March 17, 2007

From One World Cup to Another

ESPNcricinfo staff
The World Cup, coming as it does every four years, offers an occasion for stock taking

The World Cup, coming as it does every four years, offers an occasion for stock taking. I reference my life with each World Cup, reflect on how things were with me when the last one was played and reassess how they are now. Do you do that? If you are a true fan, I think you would. It’s just one of those intersections between sport and life that is so much part of being a fan.

I missed watching the most pivotal moments of the 1983 World Cup final: I was waiting for a takeaway in a Kolkata restaurant, and remember how, as the radio relayed that Richards was out, I ran around the deserted restaurant, along with the waiters, head steady, arms outstretched, body tilting from side to side. I was 13.

In 1987, I was for the final, at the Eden Gardens as Border held aloft the trophy. In 1992… well, never mind.

What I associate most with the World Cup final of 2003 is this: lying with my daughter on my chest, trying to get her to sleep after India got slaughtered by Ponting and Co. I remember the clink of ice in the glass of vodka by my side. I remember some fireworks going off; they sounded a little desultory, a little jaded. People had bought them just in case India won. They were letting them off anyway. No shame in losing to the best side in the world, I recall thinking. I remember thinking about the book I was then writing… about India and cricket and being a fan.

This time around, my girl is five years old. She recognizes the Indian players. She can tell a Steely Dan song from its opening riff. And so boundless is her energy that it’s impossible to get her to sleep before very late. We live in Mumbai these days. My book has been published. (You can’t call yourself a writer because you’ve written a book. You have to have a of work to be able to do that. A writer is all I’ve ever wanted to be. Now I can at least say I have written a book. A start.)

But the thing I most notice this time is the creeping up of middle age. This is the first World Cup that we in India will be able to watch only if we stay up all night for days on end. I find that I can’t do that any longer. (Coming up soon: Tips on how to stay up – or try to stay up and fall asleep on the sofa.) My eyes burn if I haven’t slept well. My legs feel heavy. The day job, all nine or ten hours of it, takes too much out of me. And the cricket, so central to life once (the rest of life was what happened between overs), is having to be accommodated into the rhythms of the soon-to-be-middle-aged, salaried, hardworking parent’s life.

It’s quite a realization. Have you had that recently? And how has your life changed over the World Cups, since World Cup since everything in Indian cricket changed for ever, in 1983? I look forward to hearing that. Keep the comments coming in.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on April 7, 2007, 4:23 GMT

    During 1983 finals, I could not watch the retreival attempt of Marshall & Dujon, as I became tense after sensing a hope of victory. Only after hearing that Dujon was out, did we (me and my friends) switched on the TV. Well, during 1987 I watched many of the matches, whenever possible, since they were played as day matches too and I supported Australia in the final. 1992 is forgettable, except the fact that due to the faulty system, Pakistan was able to squeeze ahead despite dismal performance at the initial stage, including getting all out for a mere 74 or something in a preliminary game. 1996 was enjoyable, despite the loss of India in the semis. Lance Klussner made 1999 enjoyale. Sachin, the ever great, made 2003 as remarkable. 2007 - though India went out early, I still watch the matches, remaining awake till the early morning of the next.

    Having said that, I wish to state clearly that my life had its own dramas, nothing related to Cricket. I love cricket and in fact, I could be considered as a mad of Cricket. I love great players like Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Ganguly and I will remain a faithfull fan of Sachin, despite many people trying to belittle his achievements right now.

    Cricket and life are two different lines I enjoy. I dont take a loss by India too deep into my mind. Thats why I am able to enjoy the matches played by others, including the fighting Ireland matches.

    If you remain sane and intelligent, all such nonsense talk of call for the heads of Sachin & co would never arise.

    I wish to narrate an interest statistic here. After winning the World Cup in 1983, India's world cup journey is as follows :

    1987 - Semi-finalist 1992 - Early elimination 1996 - Semi-finalist 1999 - Early elimination 2003 - Finalist 2007 - Earliest elimination

    If the above trend continues to hold good, we should be able to prepare ourself to enjoy great cricket from India in the next World Cup. Provided, people like Chappel doesnt destroy the morale and unity of our team any more.

  • testli5504537 on April 7, 2007, 0:03 GMT

    Subtlety, finesse and a respect for other cultures are not exactly the best known characteristics of the Australian male. This was amply demonstrated by Russell Hair a few months back.

