Off-side: Thanks for the memories, Team India

Our joy is no less than that of the players who made it possible, and our umbilical link to the moment is no less than theirs.

Published : Jul 04, 2024 13:19 IST - 3 MINS READ

The Indian cricket team celebrate its World Cup win.
The Indian cricket team celebrate its World Cup win. | Photo Credit: K. R. Deepak

The Indian cricket team celebrate its World Cup win. | Photo Credit: K. R. Deepak

Watching sports can be deeply emotional. As the years roll by, and my hair turns more grey than black, my memories often go back to September 24, 2007.

With the family crammed in the sweat-filled drawing room — as much to do with the tension on the field as with the sultry, overbearing Kolkata evening — we put faith in Joginder Sharma’s gentle dollies against the batting prowess of Misbah-ul-Haq.

My Dadu (grandfather), two short of 90, had the place closest to the television, and my Didu (grandmother), in dramatic fashion, had already exiled herself from the gathering after Sohail Tanvir had hit two sixes to plunder 15 runs from the 18th over to make it Pakistan’s game to lose. But still, there was faith, and the win unexpectedly came when Misbah scooped the Cup to Sreesanth’s lap in the third legal ball of the final over.

The celebrations in that suburban Kolkata room were as loud and wild as they were in that Johannesburg field. Needless to say, the old man led the festivities, a customary fare of Shiraz biryani being the order for the night from his modest pension.

Our lives are often measured by the sporting events we have lived through, and our conversations are peppered with nostalgia for where we were when M.S. Dhoni lifted the Cup, or when Neeraj Chopra won gold at the Tokyo Olympics; years after the events had passed.

Our joy is no less than that of the players who made it possible, and our umbilical link to the moment is no less than theirs.

The memories of 2024 are now spiced with Rohit Sharma’s assault on Mitchell Starc in a Super 8 game against Australia. It was a masterclass in seizing momentum. Virat Kohli had departed for a five-ball duck, and India was six for one after two overs. It was a ripe opportunity to add to the pressure and snatch the initiative, as the Aussies often do in a must-win situation. At the Daren Sammy Stadium, Rohit converted intent into an extraordinary passage of play — 6, 6, 4, 6, 0, wide, 6 — to turn the game India’s way.

Time has a way of slipping through our fingers, and much has slipped our grasp since that eventful September night in South Africa. Rohit had gone on to add substantial weight to his credentials as one of India’s greatest white-ball players, even as the team grappled with the suffocating expectations of a nation starved for a global title since the 2013 Champions Trophy.

In the rum-soaked, carefree Caribbean, where the air is as relaxed as the locals, Rohit, coach Rahul Dravid, and their men rediscovered India’s cricketing paradise by lifting the nation’s second ICC T20 World Cup.

This final in Bridgetown was as nerve-wracking as it was 17 years ago, proving that time and age do little to ease the agony of a tight match. Heinrich Klaasen was snatching away our dream after dispatching Axar Patel for 24 runs in the 15th over.

But then, dreams have a peculiar knack for materialising when you’re on the brink of despair. Here, Jasprit Bumrah first, and then Suryakumar Yadav, teetering on the edge of glory and disaster, swung the title in India’s favour.

The celebrations in the cramped but chilly Chennai office ( Sportstar’s air conditioner is perpetually set to arctic) were equally boisterous. But biryani brought with Dadu’s pension would have made this win even sweeter — or spicier, in this case.

No one can celebrate a win quite like the old man.

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