Tag Archives: Lords

Debdeep’s Pilgrimage to Mecca

In 1996 when I was barely 11 years old, I went to Eden Gardens for the first to watch an India vs Pakistan match. In those days, bucket seats were a fantasy. So, everyone pretty much would sit on the cement slabs and Eden could hold 1 lac people at one time. So, on the first day , Javagal Srinath ran through the Pakistan batting line up and every time a wicket fell, the crowd would be on their feet and roaring. Imagine 1 lac people roaring for 3 sticks being uprooted, sounds pretty weird but that was passion. From that day, a few things stayed with me forever and that left a big imprint on me.

First, it was the way Azhar would walk around the field as if he owned Eden Gardens and hence was always the favourite of Eden, then his trademark dive at gully to save a certain boundary which would definitely attract loudest roar of the day and then the whole crowd clapping whenever there was a great shot from Salim Malik. Eden crowd always showed appreciation for great and sporting players from the opponent. Something I miss now a days. Oh, I almost forgot to mention my backside was aching by the end of the day because of jumping up and down on the cement slabs.

India was all out just after tea and then I had what I would call my first and only man crush. I saw Wasim Akram coming at Indian batsmen at full flow. Even at that age, I could feel that he was running with fire and he was spitting venom and the batsmen had no clue what was hitting them. I have seen faster bowlers, I have seen many swing bowlers but I have not seen a better bowler. If I had to pick someone to bowl for my life, it would be Wasim Akram every time. When I left the field that day, I had fallen in love with that game and I could not stop blabbering about the same to my parents. Anyone who knows Bengali’s, football is our first love but I always felt that day cricket just took over. I started following the game, learnt the names MCG, Boxing Day, Lord’s Cricket Ground and many others. Somewhere in my mind, I wanted to go to all these places, but you never know.

26th December 2006, I was in Melbourne as a student and with another 3 of my friends were thinking what to do since we really did not want to go shopping. Just to let everyone know, during Boxing Day, you get everything for dirt cheap and usually its a holiday in Australia and somehow everyone is on the streets either shopping or drinking beer and enjoying themselves at Federation Square, if you are in Melbourne. Someone in the group suggested lets go for the match since we took it for granted that tickets wont be sold out. We went in, bought the tickets from the counter and entered the stadium.

Luckily, we got the lower tier seats absolutely next to, from the where the players would walk out to field. India were already batting and I was just standing and looking at the magnanimity of the place, the lush green outfields and everything. That day I got to see Sachin and Sourav bat together and take the Aussie bowlers to the cleaners. I somehow took a flag from someone and started dancing on the seats. Left the day highly disappointed with India playing horribly after lunch.Another Test, I went to watch and India lost, just like the Kolkata test. But what remained with me is Dada walking out to bat and me shouting ‘ Dada century chai’ and Dada turns around and gives me a thumbs up, Sachin Tendulkar warming up right in front of eyes inside the rope, I could have jumped to his feet but I was too much in awe of him at such close range. I left satisfied to have watched India play.

Debdeep at Lords
Debdeep at Lords
Cut to 9th September 2018, I was entering Lord’s Cricket Ground as a tourist and not to watch a match. I had an opportunity to watch the Test match at Lord’s but I had to pass. Anyway, the moment I entered I was a little nervous and ’96 Eden memories rushed through my mind. I turned a child again. Something was going on inside me but I could not explain it to myself even. I crossed the huge gates, security check, crossed the Middlesex shop and into the reception and the first thing that caught my eye was the Prudential Cup that Kapil Dev won in 83.

I could have fainted then & there. A group of people were there and someone was explaining the whole history of Ashes, I heard it but I kept looking at the signed jersey of Sachin Tendulkar inside the glass room behind us. We walked out and it was time to walk into the cricket ground but before you get there, you have to stand in front of the statue of WG Grace. I had no option but to show my respect in my country way. I literally touched his feet because you cant know cricket without knowing him. So everyone went ahead with the guide and I kept loitering and absorbing this huge thing and suddenly I see that a door is open, unmanned and that would lead me straight to the grass of Lord’s. I was ready to risk it and had started walking towards it. That’s when a guard appeared and told ‘ you are not allowed, Sir.’ I argued for a while but he wont relent and I had to give up.

