Oh dear Eden 2001. I hate you. Yes I do.
Because you have spoiled me. You have spoiled me for life. Every time I find myself in a hopeless situation or putting it in Ravi Shastri’s words – “In a tunnel with no end at the end of it”, I just think of you and tell myself quietly “It has been done before”.
That’s true for cricket and for life.
Dear Eden 2001, I must thank you for revisiting us in year 2017. Interestingly in the same month, month of March, you were born.
Although there is a huge difference between 2017 and 2001. In 2001, Australians came as world champions looking to roll over their juggernaut which had 15 straight test victories in pocket. In 2017, India is number 1 side which had been unbeaten at home for 19 tests in a row.
But as the events have turned out, 2017 looks so similar to 2001..
We were crushed in Pune. CRUSHED. Number one test team in the world which, given the schedule, had no chance of losing its position to number two side.
Yet, it happened. On a turning track.
An unknown left arm spinner had taken 12 wickets against us. We lost by 333 runs.
I repeat. 12 wickets. 333 runs.
Who is Steve O’Keefe anyways? When I heard him being in the side, I wondered “O’Keefe who? Triple centurions aren’t finding a place in our batting and Australians are sending some random Big Basher to bowl? It is 4-0”
A left arm spinner crushing us. Imagine the plight of Dada. Spinners crushing us at home. Imagine the plight of Sehwag & VVS. Imagine the joy of Warne.
Such was the un-believability of the event.
“After 2001, have we ever come back from behind to win the series against a strong team?” asked a friend.
“2015, Sri Lanka” I replied.
“I said strong team” he shot back.
“Sri Lanka had Herath. Australians lost badly to Sri Lanka” when it comes to cricket, I don’t take a step back in arguments.
“Its Australia. Not Sri Lanka”
“Things always look easier after we have won”
“No. Sri Lanka is a weak side”
“F off” my patience had run out. See, such was the magnitude of loss that fan in me had turn into a fanatic. Cricket fans can be as ferocious as fanatics.
It was as bad as 2011. Or 2012. Or 2014. The horrors of England & Australia had come back. What hurt more was that more than annihilation, it looked like abject surrender.
“To hell with it. I am retiring from following cricket” I told a friend.
“The usual” he said.
“Yes, the tutka”” I winked.
Cricket fans can also be as naive as children.
Come the morning of 4th March. Thank god I am not going to follow this match. Who wants to get up at 5 every morning anyways? I thought. Damn the time zone differences? Why isn’t our planet flat. We wouldn't have had any time zone differences then.
I woke up at 4. India had won the toss. I went back to sleep. Or pretence of it.
72/2 at lunch. Thank God. We shall surely cross 100. At least I hope I thought.
Next I checked, Nair and Rahul were batting well. Local boys. 5th wicket partnership. And I am not following. So many things in our favour. We shall crush them I thought.
“189” someone messaged me. What? How the hell? How exactly? I thought.
To hell with it. I shall not follow this match now. At no cost.
5th March 2017 must have been the only day in my life when India was playing and I didn't even check the score. Not even once. See the discipline? Only if I had same discipline in other aspects of life.
I am not going to follow. I kept telling myself. I opened someone’s twitter feed to check news about UP elections. Someone had tweeted “Hope we cross 200 this time?”
What? Australia is all out. What’s going on.
It was 94/2. Next I checked, it was 120 for 4. Damn. Damn. Damn. Why did I check the score? Superstition in me was taking over the sanity.
“250? Pitch has eased out” someone messaged.
“I have retired” I replied.
“Ok Afridi” he replied back.
213/4. I finally checked. 126 ahead. Maybe, maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our number 3 was leading the way. Our number 6, woefully out of form with place under threat, was giving him company. Does it ring a bell? Has it happened before?
Hash tag “”You Remember”
Slept at 1. Woke up at 5. Started streaming. We should declare half an hour after tea. Started thinking too.
Thinking is such a waste of time. Number 6 got out.
I started for office. Checked the score on my way. Nine down. Nine? How? How the hell?
Came to office. Self-restraint took over. For an hour or so. Then it took the backseat.
Checked the score. Australians were 8 down. Eight? Yes, 2 more. Hope they don’t return the favour of Mohali 2010.
112 it read.
From a position of complete annihilation in first test and losing huge ground in the initial part of second test, we had turned it around. Totally. Wholly. Completely.
We had paid back the favour. As Ravi Shastri would say in his booming voice, “India has the momentum now”
Juggernaut has started rolling back again. Or I hope so. That's what I learnt from Eden 2001.
To hope. Always.
Dear Ranchi, we are coming. We, the fan and the fanatic in me. With tonnes of hope.
(Image courtesy: Indian Express)