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Saturday, September 15, 2007 

the PERFECT 10

Things don’t always go quite the way you want to. But it is possible sometimes that everything goes the wrong way. Especially things that you really want to come good, there are times they just go all wrong. But the real motivation of writing this post is not to enlist the problems going on in life. As I think of times when a lot is going wrong, I tried to recall the time when absolutely everything was right. Perfect if I may.

It was 7am on chilly February morning in 1999. I took bus no. 281 from outside my house expecting my friend Saurabh to join me in the same bus from Vivek Vihar, and he did. Next stop was to be Preet Vihar where we were joined by Naman. And the three of us started towards what was going to be quite simply the time of my life.

It all started a week before. Saurabh told me that the second India Pakistan test match is to be played at Ferozeshah Kotla. Having seen the dramatic, intense and mentally draining first test at Chennai, there was no needing a second invitation. However, watching a cricket match in the ground seemed like an impossible thing to me. So I just played along with guys subconsciously believing that we’ll never get the tickets. We went to the oriental bank branch in CP after school hours. There were lower rates for school kids and the ticket was worth 300. The general ticket was for 500. I spent two days trying to convince my mother to give me 300 bucks to see the game. She eventually gave me the money. When we reached the bank we were told that student lot tickets are finished. I felt low, but I was almost sure that it will not come through somehow. As we moved out of the bank a man approached us. He told us that he has tickets but he will let them go only for 500 bucks. We were class 11 students; very gullible and unfamiliar to the concept of black ticketing. Even then we managed to somehow convince this pimp to give us the ticket for 450. But there was a problem. We had set out to get three tickets with 900Rs on us and ended up buying only two in that amount. Saurabh somehow used his contacts to get a third ticket for 500. But the real problem was to tell my mother that now I had spent 450 instead of 300. Those were two tough nights.

The test match started on the 4th of February but we could not go for the first day due to school. But finally 5 February came when we were entitled to bunk school by parents to go and see the match. We reached the Kotla ground pretty early. Saurabh and I had bought the ticket for the entire match, but the third ticket was to be shared between three people. So for day 2 of the test match it was Naman. Naman was a crazy fan of Sachin Tendulkar. In those days my favourite cricketer was the captain – M.Azharuddin and Anil Kumble. We were standing in queue to get inside when the cricketers’ buses arrived and my friend naman got a peak at his hero who had had his window slightly open. Naman went crazy, “yaar Sachin ko dekha maine, yaar sachi wala dekha yaar. Dhamdhere yaar me pagal ho jaunga yaar Sachin Tendulkar ko dekha maine” these were some of the expressions he used to express his joy. We were all pretty excited. We reached inside settled into the best seats in the ground. Well they were not really seats but more like the sitting arrangement in an OAT. This is a tip for someone going to watch a game with tickets of the section where there are no seat numbers – try your best to get behind the bowlers arm. From square on the game is not even half the fun.

On day 2 India were resuming their innings at something like 240 for 9 I think. The last wicket was left with Mongia and Prasad walking out to bat. They didn’t last for too long and India’s innings came to an ened at around 250. Then Pakistan came out to bat, India got them out for not too many. I think India got a lead of 30 odd runs in the first innings.

Day three was going to be India batting again, and this was going to be more fun. We were expecting to see the best Indian batsmen at that time to fire and show us some class. Azharuddin (my favourite), Dravid, Sachin and Laxman all failed. But one boy stood his ground like he was born to make it big one day. He probably never made it bigger than that day. But on that particular day Sadagoppan Ramesh showed how the might of Akram and Waqar can be made to look spells of lesser mortals for once. Ramesh played an absolute beaty. Only bowler who troubled him a little was Saqlain who himself has a terrific game. Finally Ramesh got out for 96. He stood there startled, he actually stood still for a good 10 seconds before it struck him that he was out and could not get a well deserved hundred. Probably he himself knew it more than anyone else that he came so close but ended up so far.

Dada Ganguly and another non batsman, Srinath, then put on a partnership that saw India take a lead in excess of 400. Srinath was also very much a favourite for me, and it was sad to see him get out for 49. Ganguly hit two sixes that came in our direction and maybe me might have been seen on TV for the brief moment. Eventually India got bowled out and set Pakistan a target of 420 to get in the fourth innings, the highest ever if Pakistan would chase it.

The fourth day was actually when India finished there innings, early in the morning just like on day 2. I had to go to my coaching class in the evening, but told my parents that the match will go on till 5.30 so I’ll miss it. I don’t know what they said in reply. The Pakistan innings started with a flourish, something you associate with Saeed Anwar and Shahid Afridi. The two just took the bowling to all corners. Anil Kumble was bowling from the Pavilion end in the morning. At lunch Pakistan were a 101 for no loss, with 5 sessions to play. We feared the worst.