I , finally , reached the long room where I thought the view was alright but I was itching to see the dressing rooms and honors boards. So, we first went into the home dressing room and except a few things nothing interested me so much. Then it was the turn of the guest dressing room and this is where the fun began. The guide went on to tell about different stories about the place. There were hardly any Indian in the group and there were people who did not come with the understanding of the game.

I really thought, if Sourav Ganguly is not mentioned here, I would be robbing all these innocent people off the most beautiful thing that happened at Lord’s ever. So, I asked the inevitable question, ‘ is this the same balcony where Ganguly took off his shirt?’. At the very mention of Ganguly, the guard and the guide put their hands on their head and said something like ‘ oh gosh!!! He was another one!!’ This expression of the Englishmen was priceless for me. So, they showed me the exact spot where it all happened and I requested permission from the guard that I be allowed to take a picture waving my jacket. The guard simply smiled and granted me the permission.

Debdeep imitating Ganguly in the Lords's Balcony
Imitating Sourav Ganguly in Lords’s Balcony
My wife took the photo and when I saw the photo I said to her, ‘ Now, I can die in peace.’ Interestingly, my son started showing off some of his jumping skills in this balcony and thats when I thought to myself, we own this balcony. After that, we went to the stands and that’s as close I could go to the grass of Lord’s and when I walked into the stands, it was surreal, I could visualize Kapil Dev lifting the trophy, Kaif and Zak hitting the winning runs, Yuvi running to the field and Dada taking off the shirt. I could feel all of it, right in front of me. The guide went on with the history and everything but I had just two questions, one about the Lord’s slope and why the slope has not been leveled yet.

Then , we went up to the media center which is one of the most amazing architectural work. I was amazed by the view and how sun cant disturb you ever. Then it was time to hit the Lord’s shop and then move out. Just before I was about to walk out of Lord’s I asked guard again, are you sure I cant step onto the field and feel the grass even once, I come from Kolkata which is like 1000s of miles away but again he declined. Before he closed the huge gates onto us, I looked at the ground and had a quiet conversation with it which mainly, I could not feel the grass this time, but I will be back and I will feel it, one way or the other. I think Lord’s replied ‘ will be waiting for you, mate’

I finished my trip of ‘Meccas of cricket’ and I feel happy about it. Don’t know if I can ever explain anyone the feeling of it or the madness about it. I wish someone who reads this will understand sometimes you just fall in love with some things and the child in you is spurred by those things. I had my moments and I consider myself lucky to have been to these grounds but the journey does not end here, I wish to go to the home ground of none other than Sir Vivian Richards, the man who redefined cricket.

Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 12

Sourav Ganguly was the most inspiring captain India has ever had. In spite of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, this Behala boy had done his hard yards quite well. And he inspired his team to do the same.

Sourav Chandidas Ganguly
God of the off side- Sourav Ganguly!
He made to the Indian team for the first time during the 1992 , had an indifferent tour, then returned home trimmed to size, scored runs by tons in the domestic matches, earned his place on the England tour of 1996, had a dream Lord’s debut, followed it up with another century in the very next test, and then he was unstoppable.
After Azhar’s infamous dismissal from captaincy, he was the chosen one to lead the Indian side. The 2002 Indian team was a formidable one. Sachin, Sourav and Dravid were already amongst the best batsmen in the world, the pace attack was well populated with quality seamers in Zaheer Khan, Ajit Agarkar and Ashish Nehra, and there was the ever-dependable Anil Kumble to bowl spin. The captain was in control of the team, and in spite of the occasionally abrasive nature of his, the team had supported him well. If there was a strong Indian side well balanced in all respects, all in good form, which went to England ever, this was the one. However, traditions die hard, as India were to prove at the Lord’s in the first test. Coming off a high after beating England in the Natwest “shirt- flinging” trophy final on the same ground, India were brought down immediately by England.
Nasser Hussain won the toss and elected to bat. England posted a healthy total of 487 in the first innings, riding on Hussain’s 155 and fifties from John Crawley, Craig White and the fiery Andrew Flintoff. Simon Jones made a useful 44 towards the end of the innings. India lost Wasim Jaffer early, but with Sehwag batting as if he was batting in the first 15 overs of an ODI, and Rahul Dravid refusing to give his wicket away, India were at a healthy position at 128/1. Sehwag fell for 84, Night-Watchman Nehra for 0, Sachin for 16, the skipper for 5, and India were in the familiar position of staring down the barrel at Lord’s.
Dravid made 46 in his characteristic fashion and the Stoic VVS Laxman remained unbeaten on 43. India folded up for 221. England didn’t impose the follow on and made a brisk 301/5 riding on a brace of even 100s by John Crawley and Michael Vaughan. Set 588 to win, India started positively with Sehwag and Jaffer putting on 61 for the first wicket, and Dravid and Laxman getting half centuries too. The skipper scored a first ball duck, wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra fell with the score on 170, and in walked Ajit Agarkar. Seldom would he have thought that by the end of the match he would gain a place which even Sachin Tendulkar could never occupy despite his unmatchable records- mention on the Lord’s Honours board. Batting Honours board !!! He and VVS Laxman added 126, but Laxman was removed by Simon Jones and the Indian hopes of saving the match took a blow. Kumble and Zaheer Khan didn’t last long, but surprisingly, Ashish Nehra helped Agarkar complete his century and take the Indian score to 397. Agarkar remained unbeaten on 109. India lost comprehensively by 170 runs.

