I was there. Right there, in flesh and blood to see my team chase down the fourth largest total for victory against a spirited English side.
The belief set in last evening, right after a session on Day 4 where inane messages on the big screen seemed a tad more interesting than watching England struggle to switch gears and set us a target. Little after tea, Chepauk, India, the world at large, was given a glimpse of the greatness that is Virender Sehwag. Several comparisons have been made between the man and other ‘slog hitters’ but with this innings and a few other notable ones, he has proven once again that in his league he remains the sole occupant. It really was not about keeping a tally of the number of times the ball was ‘against the fence’, quote unquote David Lloyd (Incidentally, I happen to think he’s amongst the funniest on air and I’m nursing a small crush on him.) It was about comprehending the simplicity of his approach, to set aside the ifs-buts-maybes and focus, quite simply, on just the positives. It’s something I have never managed to achieve so I continue to let my jaw hang in awe.
He did get out, but, not before setting India within sights of a famous, famous victory that would put to rest the ghosts of ’99.
Day 5 did dawn, bright and sunny (so much for the MET guys getting it right) and I being a loyal fan of Rahul Dravid, took heart from the fact that he looked less tentative the day before and fancied my chances of seeing my idol-ideal get back into form. That was not to be and I did nurse a broken heart and resorted to stuffing my face with more grease to rid myself of the depression. M, who’s my cricket buddy and it’s only fitting that he and I watched this game together, sat through moments of uncertainty as Gautam Gambhir frittered away a great opportunity, VVS Laxman flattered to deceive and Yuvraj Singh came to grips with the surface and the few demons it possessed. M insisted on calling him everything from Kanna, Raasa and Chellam in his effort to cajole him into playing sensible cricket while I frequently smacked him in annoyance. M, that is, not Yuvraj.
At the other end stood arguably the world’s best bastmen. A man who had a few ghosts to exorcise of his own. I was not there in person to witness his century against Pakistan and the subsequent 12-run loss, but, television repeats were quite enough so I can only imagine. It isn't the only record he has to set straight, says M, the absence of a match-winning fourth innings century amongst his numerous records has drawn much flak.
Much has also been written about how this game was one filled with emotion for both sides given the tragic occurences in Mumbai from less than a fortnight ago, more so for Sachin Tendulkar, the born and bred Mumbaikar. The emotion was felt all the way down in Chennai and as the numbers in the stadium grew, so did our confidence. It was a terrific feeling for each time your neck craned to a stand it seemed fuller than the last time. Test cricket is far from dead in my parts and I take such heart in saying that.
At tea, we had made it to 304 for the loss of 4 wickets. We’d take that, said M and I. We’d also consumed several bottles of water so our noise-making arsenal for the final session was in place. Did I mention that we took pictures of each session to capture our “mood” as such? Fun, fun times, these. As England took the new ball, Yuvraj stroked it with enough ease to assure his place in the side. Often, one forgets the supporting role. I hope that isn’t the case with today’s game as Yuvraj’s measured aggression and ability to rotate strike allowed Sachin to showcase his genius.
This was an innings unlike that of the other master blaster. Less about style and grace and all things Sachin, more about grit, composure and a control that was meant to take Indian cricket home. I, for one, have been a bigger fan of Dravid than Tendulkar, but, I cheered my loudest for every dot-ball that Yuvraj played, for if ever Sachin simply deserved a century for being Sachin, it was today. I missed the paddle-sweep and the cover drive that got him into the nineties but was back well ahead of the winning runs that also brought Sachin his 41st. Of course, even as the celebrations began, he stood to shake hands with the ground staff and the opposition before being smothered by his team's affections. You don't expect him to deny anybody their 'it' moment.
It isn’t like an account of today is unavailable elsewhere, but, this piece is for me to keep telling myself that I was there and this is how it happened.