What happened after lunch is pretty much documented ball by ball in many cricketing gospels. So much has been said about the decisions of AV Jayaprakash the Indian umpire in the match. But still let’s go through it one by one.

  1. Shahid Afridi – caught behind by mongia. From mongia’s reaction it looked a very obvious nick. Ofcourse keepers breed on those histrionics. But Kumble went up straight away and so did the finger. It was most probably out.
  2. Ijaz Ahmed – Struck in line and Kumble doesn’t spin the ball. It was a skidder and very adjacent. Out was my call.
  3. Yousuf Youhana (the then) – plumb in front, no doubt in anyone’s mind.
  4. Inzamam – A big one, chopped on to the stumps. The flipper I would think no answer to it.
  5. Saeed Anwar – the really big one, two noises, pad first and then glove, simple catch at short point.
  6. Salim Mallik – he put on a partnership with Akram, but it was starting to feel that we will win. The flipper did him to as he tried to pull the ball thinking that it was short but it ran through to hit the top of the bails.
  7. Moin Khan – BEAUTY! Classic leg spinner’s dismissal. Pitched on middle and leg. Spun, would you believe it, took the glove and looped for a simple catch for even a non fielder like Ganguly. This was the time we started to hope for the unachievable. Or so it seemed till then.
  8. Saqlain Mushtaq – Unlucky man, he got a ripper first up, that he dug out almost like a Yorker. But to his misfortune the next one was quicker and caught him half forward. Not only would the ball have hit the middle stump, it would have gone for a walk with it. Nerves piling now, the match was in the kitty but still there was so much tension. Can he do it?
  9. Mushtaq Ahmed – I think he was also held at slip, not sure. But now the pressure was so huge

Javagal Srinath came to bowl the over from the other end to Waqar Younis. All six ball were spot on, wide enough that waqar couldn’t lay bat on it, but not called wide. It was one of the most beautiful periods of test cricket in my recollection. It made me understand that in ateam game like cricket you owe so much to your teammates.

  1. Wasim Akram – I was numb for a moment. As Laxman turned around to take a simple catch at short leg, the ground erupted. I don’t know if many of you know the meaning of erupted. No one could belive what they had just seen. The entire Pakistan batting line up cleaned up inside 2 sessions.and cleaned up by one man alone. Anil Kumble my hero from the times when he used spectacles on the field had done me proud, hell the whole country proud. Wasim Akram actually gave the impression that said “what has happened to this guy he just doesn’t want to stop” when he got out. All the players jumped and hugged the great man. We were dancing in the isles, actually that was when I realised what Tony Greig means by that phrase. It was a moment of great pride. Anil Kumble had taken the Perfect 10. All ten wickets in an innings.

We didn’t want to leave the ground. The players obliged by doing a lap of honour around the ground. I saw all the players from almost 10 metre distance. It feels like it must have been a dream. I still wonder if I was really there. Finally the time came when we had to leave. As we boarded the bus from outside Kotla, we were telling everyone in the bus that India had won and Kumble had taken all 10. There was so much happiness, such a sense of belonging that it felt worth to have told it to everyone. There were smiles all around in the bus, people doing high fives. It’s amazing how a game can connect so many people.

I soon realised that it was still just 4.30 and I could still catch my coaching class. And now I wanted to go and tell my friends there that I was there, I saw my hero take all ten wickets in an innings. The third day the third ticket with us was taken by Nitin Chadha, for all my passion and knowledge of the game, he was the one who told me that the feat had been achived some 40 years ago by a man called Jim Laker. Well it could not take anything away, it was happy moment. I don’t remember thinking about anything else for the next hour or so.

Later that evening when I reached home, I remember I was sitting on dinning table chair taking of my shoes. I must have had the pleasure and happiness in my eyes. My mother watched me take off my shoes, she didn’t ask anything. She just knew that I had had an experience I will never forget in my life. She then actually said that you enjoyed so much then it was worth a lot more than the Rs 450.

5-7 February 1999, probably goes down as the best time of my life. There was nothing to be sad. Nothing went wrong. I enjoyed every moment of it. Every single moment!

watched the same,every ball, on TV ... its indeed one of the best times of watching cricket

the thing about ur writing is that the emotions come through very naturally :)
i envy u for those 3 days :)

so does that mean that for the best view of the match one should keep switching seats after every over?

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