In the second test at Nottingham, Ganguly won the toss and elected to bat. Sehwag made a swashbuckling start, and then batted sedately with wickets falling at regular intervals to score his maiden test hundred in England. Ganguly himself scored 68, but all the others got starts and couldn’t capitalize. India made 357 in their first innings. England replied with a mammoth 617. Riding on Michael Vaughan’s 197, Alec Stewart’s 87 and Craig White’s 94 not out. Starting badly in their second innings, India lost both their openers when their total had reached 11. But Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar steadied the ship by adding 163 runs when Sachin got out making a blistering 92 off just 113 balls off the benign off-spin of Michael Vaughan.
Saurav joined his deputy and added a further 135 to take the Indian total to 309, and slowly cruising towards saving the match when Dravid departed for a well made 115. Laxman didn’t last long, but Agarkar hung around with his captain, who looked well on the way for his third century in England. But when the score reached 378 Ganguly was removed 1 short of his hundred by debutante Steve Harmison, and it fell on another debutante Parthiv Patel to save the match for India. He and Zaheer Khan grimly hung on and the match ended in a draw with India making 424/8 in their second innings. First match lost, second drawn. Much like the previous two tours. But India were to turn the tables in the next test at Leeds.

India elected to bat first on a placid looking Leeds pitch, and lost Sehwag early. 584 runs thereafter were scored by three huge partnerships, and the scene which the Indian fans got used to, and later on started expecting every time India batted, was painted for the first time in England. The Great Indian Middle Order had fired! Though not all cylinders, (Laxman missed out) it put England out of the game by the end of day two of the match. Dravid made 148, Tendulkar 193, and the skipper made a stroke filled 128. What a treat to watch !!!
India declared their first innings closed on 628/8. Then the bowlers came to the party. Zaheer Khan and Agarkar took two wickets each and Kumble and Harbhajan took 3 each to dismiss England for 273. Only Vaughan (61) and Alec Stewart (78) showed some fight. Saurav promptly made England follow on. They made 309, Nasser Hussain made a fighting 110 and Butcher and Stewart made 40s. Anil kumble, claiming 4 wickets was the destroyer-in-chief. However their efforts came to no avail, and India beat England by an innings and 46 runs. India had levelled the series.
In the last test, England came back strongly, posting 515 in the first innings with Vaughan making a superb 195, and Trescothick, Butcher and Dominic Cork making half centuries. Harbhajan Singh bagged 5 for 115. India replied strongly with 508, with batsmen batting well around Rahul Dravid who made a mighty 217. Tendulkar and Ganguly made fifties and Laxman made 40. England had a slender lead of 7 runs, but too much time in the match had passed, and a result was not evident. England made 114 without losing a wicket in their second innings. The series was drawn at 1-1. And Ganguly was the second Indian captain not to lose a series in England, after Kapil Dev in 1986. In the very next year, he would go on to square a series in Australia in Australia, and lead India to the 2003 world cup final.