    I would suggest these factors played a prominent part in Chappell's downfall.

  • testli5504537 on April 6, 2007, 17:34 GMT

    kick the seniors who dont have discipline out...they are a parasite to the whole nation... does the BCCI have the guts...think PCK will be much better ..

  • testli5504537 on April 6, 2007, 5:40 GMT

    Does our selection committee, politicians and managers of BCCI have the guts to expel non-performing seniors and provide chances to the younger generation.

    How many of us are even aware of that we have a greater players not given a chance...

  • testli5504537 on March 30, 2007, 2:34 GMT

    The fall of Indian cricket from the position of favourites to early exit pedestrian from world cup underlined the wrong strategy Indian cricket is persuing for a while.Where is their vision 2007? Did not they put in lots of efforts for that. it is not the loss of matches to Srilanka and Bangladesh , it is rather the manner they lost those . India were not atall in their elements. The great iIndian batting could not stand up. There is no denial that Bangladesh played a great game but Indians did not have any answer to their strategy. Why so many great Indian superstars flopped. Some of them including maestro little master is over the hill and should call it a day. They do so much other than playing cricket that they loose the focus. One wonders why Irfan Pathan was not tried despite of seaming conditions. It may not have made lot of difference but he desrved a try.Without elaborating much we can only say gfor acountry where Cricketers are admired and adored so much is a shock and nightmare not to be featured in the business session of a major cricket show.

  • testli5504537 on March 28, 2007, 12:24 GMT

    First to start with all the articles by Soumya Bhattacharya I read was stupendous, it was like Tendulkar's straight drive Ganguly's offside drive sehwag's stand and deliver dravid's classical cover drive yuvraj's hook shot. I strongly believe that the life is just like cricket, right from my childhood I play life as cricket sometimes ODI or sometimes Test. On each world cup ever since I came to know about cricket, Indian Players struggled to compete in the international arena. I remember the 1987 world cup when India failed to reach the final. then I was a 7 years old studying in 2nd standard, was keen to return from school early to watch cricket in neighbour';s house. very keen follower of azhar flick's and fielding.

    In the next world cup 1992 Australia I was wondering will India reach the semifinals this time around after badly beaten by come back south africans, Then I was in seven standard i would cut short my basketball training and look into friend's TV sets for early morning matches as our own TV was repair. Need to get up early at 4:00 AM to watch the match.

    I still remember how i had a last laugh looking into javed miandad's ill-famous jump in the crease. after this world cup i felt India had bad luck due to rain stoppages.

    Next came 1996 world cup when i was in 11th standard which was my lovely part of the life. Glued to the TV sets at home, and saw India tumbling down to srilanka in eden gardens with vinod kambli's eyes was down pouring.

    In the next world cup 1999, I had joined enggineering probably the worst way i saw the world cup matches, hiding behind my friends in order to avoid ragging by the seniors at mid night. But again India failed to deliver going down to zimbabwe, thanks for that our seniors were no mood to rag me. i saw a disappointing faces walking across me.

    Then came the next world cup where India fought hard, going down to best team in the world cricket. probably this was the worst period of my life, but result was same.

    after four years i am placed in a good position, working for a top 5 company, brought a new TV set to watch matches but deadly end brought my dreams to shattered, I wonder I failed to accept the truth that our players never been the best players. the people are fooled by media hype and non functioning BCCI, otherwise on country would change the selection commitee which was working for a good team towards the world cup. The most wondering aspect is the same people fought for the back of ganguly, and the same people burnt his effigy's. The players should be aware that playing at any condition is very easy if you are good at watching cricket ball. just see the ball and then play, if you do not watch the ball u can never hit the ball.

    If do not fool the batsmen you can never take wickets. whichever ball you use the chemistry is simple, control while batting and bowling. your body should do what your mind and brain says.

    probably I wish I could see a better team the next time when world cup will played in the subcontinent. I also wish Tendulkar Ganguly sehwag kumble should retire ODI and play only in test match. And bring back Kaif (for last chance) suresh raina, under 19 boys. expose them to international cricket now in next four years they will be strong contenders. Please avoid playing with minnows and start playing with newzealand southafrica australia westindies pakistan srilanka england in neutral venues than home ground.

