear; don't miss it" - the Johannesburg pitch enticed with a smile. But what of the very early wake up tomorrow?
5:50 IST: Channel surfing is over, and so is an hour-long dilemma. It is stumps at Mohali with the scales tilting for India. The South Africans lose an early wicket (Dippenaar) shortly after they come out to pretend chasing Australia's 434, or so I fatefully think of the early developments. "No use wasting a night's sleep over a no-contest," I reconsider stoically over the replay of Dippenaar's dismissal and set out on my journey. Hope I can forgive myself this indiscretion some day earlier than Martin Crowe exorcises his 299.
7:15 pm IST: I'm well on my way to Haldia when I get an sms from Samir. "Now that is what I call a chase." I text him asking for an explanation. Instinct tells me of my terrible mistake. Confirmation comes soon in the form of a phone call. South Africa are 180+ at nine runs an over, skipper leading the charge with one-drop Gibbs. As if that is not enough, he has to end the call with "You are really missing SOMETHING here."
I spend the next 2½ plus hours on frantic calls and impatient messages to / from my friends Samir, Sandeepan and Abhijit. …"smithy's dsmssed"….
"193 reqd off 143 balls, Gibbs 130"....
"182 in 22 overs, Gibbs 136"….
"My goodness Angshu, they need just 164 more off 21 overs – it's less than 8! Khatarnaak (deadly) batting by Gibbs"…..
"284/3 in 30.5, gibbs 161".
Nearly miss the station where I get down to resume the rest of my journey. Just have enough time at the changeover to rush into a nearest electronics shop and get a glimpse of the television. 100 needed off 60 balls, 5 wkts - sorry, wickets remaining.
"it's a sort-of-normal diffclt chase, not bynd ths team if Kemp gets in" I simply have to play the self-assigned cricket specialist's role on the 2nd leg of my journey even while on board a moving vehicle. The connectivity plays truant for a while and then, "48 off 30 balls with 4 wickets in hand, Kemp gone just now. Hey wait, it was 77 off 42 at one stage". Turning around for empathy I find myself looking at a bunch of serenely oblivious people in that public transport. No one….NO ONE is aware of the amazing developments in Johannesburg. At that moment I feel one with with Patrick Swayze's 'Ghost'. Agony and an air of helplessness are my travel companions and those two shoot up with the excitement whenever I receive another update from my friends. The despair is absolute as I brought it upon myself.
09:50 pm, IST: The cellphone was my intergalactic link from this other world. Hell, what's wrong with the darned connection again...Luckily the calls started pouring in again. It was time for live commentary till the end. …."van der Wath has just played the innings of his life and SA need 12 off 11 balls, 3 wickets in hand. Wait, make it two wickets and 10 balls."…"7 runs off 6 balls. The Aussies are delaying the proceedings shamelessly."…."another wicket falls. 3 off 2 with last wicket. Brett Lee is now starting his run-up…eeub seore aeuuk..."
That jumbling up of sound signified that another 'poor connectivity' zone was approaching. A few minutes later, confirmation came that the record was indeed broken twice in a day. Peace prevailed on the record-happy mind thereafter.
10:15 pm, IST: Match over, now there is ample time for a few comments. This time I was on the receiving end. Sample this sixer from a luckless friend who learnt of this incredible match and its outcome from….me! "Wl ths b the turning point 4 world cric & 4 australia & sa? Gibbs has done a javed miandad on aus!" By now the net was apparently getting splashed with the breaking news. "I was reading the e-reports and they still cnt believe it!'
As the journey draws to a close I remember that English county match from 2002 that had similar back-to-back mammoths scored in the same day. It is amazing how unthinkable can become inevitable once the blocks are removed and thinking becomes uncluttered.
When it came to giving that great World Cup 1999 semi-final clash (and I missed most of it....travelling) a real run for money in the 'greatest one-day match ever' poll it had to be another ODI involving same two sides. Another world cup comes up in a year – already waiting for that clash even as Ponting refuses to take a share away from Gibbs' hour of glory.
I will not be travelling that day.
[cross posted at Different Strokes]

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