Saurav Ganguly went on to become one of the most successful Indian test match captain. His style of captaincy was a real passionate one, and he was not shy of getting under the skin of the opposition. His bare-chested display at Lord’s after the Natwest trophy win, defines him as a person. He always played to win and expected his players to do so. Some might have called him lucky, as he had Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag in his team and the batting battery was capable of dominating any attack in the world. But yet, he was a captain who made things happen. He kept Steve Waugh waiting at the toss at Kolkata when India did the epic turnaround to win the test in 2001. He also used to give it back to the sledgers with vengeance, and was never afraid of criticism. Players like Sehwag, Dhoni, Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh owed their success to the confidence Ganguly instilled in them with from time to time, and his persistence with them even in their lean patches. It was unfortunate that he lost captaincy and even his place in the side due to the Greg Chappell interferences, but he was strong enough a player to make a great comeback and a great team-man to give his 100% to the team, even when dethroned from captaincy. Saurav Ganguly was a man with a lot of character and firepower. And of course, supreme artistry.

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 12. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Right from the Mecca of Cricket- Lord’s Prelude

In an era of muscling the balls into the stands, waiting for the first day of Lord’s Test still gives goosebumps to cricket lovers. Yes, T20 has made it possible for us to watch a cricket match in 4 hours. But nothing can replace the excitement of walking into MCG on a Boxing Day test, or walking into Eden Gardens and see Wasim Akram running into ball, mind you , that time Eden could hold up to 1,00,000 spectators. Hence, my idea of real contest is still a game played over 5 days where pendulum would be shifting from time to time and the team with never-say-die attitude will come up winners. While some say 5 Test series is too long, the old fashioned like me would say, that’s clear opportunity of 25 days of real hard cricket.

The Mecca of Cricket-Lords
The Mecca of Cricket-Lords

The occasion in Lord’s and I hate to say this that I traveled from India to London, just to catch the first day at Lord’s, see the captains walk to toss, see umpires throw the new ball to the bowler, the bell ringing, everything. But, God had other plans and an extremely painful personal loss has deprived me of this honor but only for this time. Nevertheless, I am in London and I hope to catch up one of the days in between.

In the meantime, as stated before the heat wave has been extremely killing. But suddenly, yesterday (7th August), the weather Gods changed their minds. It did not rain but cloud covers had covered London. It was pleasant for a change, not to mention, I love rain. But if you are cricket lover and specially an Indian fan, you would know English weather is flirting with Virat Kohli. Till now, grass has been left on the 22 yards, weather is swinging between hot and cold, Andy Flower goes on to record and say Kohli has to play more years to reach Sachin and become one of the all-time greats, Bumrah is not fit, India has lost the first test within the first 4 days, and adversary are still hitting Indian Team. I am sure in my mind that Kohli is already quite baffled about what to do with the batting order and now with the weather playing its part, he sure will be confused with his bowling combinations.

It is pretty easy for all us fans and the commentators say a few things while the game is on or after the match is done and dusted. But, Kohli is leading the team right there. He is feeling the heat and he is taking some bold decisions. I think he will still back KL Rahul since one test is not good enough to judge someone. Now, Dhawan should not be dropped since that might press the panic button in the dressing room and bring in more insecurity amongst the players, so would guess Dhawan sticks again. Rahane will stick on for past performances. There is really no need to change the batters at this point of time. We also need to bear in mind Pujara has done nothing extra-ordinary in these conditions. But if Kohli wants to get in the extra batsman, it has to be Pujara and where do you fit him.

If Pujara comes in, then automatically Umesh goes out. Now, permutations and combinations looks very interesting given this is a must win game of India. It will be a real test of character and mentality of these players. But above all, it will be an opportunity to see if these players are ready to amend their mistakes. Since, this looks like the last chance for many in the team. Kohli himself needs to think before finalizing the final 11. He has never played the same 11 in consecutive Tests and that could and might have created doubts in the mind of the players like Vijay and Rahane. If you look at Vijay’s batting, it has not been the same from the time he had been dropped from the time. He is poking and prodding outside the offstump and God knows why. Similarly,Rahane has not found his magic touch yet after being dropped in the SA series after being the vice-captain of the team. However, Pandya keeps getting the captain’s backing even after some really ordinary performance, but definitely some lighting of brilliance from time to time.

