i haven't watched people dancing spontaneously for a long time now. in my early twenties, i used to dance for hours in a small town below the ghats, my soul town, by the western ghats, as it rained for hours.
yesterday, the nation rejoiced as bombay was seen dancing in the rain to the tunes of chak de for five hours with a band of boys on a historic march. most of them have not seen the sweet home for three months. they have been away, in the land of whites and then in the land of black and white. breathing cricket all the time. well, none of us even dreamt of winning a world cup. but the band of boys had a rare self-belief. like, the kapil's devils.
at hindsight, the boys, it looks, had the right willow. shewag, gambhir, yuvi, robin, dinesh and dhoni. everyone likes to hit. they all crave to get after the bowlers, each one in his own characteristic way. shewag, square of the wicket; gambhir, driving down; robin, scorching and scooping; dinesh, always innovating; yuvi, the thunder bat and dhoni, straight cutting! given an option, they will attack all the way. twenty overs suited these daring batters perfectly.
on sep 24th at johannesburg, gambhir was dancing, not in the rain, but down the wicket to caress the cherry to extra cover and mid-wicket boundaries, in an expedition of elegant batsmanship, on a slow pitch.
to start with, walking in for the injured shewag, yusuf, when a nation was wondering on his identity, hoisted asif for a straight six. no one expected such ruthlessness. it was plain disdain. robin floundered again driving a rising delivery. tactical and shrewd, shoaib brought the spinners on straight-away after seeing yuvi's scintillating form against pacers.
at times, the most indisciplined attack, the pakistanis were on target. they knew that their record against india in world cups. not even a single win. this was the final. umar gul had measured the pitch well and the indians faced the music. the one length delivery he bowled landed on the scoreboard. he had the last laugh as gambhir's scoop was gulped by asif at short fine-leg. gambir had showed the world that even in the shortest format, batting is not about breathing fire but is also about craftsmanship.
if we look back, the team dancing started with the brutal aussies wanting twenty from two on a cool night in durban a few days ago. harbhajan doing a banghra at deep mid-wicket. the team was a minute away from eliminating the champions.
but one billion started dancing at the same kingsmead as yuvi carted the cherry over long-on for a sixth time in six balls at the kingsmead ground to the delight of one billion. having seen the same faces and strokes for fifteen years, sachin, dravid and sourav, the india had something anew to celebrate.
the little fellows were not the masters. they knew little about reputation. they are not purists. they had no respect for opposition. they had a plan. and the plan had a place for a young boy named rohit. hardly a hitter of the cricket ball, the little chap has a brilliant cricketing brain that rescued his team twice taking the total to respect and thereby giving the bowlers a chance.
ah! the poor bowlers, in a baseballish version of cricket. there were two reinventors in the bowling department. it was remarkable for pathan and bhajji to have found the lost rhythm when the nation had finished them off. the cup is as much a tribute to the duo who were nowhere in the cricketing horizon as much it is to the young guns rudra, straight and swinging, and sreesanth, wayward but wicket-taking. after a long time, the nation delighted itself to the constant clatter and cart-wheeling of stumps.
i am not sure if joginder can dance. the televisions did not show his true emotions. well, those bowling at the death, the very death, can't have expressive faces. by design or by choice, the wary-looking joginder was tossed the ball to bowl the last over. twice, that too in the semi-final and final. remember, sandhu's inswinger licking the off-stump of greenidge. like that ethereal image, joginder's run up to bowl the last over, and misbah's lone mishit and sreesanth's near spill, will remain etched in the memories of at least two generations.
thats the emotion, the game of cricket has on the lives on the people of the sub-continent. while an entire nation erupted in joy and dis-belief, another nation went into deep mourning across the borders. that is a nation that never forgets, especially the defeats. on the field or on the front. it always looks to hit-back. on the cricket field, we can always hope for another fairy tale final, like the wanderers.
i wonder if there could be another world cup final as dramatic as this. from the first six to long on to the last six over long-off, it was thrilling all the way. with ups and downs at every corner. think back on the pak innings. imran freeing arms, hafeez edging and kamran missing, the out-of-place younis khan, and the run-out of imran. then irfan's three dismissals. shoaib mistiming a pull, the stupid-slog by afridi, no one knows if he will ever mature, and the rattling of tariff.
you think you are home. misbah is still there. taking it to the very end. wonder how the pak selectors took these many years to unearth such cricketer, cool as a cucumber. he is thirty three. he also represents the raw cricketing talent all over the sub-continent, mostly undiscovered. the last six off a full toss brought back memories of chetan sharma's full toss at sharjah two decades ago.
thankfully, the band of boys were too small at that time and probably have no memory of it. the rest is history, including dancing in the rain. it is nice to have new generation, dancing all the time, not caring for the mumbai rains.
briefly, the boys will be back in the homes, in small towns, by the villages, shouldering the soul of the nation. these small town fellows have truly emerged from the shadows symbolising the spirit and soul of the nation to a whole new generation.
this is an unprinted page in the nation's cricketing lore. myself waiting for the day the small town fellows will make it big in print. To imprint the simplicity of soul truly on the literary landscape.
lets keep dancing in the rain, even if its a hailstorm!