The evening of 12 March 2011 was neither for the battle for Libya, nor for bashing the investigating agencies for their flop-shows. The tears for Japan were withheld, as were the brickbats for the murderer of Radhika. Corruption was not discussed nor was black money mentioned. The evening was reserved for the cricket match that everyone wanted India to win.

Flags of India and South Africa

India vs South Africa World Cup Cricket 2011 at Nagpur

There were quite a few winners actually. Let me list them out for you:
1.    Giving away 9 wickets for a mere 29 runs are powerful enough to be discussed and analysed in the coming 10 years.
2.    Dhoni’s mind-boggling decision to hand over the ball to Ashish Nehra for the crucial final over of the match.
3.    Abhishek, Bipasha, and Deepika on the field in the stadium promoting ‘Dum Maro Dum’.
4.    The realization that reaching the Q-finals is all about defeating Bangladesh, Netherlands, and Ireland. Why be so bothered about England or south Africa?

Yes, I am talking about the India vs South Africa World Cup 2011 cricket match played at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium (VCA) at Jamtha in Nagpur. The match did get a first class start with some wonderful stroke play by the Indian openers Sehwag and Tendulkar. Tendulkar’s 111 in 101 balls were simply brilliant as has been his performance throughout the World Cup this year. Though it isn’t hard to believe what Seema Goswami, a journalist, expresses in a tongue-in-cheek tweet: “When the Indian team said they wanted to win the cup for Sachin I didn’t realise they meant that Sachin had to do all the work.”

The world of micro-blogging was itself stressed out trying to accommodate all the tweets in all hues… they ranged from declaring that Nehra has probably been coached by Uday Chopra to another smart alec remarking that he will probably have the maximum ‘unlikes’ on his facebook page this evening. Jhunjunwala, a regular in the twitter world served us his version of the anagram of NEHRA which is HARNE which is the Hindi for defeat! Obviously, that is the reason that Ashish (anagram is ‘is hash’) is the popular twitter hash tag for tonight! Talking of anagrams and other such interpretations, Raheel Khursheed very thoughtfully offers us that the Kashmiri rhyme of Nehra is quite likely ‘hehra’ (Kashmiri for ‘salaa’… interpret it whichever way you want). Well, well, well…

There are nobler and more sedate souls like Vikram Chandra reasonably pointing out that there was no point ‘going ballistic over Nehra’s last over as the real damage came in that batting collapse.’

But then, my good friend Brent N. Hunter, an ardent micro-blogger, says that ‘the first principal of nonviolent action is that of non-cooperation with everything humiliating.’ Therefore, I disagree with all the popular notions that try and explain away this great match. It was neither the Indian batting collapse towards the end of the first inning and nor was it an outcome of Nehra getting hit for a six and a four in the first three balls of the final over. The main reason is that most of our players are more intent on selling pepsi… and do you know what happen to a bottle or a can of pepsi once it is opened and kept aside for 40 odd overs? The fizz simply fizzles out. This is what happened when the Indians were batting… they were out of gas and had no choice but to drip back to the pavilion. The same thing happened to Nehra when we were bowling… was it his fault if he was kept open from the very start of the innings? No. His fizz phase was over. That’s it. Nothing more to it.

The spectators were the winners!

The spectators were the winners!

Yes, India lost this match. But did South Africa actually win? I’d say: No. This match was lost by both the teams. However, there was a winner there… the spectators.

It is always so great to watch people glued to their places in the stadium until the last ball is bowled. This is any day better than half the stadium walking out if a match is too tame and predictable… this one had whirlwind swings and swirls built into its innings. The spectators and the fans were there inside the stadiums as well as in front of their TV sets moving only to see where Nehra’s balls were headed to. They were struck hard… and the pain wasn’t just in the eyes of those who watched but also oozed into the 140 character barbs that were pinged into the space where only bits and the bytes reign.

Meanwhile, let me end this small article on the wonders of cricket by pronouncing Ashish Nehra the real man of the match because he was discussed by everyone everywhere in the country.


Feature image credit: Planet Cricket