Kohli will be the big difference between the defeat and win once again and I hope to make my presence felt in one of the days in between.

Hope you liked Lord’s Prelude. Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!

From CK To VK. Indian Skippers In England- Part 6

In the latest part- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6, our story moves on to Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi (The 9th Nawab of Pataudi)
After the 1959 debacle, India set out to play in England in 1967 and were granted only a 3-test series. Another prince was appointed to lead India, but this time none of his cricketing credentials were questioned. He had actually lived a heroic life even till then and had come up on the top. Like his father, he went to England for his education, earned the coveted Oxford Blue, broke all the batting records there (Including Jardine’s record of most runs scored for the University in a season which had lasted for 50 years, – A sweet revenge on the man who cut his father’s England career short when papa Pataudi Sr. was probably in the form of his life), made a name for himself with extremely attractive batting, lost an eye, yet made a come-back, debuted in tests for India one eyed, scored a fifty and a hundred in the first series, and in the next series, when Nari Contractor was appointed as the Indian Captain after a near-fatal injury was inflicted on Contractor by Charlie Griffith. And the rest as they say, “is history.”

From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6
Mansoor Ali Khan (Tiger) Pataudi (The 9th Nawab of Pataudi)
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi was only 26 in 1966-7 tour of England. There were all- rounders like Chandu Borde, and Rusi Surti, who had proven their mettle in the international arena, quality batsmen like Ajit Wadekar, Hanumant Singh (Who incidentally was a prince too- Of Banswara), Farrokh Engineer who was a great wicket-keeper too and three prodigal spinners in Bishan Bedi, Bhagwat Chandrashekhar and Erapalli Prasanna. The team was not a very strong one yet was not a bad team.

As in the first five tours, India lost the first test. But this six-wicket loss was not a display of ineptitude as were the first tests in the previous five tests. England piled up 550 in the first innings. Boycott scored an unbeaten 246 (& was dropped in the next test for selfish batting), Basil D’ Olivera scored a handsome 109, Barrington missed his hundred by 7 runs and Graveney scored 59. Indian bowling in this innings was dismal.

India replied with 164 in the first innings, Engineer making 42 and the captain 64, and were promptly asked to follow on. With 386 runs in arrears in their second essay, India lost make-shift opener Surti at the score of 5. Then the Bombay duo of Engineer and Wadekar put on 168 runs and India looked in a healthy position at 173 for 1. India then lost 3 quick wickets in the space of 53 runs and Hanumant Singh walked in to join his captain. The two put on 134 runs (which Steven Lynch certifies as the highest partnership in test cricket between 2 princes 😊). India avoided innings defeat and Tiger had made an assertive statement with his nonchalantly elegant batting. Here are a few glimpses of his innings.
Tiger rates this as the best innings of his life. England were set to get 125 to win and eventually got there losing four wickets.

The next test was at Lords, and the Indian agony at Lords continued. India made 152 in the first innings and Wadekar (57) was the only batsman to show some fight. England made 386, riding on a stylist 151 by a forty-year old Tom Graveney and 97 by Ken Barrington. Indian wickets in the second innings too fell in a heap, and India lost by an Innings. Tiger scored a brace of 5s in the match. Budhi Kunderan made 47 in the second innings. The series was lost.

England were relentless though. The third test was a dead rubber and England were tested, They made 298 in their first innings. John Murray made 77. India played four spinners and all of them shared wickets pretty much evenly. India replied with a Sorry 92, none of the batsmen making any contribution. England made 203 in the second innings and India were again set a huge target of 410 to win. They could make 277. Wadekar made 70 and Pataudi 47. India were whitewashed 3-0 in the series.

Yet, it was Tiger Pataudi who instilled self-belief in the Indian Cricketers. Instead of cribbing about India’s depleting fast bowling resources, he focussed on spin, and it was during his tenure that the great Indian Spinning Quartet became India’s most potent bowling force. He also made sure that his players rise beyond their regionalities and differences when they represented the nation.

