Wednesday, March 2, 2011

My World Cup memories down the years... Part 2

After the stunning highs (read quarter final) followed by the depressing lows (semi final) of the 96 WC, the next edition of the tournament was, atleast for me, a more sedate affair. Held in England in May-June 1999, it once again clashed with an examination, this time the sixth semester exams of my engineering course (considered by many to be the toughest semester). So the interest in the tournament was lukewarm. I used to go to college to study during the pre-exam preparatory leave, hence missed quite a few matches. In the initial stages, there was an agonizing defeat against Zimbabwe (which I did watch) where we literally threw away the game. Of course, there was the drama surrounding Sachin and his father's death. But then, he came back with a most emotional century against Kenya. Dada and Dravid then pummeled the Lankans into submission, followed by a great win against the hosts where, once again, our bowlers did a good job defending a small total. As the exams approached nearer, the interest kept growing. But apart from another victory over Pakistan, the men in blue really did not have much on offer in the Super Sixes and bowed out of the tournament. There was, in the end, the epic semi-final between Australia and South Africa, which, strangely, I hardly remember seeing, except THAT final over. Indeed, this is typical of my recollection of the 99 World Cup. Hardly anything to recollect.

When the next World Cup came along (2003 in South Africa), I was in IIM Bangalore during my first year. There it was a completely different atmosphere. There was, of course, no longer the comfort of watching the games from the drawing room couch. But then, watching the games in the common room at the hostel more than made up for it. Surrounded by hordes of friends, the common room had a carnival-like atmosphere. Dada's boys started slowly, losing to Australia but then came back strongly. Of the initial games, I particularly remember the game against England in Durban. Ashish Nehra was the hero that day with his prodigious swing (and I also distinctly remember him being clocked at 145+ kmph, a far cry from today !!). Then came the game against Pakistan at the Centurion (almost 8 years to the day, 1 March 2003). I had gone to a friend's place in Jayanagar. With few others, and with beer and snacks for company, we watched Sachin play one of his most memorable innings. The party continued much after the game. As Dada's boys progressed, there was only one topic of discussion on the campus. And when the day of the final dawned, the excitement reached fever-pitch. The chairs in the common room were taken by 12 noon (for a game starting at 2 pm !!). As the national anthem started before the game, we all (by that time there would have been around 200 people there !!) rose as one. With hands on our hearts, we wished the team all the very best.  Unfortunately, that turned out to be the highest point of the day. As Ponting and Martyn put the attack to the sword, the interest dwindled and it turned out to be the biggest anti-climax. And after Sachin was dismissed in the first over, the common room was virtually empty. Still, in terms of the sheer atmosphere on campus, the 2003 tournament remains my most memorable.
In contrast, the last World Cup in 2007 hardly had any memories. With the unearthly timings being a problem, I watched very few matches. I had a bad feeling before the initial game against Bangladesh (refer  my blog post then) and was proved right. That left Dravid and his men needing to beat Sri Lanka, a match which I thankfully missed as I was on my way to Baroda. On reaching there the following morning. I got the news that the campaign had ended. Thereafter, there was hardly anything to see. And for the first time, I missed even the final (and Gilchrist at his hitting best).

Lets see what memories 2011 CWC leaves me with. So far it has been quite good, especially the game on Sunday (more about that later) and, as I type, Kevin O'Brien from Ireland is playing the most splendid innings, not to mention the fastest WC century. An innings that will be remembered in 2015, 2019...