Sunday, October 12, 2008

A visit to the KSCA India vs Australia Day 4

It was my customary visit to a test match being played at home (Blore!). And for once, it was in the stand right next to the pavilion stand(as against the usual top floor above the Pavilion that I have been going to) - which means, I had a 70-degree view of the proceedings. Good fun though!

What added to the flavour was the nostalgia of going to watch test match cricket at the ground with dad - since he is a die-hard sports fanatic! I felt so happy to have managed 2 tickets in a very good stand with a great view, and bring some serious happiness to him in his retired life! I felt so happy!

Anyway, back to the day at the ground. It was actually a day that had riveting test match cricket - not the usual slam-bang masala of the shorter versions of the game. Possibly, for the first time in my various visits to the KSCA, today was a gripping day of hard fought equations, with no team ready to give the edge to the other.

The day started with Zaheer Khan completing his second test match 50 (much to the delight of the crowds here). And, I for one, was particularly fascinated to see the famous Brett Lee action in person - sure is exciting to see that gigantic structure steam down his run-up, hurl bouncers, fume at batsmen, and add to the drama by bending down on his knees and appealing at the top of his voice!

The Indian team folded up for 360, falling 70 short of the Aussie first innings total, with Zaheer Khan the highest scorer (55 not out). The Aussies came out to face a fiery Zaheer and it wasn't long before Hayden was back in the tent. But the biggest roar was for Ricky Ponting (in terms of booing him out of the ground!). And the time that Ponting was at the crease was possibly the time I enjoyed one of the most beautiful days of test match cricket. Reason -that classical battle between a young rookie (Ishant Sharma) trying to prove his point yet again, against at veteran of 10000 test match runs (Ponting). The seamers, in-dippers, the swingers, the ones going away, the dot balls, the various appeals for LBW - were sights to behold i.e. a famous batsman struggling in the cauldron of test match cricket, against a bowler who is increasingly getting the better of him. The standout was the manner of Punter’s dismissal: well articulated, brilliantly planned and magnificently executed, courtesy, a quick catch by the special VVS at mid-wicket. Ponting's dismissal, brought a thunderous roar in the stadium, and I was out of my seat in a jiffy, cheering the Indian team on!

Things settled down a wee bit after that, with the Aussies scoring runs. But, they lost Clarke (after he hit a cover drive in his first ball - great shot!). And, the Aussie nemesis, Harbhajan Singh, got into his elements - terrific off spin bowling, capitalising on the spite in the pitch, putting pressure on the Aussies with close-in fielders et al. He possibly did not get the adequate returns, in terms of number of wickets, for the brilliance he displayed in his art today.

And then, that proud cricketer - Anil Kumble. It was hard to believe that this gigantic, yet gentle legend is playing his last test match at home. He has become a bit of a role model for me - with his conduct, poise, ability to answer all critics with his performance, and immense dignity and pride of playing for India. I will never forget a moment in this test match, in fact, right at the toss - Ravi Shastri was doing the usual TV stint of covering the toss. Once the toss was done and he had finished speaking to Ponting, it was Kumble's turn. And I distinctly noticed a tremendous amount of respect and regard in Ravi's eyes for Kumble at this particular toss. Maybe I am reading too much into it, but I really sensed a tremendous amount of "Wow, Anil. You are in your last match at home. You have been a great servant for your state and country. All the best for your final game at home". I think, I have watched enough cricket in my life to see that much of regard, even if momentary (at a toss!). Such is the pedigree of Anil. I zoomed my binoculars time and again, to get a final glimpse of this legend in action - be it while he was setting the field, or while he was bowling (albeit with an injury).

Anyway, the match is brilliantly poised. I enjoyed my day at the stadium with daddy. Especially since, it was replete with good, old-fashioned, battle for dominance and with both teams still in the hunt. And, a draw, is still a possibility. I just wish tomorrow were a holiday since it is going to be a fascinating final day at the KSCA.

There were some terrific moments during the day, where I was almost left wondering about the kind of life these sport stars live. The number of times Ganguly, Harbhajan and Tendulkar were cheered every time they took their positions near the boundary lines was something else. I mean, imagine turning around and walking to you position on the field and at least 5000 people roaring your name in unison, and about 200 people clamouring for space near the boundary line to get your autograph. This happened all day. And I dare say, that is just a shade of the lives that these guys live - perennially in the limelight. Possibly, that one comment in the newspapers, where kids were flocking around the Sunny Gavaskar - though he had retired by the time these kids were even born, was testament to the man's contribution to Indian cricket and the fan following that he enjoys, 22 years after he retired.

I guess I will sign off by saying that I saw another member of the 10000 runs club today - Allan Border. And I will just say, wow!


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