Bishan Bedi once said, “He was our first captain who introduced a sense of Indianness in the dressing room. He’d say: ‘Look, we’re Indians first. We’re not playing for Karnataka or Delhi or Mumbai or Madras. We’re playing for India'”

And he was also the one with his feet always on the ground. He wore his royalty, fame and when he was stripped of these, he never cribbed. On the contrary, he was more comfortable without these. As a player, he was never shy of aggression and with his dry and occasionally wicked wit, Tiger Pataudi was one of the best conversationalists, in spite of being a man of few words.

Limelight was not new to him. His dad was a prince and a famous international cricketer, he married one of the most sought-after actresses of Bollywood, his son, daughters and daughter in law have been successful actors, and yet he maintained the dignity in his public life with a calm aloofness and a dry and honest wit. Tiger Pataudi was the first Indian Cricketer to overthrow the awe of the British from the minds of Indian cricketers.To conclude, I share this anecdote of his which pretty much sums up the kind of person he was.

Tiger had scored his maiden century against England in the 1961-2 series. He was keenly followed by the English right from his schooldays and they were pretty sad when he had lost his eye. The British press was wonderstruck with his comeback in tests, and he was asked, “When did you feel that you can make a comeback and play international cricket?”

“When I saw the English Bowling.” Pat came the reply.

Hope you liked- From CK to VK. Indian Skippers in England- Part 6.Until then, stay tuned and keep reading www.shamsnwags.com

Settling the scores-From Wankhede to Lords

If all of us suffer from ‘Brain Fade’ at some point in time, there are few moments from the lovely game of cricket that never fades off, instead, gets etched in the memories and we cherish it for ever. Be it sheer joy after victory or be it feeling of revenge and vengeance. At this point, let’s go back down to the memory lane, straight back to the 2002 Natwest Trophy’s final match in our latest edition- Settling the scores-From Wankhede to Lords.

Even in the middle of his dream, Saurav Ganguly would never have thought that he could ever do the most shocking thing in his life. Never will he will ever do this in future. I clearly recall Dada’s action as a response to Andrew Flintoff’s shameful act at Wankhede, which is considered as Mecca of Cricket in India. It all started in January 2002 when England came down to India to play 6 ODI’s. India was leading the series 3-1. One victory for India could have helped to seal the series. 5th match (at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi ), England posted 271/5 in their stipulated 50 overs.

Skipper Hussain missed out on his half century by one run while Nick Knight got run out at 105 Runs. Flintoff scored a quick fire 52 of 39 deliveries. In reply to England’s total, India fell short by 3 runs even after a good start at the top order. Flintoff managed to get rid of Dinesh Mongia.

England had won the 5th game and the last match was at Wankhede- Mumbai. Harbhajan Singh was on a song and took a Fifer, restricting England to 255-10. Indian openers Sachin and Sehwag out early. The match was evenly poised and results could have been in favour of either of the teams. Skipper Hussain brought Freddie Flintoff toward the 39th over. He was in good form and his luck with the batting had made him confident. He was charging down and his body language was very different. He dismissed Mohammed Kaif at 20, who was trying to build his innings. Ajay Ratra and our very own Bombay Duck- Ajit Agarkar got out in quick succession. He didn’t manage to trouble the scorers and went off for a duck.

Settling Scores - From Wankhede to Lords
Andrew Flintoff celebrating after victory in Mumbai

England needed 3 wickets. The stage was set for Freddie Flintoff. The only way he could salvage back pride for his team was by taking wickets and winning the game. He managed to dismiss Bhajji in the 48th over. India needed 11 runs of the last over with 2 wickets remaining. Hussain had saved Flintoff for the death overs and possibly for the last over. Freddie was pumped up and raring to finish off the Indian innings. From the looks of it, it gave a feel that he was on some energy enhancing substance.

Anil Kumble was on strike and Hemang Badani was on the non- striker’s end. First ball, Kumble hit towards the extra covers. The ball was traveling quickly towards the boundary until the Ashley Giles gathered it. It fetched 2 runs for Kumble. Badani was still not on strike. Next Badani sent him back.

8 runs needed of 4 balls. That was the equation for India. Badani was on strike. There was some hope left. He stepped towards the off side and hit the ball on the leg side towards long on and scampered through for 2 runs. Now then, India needed 6 runs of 3 deliveries. It could have been anyone’s game.