  • testli5504537 on March 28, 2007, 9:33 GMT

    Well this is the fifth world cup since the time i started following cricket. I still remember strangely for some reason, i started liking cricket when i was in the 8th std. Though so late to get to know about a sport that had created millions of followers in India after 1983, and was gaining the stature of a religion with Tendulkar a God by den, i was fast enough to grab everything about cricket within no time as the case would have been for many.

    So, there goes back my memory to 1992 world cup. The only match worth remebering n still in my memory is that India Vs Pakistan n the special run out of Imran Khan still stand out in my memory if i'm not wrong. I used to wake up at 4:00 am to watch the matches India played though oderwise i would never get up. Such was the proportion my craze had acquired with cricket.

    But luck favoured the determined and the brave as it did for Pakistan who went onto win that. I did watch the final, and it was a well deserved victory for Pakistan.

    Come here 1996, and within no time, India was hoisting it the second time. I had full confidence that the Indian team of then was one of the strong contenders n favourites since they had done so well under Azhar at home winnig almost each n evry cup n series (Hero Cup a stand out for the sheer performance India gave against South Africa in semi final n against West Indies in final). I was in the XI then. My exams were going on but i would skip studies to watch the match. We had another hidden team in this world cup which was SriLanka. None except few had given chances to this team as till then they has the stature of minnows. And before anyone could take notice, the team had beaten India in one of the league matches. Such was the arrogance and elegance of Jayasurya's batting that he tore apart every Indian bowler chasing some big score 270 or so. Again India beat Pakistan in the World Cup. Tht will stand out as the best ever match of cricket across World Cups n across series. How can i forget the bludgeoning of Waqar by Jadeja, and you call it coincidence due to my exam the next day, i did not see the Indian innings with full involvement till i joined in the 47th over. And I feel lucky to have witnessed those balls being dispatched for 4s and 6s in those 3 overs.

    But after that standout came the drubbing of India in Semis. I witnessed that match to my utter disappointment, yet another world cup win hope for India getting lost. Though, SriLanka seemed the best team to beat Australia, and win the World Cup. They deserved it.

    1999 was ordinary for India in World Cup. They had luck to beat England in the final rain interrupted league match to enter the super 6's but they got drubbed against better teams (except Pakistan) to say the World Cup good bye. This time again i was in college and i still remember an exam the following day of the India-England match.

    2003 was one of the best World Cups in many ways. India was lead by one of the most successful captain in Sourav Ganguly. India had done well abroad under him. Given this reason, and the bonding within the team, if any Indian team could have come close to winning the cup it was this team. But they too disappointed us in the final against a far better team in Australia. It was pressure that did India in as always. I watched all the matches that India played except the final's first half and i was happy i had missed it as it was a complete murdering of the Indian bowling attack that Australia had inflicted upon. And as always sachin failing in the big match, a jinx that he could never overcome, and bad luck for Ganguly not able to win India the most wanted cup. India had drawn against SriLanka in the mini world cup the year before, and India had lost one to New Zealand when ganguly took over captaincy. And the jinx continued into World Cup. One thing that stood out in 2003 was India's all round display in crucial situations, the Kaif's run out of a player from England, the superb bowling of Ashish Nehra in that match, the superb bowling of Srinath his peak at right time across the matches, and India's batting, evrything gelled so well than ever before. The infamous Indian Huddle that made them the favourites. There was a bonding that could be seen in that team, and the agression and captaincy of Ganguly took India to greater heights.

    As the saying goes after a big leap there is a fall, the 2007 has turned out to be the Worst World Cup campaign for India. Luckily this time i did not have to wake up entire night to watch the matches as i am in the same time zone as West Indies.

    People were angry with the Indian loss, and many were burning effigies without realizing the fact that these are the same people who made the Indian Team members as heroes. Everybody will agree that this team lacked conviction, temperament, and more importantly the commitment, and attitude to win a match which better teams possess. The bonding was clearly seen missing. Somehow, i always felt tht this current indian team under Dravid was a bunch of 11 players than a Team, and that showed up in none other than the biggest cricketing extravaganza. And after the Indian debacle in this world cup i realized one thing. Unless, the system is changed, unless players are paid based on performance, unless players are restricted from endorsements in the first 3-4 years of their gaining entry to Indian team untill they fully establish themselves, (This would mean the players will be well established for every world cup and we will have lot may players to choose) unless we have a system where there is relative pay to the players based on the number of matches won by India and within that counting the performance of the player (say if india wins all matches in a year and a player A contibutes consistently well in all these matches while if India loses however well he may have performed, his quota should be less) Unless cricket board removes the current grading system, and brings in a sole performance based pay as said above,

    India will be found wanting to Win the World Cup and evry World Cup will throw some disappointment or the other for the cricket crazy fans of the country.

