New Delhi, April 2nd 2011. It’s the 48th over and the atmosphere is fraught with tension. All eyes are turned to the small screen in the middle of the room. At this stage of the game, it’s easy to differentiate between the Sri Lankan and Indian supporters in the room. One group sits upright, hands clasped in eager anticipation, while there is a slouch in the shoulders of the other.
India is in need of 4 runs from 11 balls. Dhoni cracks the next ball for a beautiful six and as it soars into the crowd he breaks out into a smile. In the nanosecond for it to sink in, there is silence. Then all hell breaks loose.
The atmosphere inside the room however, is a little sombre, save for the ecstatic cheers of our Indian counterparts. All of us were students away from home (Sri Lanka), situated in India and while all of us may not be ardent cricket fans, we couldn’t help but be emotionally invested in the match (The World Cup tends to have this effect on people).
The run-up to the final was fraught with numerous predictions, social media sites were filled with friendly sledging, the cricket pundits had a field day and the chain SMS’s ran rampant (Example: How do you get a map of Sri Lanka? You don’t. Just buy a map of India and you’ll get it for free.) The culmination of months of anticipation had finally arrived and India in particular had waited 28 years for this.
Despite their win, Biju Jayadevan is a cricket fan who remains firmly grounded: “I just hope that it doesn’t get to their heads. Now they are heroes but the problem with the media is that they hype things too much. They are only human, and the moment they make one mistake they are immediately brought down.”
“I’m a die-hard fan of Kapil Dev and I remember the finals vividly. We were the underdogs at that time and winning the World Cup was a great event,” reminiscences Biju about India’s victory in 1983. She added that she admired the way Dhoni handed all the credit to Sachin and the team instead of basking in the glory of India’s win as most people would have. “He’s a nice human being and a very good cricketer who is passionate about his game,” she said explaining that this winning combination proved to be a recipe for success.
“We are the world champions now but the other thing is that we are world champions of a sport that is played only among 10 – 15 countries,” smiles Hemanth Sood. For Hemanth, one of the defining moments of last week’s game was Dhoni’s innings. “I was pretty optimistic about India’s win even after the first two wickets fell. I believe we have a better batting line-up now and we can take more pressure. This was not the case three years back”.
An avid cricket enthusiast, this was Pasanna Jayawardena’s first experience of witnessing the cricket fever firsthand in India and the constant media attention the sport garnered. A Sri Lankan student in Delhi, he explained that he missed the festive atmosphere of the crowd at home combined with the papare band. While adding regretfully that “the World Cup fever over here was good but if I was back at home it would have been much better,” Pasanna also voiced his disappointment about Kumar Sangakkara stepping down as captain and the inability to pay a fitting farewell to Murali.
If the American dream was the picket fence and the perfect life, then the Indian dream was, well, this. India’s obsession for the gentleman’s game has been chronicled time after time. Cricket here is their religion, the cricketers their Gods and heaven forbid that these Gods should have feet of clay.
Dhoni’s house was stoned by irate ‘fans’ – is that even the right word in this context? – after India’s debacle in the 2007 world cup as was Zaheer Khan’s restaurant. Therefore you can well imagine the country’s frenzy last Saturday when the situation was reversed.
We watched as the once deserted streets soon filled with people of all ages, drum beats filled the night and fireworks lit up the night sky as people danced their way through Delhi. Groups of people ran up and down the street, hugging strangers and waving their shirts in the air. The celebrations which took place after India’s win over Pakistan substantially paled in comparison. The cup had finally come home. This was the moment they had waited for nearly three decades. Places which screened the match rapidly metamorphosed into a street party of sorts. Central Delhi was incapacitated with the mother of all traffic jams as revellers danced on top of people’s cars. This was one party which even the police force had no control over and the next day more than one newspaper sported pictures of policemen gleefully joining the revellers.
This, however, was the tip of the emotional iceberg. From Chandigargh to Chennai, the country resembled one big Indian wedding - when the Indians throw a party, they do it in style.
By the time you read this, the armchair cricketers will have analyzed and re-analyzed the match, your 7 year old nephew will tell you what went wrong with Sri Lanka’s strategy and the secret behind Dhoni’s success, the old aunty next door will cease to marvel at the wonder that is Malinga’s hair and people will have recovered from the cringe-worthy commentary that accompanied the match. The dust will have settled on the World Cup and the spectacle that is the IPL will take over. As for me, I’ll see you in 2015.