Hemang took strike. Flintoff came charging in. Badani missed and the ball went to the keeper. Kumble had made it half way towards the pitch. The keeper tried to throw the ball on the stumps and missed. Flintoff was clever enough to gather the ball in his follow through ran towards the stumps and threw himself along with the ball on the stumps before Kumble could cover his ground. The umpires were in doubts and hence called for third umpires decision. The replay confirmed that Kumble was run-out by a mile.

The score card looked 250 for 9 with India wanting 6 runs of 2 deliveries. In came Javagal Srinath. Flintoff had planned to bowl him an in-swinging Yorker. Srinath went towards the offside and tried to glance it through leg side, ended up getting yorked. The entire Mumbai crowd went silent. Flintoff was running towards the keeper, removed his T-Shirt and propelled it in the air and was running on the ground. It was the most shocking and heart-breaking scene on the cricket ground for the Indians and it certainly didn’t go down well in the minds of the Indian players and supporters. Many a times, people don’t remember what was outcome of the series. The only thing they remember certain moments and actions happening on the field. The series was tied yet they were under shock after the Flintoff’s T-shirt incident feeling as if India had lost the series.

Later in the year in June, India were traveling to England to play the Natwest Series. Out of the 5 matches till the finals, India had lost only one match, and one match was washed out. The expectations were high to win the finals.

It was 13th July 2002 in Lords, India were up against the host in the Finals of the Natwest 2002 Series Naseer Hussain had won the toss and elected to bat. Marcus Trescothick and skipper Hussain had taken the complete measure of the Indian bowlers and compiled good partnership. Andrew Flintoff scored a quick fire 40 of 32 balls. Captain Hussain was in complete control and was guiding the team to a big total in the big final.

Settling the scores- From Wankhede to Lords
Saurav Ganguly- Settling the score at Lords

England managed to score 325/5 in 50 overs. This was a highest total for a team to chase back then in the ODIs. In reply to England’s innings, India were at 314/6 and needing 12 off 16 balls. In came the big Freddie steaming from the bowling end. The memories from Wankhede were still very fresh. He had already created scars in the minds of the Indians with his act in Mecca of Indian cricket- Wankhede.

Flintoff had taken 2 quick fire wickets dismissing Bhaji and Anil Kumble in the 48h over. The score didn’t move. India still need 12 runs of 13 balls. Kaif was playing sensibly and positively and was not missing a single opportunity to grab a single. India still had to score 6 runs of 7 deliveries. Defeat was staring at India’s feet. A wicket there would have been the final nail on the coffin. It was 49th over and Darren Gough was running quickly to finish off his over. Kaif tried hitting the ball towards Mid-off but it took an outside edge and went up in the air towards the boundary at the third man region and Flintoff could not cut it off. It was a sigh of relief as

India needed 2 runs of 6 balls. Zak (Zaheer Khan) was on strike. The situation in the dressing room was very intense. Dada was standing at the famous balcony of Lords biting his nails. Like in the last match at Wankhede, Flintoff came to bowl the final over. He was charging towards his bowling mark-up He had already created a dent in the Indian innings by striking twice in the his last over (48th over). It was as if he had come out to rub salt over the injury. There was something else running in Saurav Ganguly’s mind. Freddie came steaming towards Zak. He wanted to bowl a Yorker, ended up bowling a full toss. Both batsmen ran for a quick risky run. It was a throw and a miss and Kaif had to dive and stretch full length to cover his ground. Kaif got up and charged back for another run as it was an over throw. India managed to chase the highest total back then. Ganguly had glued his eyes on the victory run. As soon Kaif took the second run, he took off his T-shirt, propelled in the air and of course gave a mouth full and returned the insult done by Flintoff in India’s Mecca of cricket- Wankhede.

