March 13, 2006

- Don’t let the rapture surf you by.

By Gaurav Sethi

There was a truckload of sport, especially cricket on Super Sunday, 12th March, 2006. Starting with the India-England test match at Mohali. Followed by Iqbal, a film about a young cricketer’s dream, and the big SA-Aussie decider at The Wanderers, Johannesburg. Random surfing through three channels takes discretion, a good remote and lots of luck to catch the high points. It also pays if you’re not too big on F1, otherwise Bahrain would’ve encroached on the joys of J’burg.

Now, anyone who ever followed the 2003 World Cup Finals between India and Australia would be wary of the Wanderers – that’s where Oz made 359 beating India by a mile and more. So when Gilchrist, Ponting and Hussey went berserk making 434 (what kind of score is that anyway?), naturally the skeptic within announced, “so long, game over, let’s watch the other channels now.” Also because off late, it’s a much easier to side South Africa than Australia – wasn’t it the convicts who only recently went crazy calling Muralitharan a “chucker” and the Proteas “chokers” and “racists”. Gamesmanship is one thing, but this is downright dirty, mate.

Anyway, for a downright dirty cricket fanatic from India, taking to the streets over a F1 final doesn’t come naturally – not even if comeback kid Schumacher (or is it Schumi?) makes it to the podium or Renault win with a guy who sounds like a mango – Alonso? And inspired as Iqbal was, 5-minute commercial breaks between 10 minute film time (or was it the other way round?) isn’t really conducive to TV viewing. As for the Mohali game, it sure was a tester with Bell’s blade blocking away. Luckily both Bell and that telecast were out by 6 pm.

Surf to the South Africa chase – just for a few kicks because nobody ever chases down 434, especially when you are the undisputed “chokers” of world cricket. See how easy it is to believe something. Just keep saying it and before you know, it’s a fact.

Take for instance Herschelle Gibbs – in an earlier World Cup, Big Brother Steve Waugh (when dropped by Gibbs), snapped and said, “that’s the world cup you just dropped, son”. How does one play down that kind of thing? Or when Mark Boucher, (again in the World Cup) read the script wrong, and muffed up on the Duckworth Lewis method calculation with his then captain Shaun Pollock. Not to forget the Lance Klusener-Alan Donald goofy run-out v/s Australia that tied the game, and disqualified SA from the World Cup. And only recently, down under, South Africa lost out to Australia and even Sri Lanka of all teams, a place in the triangular championship. Chokers or what?

But then this 5th game decider between SA-Australia was not part of any World Cup or Tri series championship. It was a face-to face between two teams that are now being tipped as the latest archrivals of world cricket. Though in the final analysis, this will be much bigger than the world or any cup for South Africa. The headlines have been written. The win is part of cricketing history. It’s being billed as the greatest game of one-day cricket ever. The records had been set and then torn to shreds by South Africa. The so-called “chokers” tag too, has been ripped apart - By the two fall guys, Gibbs (175) and Boucher (55 not out).

For Mark Boucher to be there at the end, to score the winning runs was a hugely moving experience. Almost speechless, baby faced Boucher did say the world cup game was at the back of his mind. And while the team ran a lap of honour, the questions rolled on, and Boucher obliged with answers, almost overcome with the enormity of the moment. Looks like he’s finally got that world cup monkey of his back. And though Shaun Pollock didn’t play in this final game, his exceptional all round performance won him the man of the series.

Surfing back to Mohali on what was Super Saturday for the modest man of Indian cricket - Anil Kumble – Non-spinner, medium pacer, test and ODI discard. Kumble became the first Indian to reach 500 wickets. For Kumble, like Boucher, Gibbs, Pollock, and Iqbal, his latest achievement could well be his salvation, his redemption song.

As Daryl Cullinan put Gibbs’ brilliant match winning knock of 175 in perspective, “his special day was due” - one he won’t want to surf away from in a hurry.

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