Growing up with the Indian Cricket Team

There’s always something about the ball sweetly striking the middle of the bat and racing through the covers for a four. A stroke that’s sweet, grounded, and effortless. Something we don’t see as much anymore in the brute hitting that’s come to characterize modern cricket. I like Glenn Maxwell, and AB and the big hitters that we’ve all seen, but the classy play of a Hashim Amla, or a Virat Kohli grafting a brilliant innings together is what I cherish more in a game of cricket.

There’s much more love I have for Test Cricket though, and the matches played on fast seaming pitches are one of the most exciting matches that can be seen. Pitches and rules today are biased to batsmen to such an extent, that commentators have started considering economy rates of 5 a good one. Gone are the days when Glenn McGrath would beat a batsman 5 times in an over, on any pitch.

India’s tour of Australia, though it ended winless was a beautiful display of test batting. With Virat Kohli’s imperious form, and bright spots like Lokesh Rahul and Ajinkya Rahane, Indian Test Cricket seems to have a bright future up ahead.

For all the love Indians have now started professing for the Manchester Uniteds and the Liverpools of the world, if its the last over of an India-Pakistan game, every single Indian tunes in.

As India won their 9th World cup game in a row today, by beating Ireland, I look back at some past world cups through my eyes, and some memories that are strongly associated to them. Somehow, they’re all vivid, and every single run scored is something I remember.

The 1996 Wills World Cup

This world cup is a faint memory, where names like Kaluwitharana & Jayasurya would evoke terror in the hearts of my cricket loving parents and uncles. I dont remember too much of this one, but there’s still a certain fondness for the cup, considering that’s when I became aware of Cricket for the first time. But this World Cup did turn the game on its head.

The 1999 Cricket World Cup

This totally had my generation hooked!

This totally had my generation hooked!

This was the time when every single kid was devouring packs and packs of biscuits. The ‘Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao’ ad campaign caught on like a bush fire. Every single friend I had was busy collecting wrappers to exchange them for a ticket to the world cup. I remember, there was a flurry to get the scratch card booklets, so one could actually get something. I was convinced I’d get a Britannia Bat, and with Dravid and Ganguly both batting with Britannia Bats (I was too young to understand that the Britannia was a sponsor, and not the maker).

But gimmicks aside, this was the one World Cup that put me into the Sourav Ganguly fanclub (and since then, I’ve been a big fan of Left handed batsmen. There’s something simply classy about a southpaw). The 183 at Taunton agains a Sri Lankan attack was probably one of the best one day Innings I’ve seen Dada bat in. Ably assisted by Rahul Dravid, it was one of my favourite performances of the 1999 world cup, along with the 5/27 by Venkatesh Prasad against Pakistan at Old Trafford. I was hugely impressed with the New Zealand team, with Geoff Allott’s strike bowling ability, Gavin Larsen’s economy, and Astle’s sheer destructiveness. It was a fun world cup, that one, and sadly, inspite of collecting a lot of wrappers, I never even got a keychain. But even though India didn’t reach the semis, a passion for cricket in a 10 year old had been born.

The 2003 Cricket World Cup

If 1999 belonged to Dravid and Ganguly, 2003 belonged to Srinath, Zaheer Khan and Nehra. Yes, Ganguly did hit three tons (two against Kenya), Sachin played that blinder (with that six!) against Pakistan, but the consistency of the Indian Pace trio was fabulous (the game against Sri Lanka didn’t even need a fourth bowler. Haha, revenge for 1996!). I could have never imagined Indian fast bowlers being as good as they were. While the final (cruelly so), slipped away from us because of Ponting’s brilliance, there was a new found belief in the team that Ganguly infused. All of us thought, maybe West Indies was the place where we’d conquer it, once and for all. The Indian team did bunch together and play a fabulous cup, but in the end, Ponting’s squad were just too strong. A far cry from the underdogs who won the 1999 world cup, gone were likable medium pacers like Tom Moody and Paul Reiffel, and the ferocity of McGrath, Gillespie and Lee was too hard for anyone to handle. That team, was a great team.

This world cup is also the one where I became an absolute fan of Rahul Dravid, for his keeping and the way he took one for the team. There are very few cricketers who are as amazing as he is, and maybe, the hurrah with which India reached the final had a lot to do with the game’s ultimate gentleman being behind the stumps.

The 2007 Cricket World Cup

2007 was an aberration. Matches at ungodly hours, halfway across the world. If the ICC would have learnt one thing, it’d be never, ever, host a World Cup in the West Indies ever again. A forgettable world cup for India, with defeats against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh sending us back, and killing my interest in the tournament. I didn’t even watch any of the games after it, which is a shame, because I was told Glenn McGrath had a tournament to remember.

And the earth did shake.

And the earth did shake.

A defining memory of that world cup is the Bermudan player Leverock taking a great catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa. Literally made the ground shake, that catch.

The 2011 Cricket World Cup

What a win!

What a win!

 

2011 was a fairy tale. The defining moment where M S Dhoni launched Kulasekara over long on to fulfill dreams of the Indian crowds is still imprinted in my memory. That night was the crowning glory for all us cricket fans, with the beuatiful batting of Sachin, Yuvraj’s all round performance and Dhoni’s captaincy. But events leading upto the final were more special, with Ponting’s ton in the quarters in vain, the tie with England, the defeat to South Africa. Emotions came pouring out that time round. It was the year when I finished of college and was about to start working for GE.

As the 2015 World Cup goes on, I realize I’m about to start working again as college draws to a close.

While this world cup has been dominated by stories about Southee’s yorkers, McCullum and Maxwell’s big hits, there’s a strong Indian story developing, with Kohli and Dhawan in great form, Dhoni having his instincts intact and Shami and Co hunting in packs. Even Ravi Ashwin, who gets a lot of stick about overseas pitches seems to be in control of his spells.

So, to wrap this up, I just hope that work starts again the way it did after 2011. With an Indian Win.

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