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Lord of Lords- Part 1

भारतीय बल्लेबाज आम तौर पर इंग्लैंड में अच्छा प्रदर्शन नहीं कर पाए हैं. एशिया के सूखे विकेट्स पर रनों के ढेर खड़ा करने वाले भारतीय बल्लेबाज़ इंग्लैंड में स्विंग और सीम होनेवाली गेंदों पर अक्सर चकमा खा जाते हैं.लेकिन कुछ भारतीय बल्लेबाज़ हैं, जिन्होंने अपने बेहतरीन प्रदर्शन इंग्लैंड के खिलाफ इंग्लैंड में ही किये हैं. मसलन, विजय मर्चंट, सुनील गावस्कर, सचिन तेंदुलकर, राहुल द्रविड़, सौरव गांगुली, और…दिलीप वेंगसरकर. वेंगसरकर का नाम सुनील गावस्कर और विश्वनाथ की श्रेणी में नहीं लिया जाता, लेकिन जानकार क्रिकेट प्रेमियों के लिए उन की बल्लेबाज़ी देखने से ज्यादा मनभावन दृश्य कोई न था. अपराइट खड़ा स्टांस, एकदम सीधे बल्ले से खेले गए बेहतरीन ड्राइव्स और छोटी गेंदों पर कट और पुल के निर्मम प्रहार. उन की बल्लेबाजी ग्रेग चैपल की याद दिलाती थी. १९७९ में, दिलीप वेंगसरकर पहली बार लॉर्ड्स पर खेल रहे थे, और पहली पारी में बिना कोई रन बनाये आउट हो गए थे. अकेले उन ही का प्रदर्शन खराब नहीं था, भारत की पहली पारी ही ९६ रनों में सिमट गई थी.

Dilip Vengsarkar
Dilip Vengsarkar

सन १९७४ में भारत लॉर्ड्स पर ४२ रन में आल आउट हुआ था, और बुरी तरह हारा था, उस समय के जख्म फिर से हरे होने लगे थे. भारत के ९६ के जवाब में इंग्लैंड ने ४१९ का विशाल स्कोर खडा किया, और फिर से भारत की इनिंग्स डिफिट होने के असार नज़र आने लगे. दूसरी पारी में पहले विकेट के लिए गावस्कर और चौहान ने ७९ रन जोड़े, और चौहान आउट हो गए. गावस्कर के साथ पारी सम्हालने के लिए उतरे दिलीप वेंगसरकर. लेकिन और बीस रन बनने पर गावस्कर भी आउट होकर पैवेलियन लौट गए. अब साले की जगह लेने आया जीजा. गुंडप्पा विश्वनाथ बल्लेबाजी के लिए आ गए. अब भी भारत २२४ रनों से पीछे था, और शेष भारतीय बल्लेबाज़ अच्छे फॉर्म में नहीं थे. विश्वनाथ और वेंगसरकर पर बहुत बड़ी ज़िम्मेदारी थी, और उन्हें यह सुनिश्चित करना था, कि भारत अगर यह मैच जीत नहीं सकता, तो कम से कम हार का सामना तो नहीं करना पड़े. अगले छह घंटों तक ये दोनों क्रीज़ पर डेट रहें, और उन्होंने २१९ रनों की लम्बी साझेदारी निभायी. हलाकि दोनों भी मैच के अंत तक नाबाद नहीं रहे, लेकिन जब ये दोनों आउट हुए, तब तक उन्होंने जीत को इंग्लैंड की पहुँच से बाहर कर दिया था, और अपने देश के लिए मैच बचा लिया था. दिलीप वेंगसरकर मैन ऑफ़ द मैच बन गए. यह बात तो है, कि मैच बचने में विश्वनाथ का भी उतना ही योगदान था जितना वेंगसरकर का, लेकिन मैन ऑफ़ द मैच एक ही बन सकता था. जब यह इनाम घोषित हुआ, तब वेंगसरकर नहा रहे थे, और उन की जगह पर उन की और से मंच पर जाकर विश्वनाथ ने अवार्ड स्वीकारा. यह है पोएटिक जस्टिस का नमूना. लेकिन इस पारी से वेंगसरकर के उस कीर्तिमान की शुरुआत हुई, जो न ब्रैडमन, गावस्कर, सोबर्स, रिचर्ड्स, चैपल, तेंदुलकर, द्रविड़, पॉन्टिंग, कैलिस आदियों को भी कभी हासिल नहीं हुआ.

क्रमशः

Special thanks to Sanjeev Sathe, who is an avid cricket fan and a dear friend of ours for contributing this wonderful article.