    Burning effigies and being angry is neither practical nor a rationale thinking, because as said better late than never, this World Cup has thrown Team India into a reality check as to what they were capable of.

    Another interesting thing to note is that the performance of the Indian team has been alternate

    1979 -> Very Bad / Worst (First Round and also lost to Srilanka a minnow then) 1983 -> Excellent 1987 -> Good (Semi Final) 1992 -> So So (First round exit) 1996 -> Good (Semi Final) 1999 -> So So (Second Round) 2003 -> Very Good (Finals) 2007 -> Worst (First Round and a loss to minnow Bangladesh) 2011 -> Hopefully a new look Indian Cricket System and Indian Team which will perform well on cricket field than outside of it and people more understanding n realistic

    With that I sign off, and hopefully when the World Cup returns to the sub continent next time, things would have changed within the Indian Crikcet System

  • testli5504537 on March 27, 2007, 21:01 GMT

    My 1st world cup memories go back to 1992 when as a 6 year old I vividly remember Imran lifting the Crystal trophy.My final exams were finished & I could watch & play cricket without a care in the world for anything else. 1996 World Cup in between my final exams for 5th standard & I remember hearing the whoops of joy from my neighbours as Jadeja carted Waqar all over Chinnaswamy stadium(I was playing cricket with my pals).I also remember the disappointment I felt on the eve of my English exam when I saw Kambli weeping at the Eden as India collapsed after a brilliant 66 from GOD which ended with a freak stumping/run out. The best innings of the tournament for me was GOD's brilliant counterattacking 90 against the Aussies at Wankhede where He hit Warne & Mcgrath to all corners of the ground after India had reduced to 7/2 at the end of 6 overs. 1999 World Cup came in between my summer holidays in 9th standard which were spent in either playing cricket or watching it although I had to take some time out for finishing my holiday homework.India's defeat to Zim & the demise of GOD's father left me numb.Ganguly & Dravid partnership at Taunton was a source of a lot of joy & so was Venky's 5 wicket haul at Old Trafford againt Pakistan.But India's defeat to Zim came to haunt them & cost the a berth in the semis.I still regret THAT Donald Klusener run out because I believe SA deserved to win that world cup & moreover the Aussie win at the 1999 world cup brought a new world order in Cricket & Now we have to tolerate the sight of racist & arrogant Aussies winning every trophy. I also remember that some of our neighbours burst firecrackers just because Pakistan lost the World Cup final.. How very wrong they were... 2003 World Cup came in between my 12th standard CBSE board exams & at a time when I was also busy in my JEE preparations.. I remember the way GOD single handedly inspired India to WC final after a disastrous start. THAT innings agains Pakistan at Centurion will be the most fondly remembered although it ruined my Physics exam.. The final was a day before my last board exam & I was hoping desperately for rain in the Indian innings so that the match would resume afresh the next day.I also remember cheering SL very loyally in their semi so that India didnt have to play Australia in the finals.. Alas both didnt happen..

    Come 2007 this is my 1st WC when I m not a school kid. I m into my 3rd year of engg after managing to clear JEE.But this WC has caused me alot of pain.. A golden generation of Indian cricketers Dravid,Kumble,Sourav & Of course GOD whom I grew up watching have surely played their last world cups(Although I m still keeping my fingers crossed for a GOD century at His home ground Wankhede in 2011 WC final) and they have gone out in such a tragic fashion.I m also bitterly disappointed that a batsman & an artiste of the calibre of VVS Laxman has been given such a rough dela & has nopt managed to play a single WC.He would definitely made a lot of difference on these pitches but He has alwayz been treated harshly by selectors as well as both Ganguly & Dravid.

    Thanks for such a nice post which made me go down the memory lane & filled me with nastalgia..

  • testli5504537 on March 27, 2007, 12:04 GMT

    In world series, twice, we can say we were champs. In '83 it was optimism. The captain had the 'never say die attitude' He wanted to prove. When we were about to fail the captain performed and inspired others to follow.

    A few years later it was a clinically precise pessimism / realism. The then captain knew what we could and would score in tight situations. He allowed only one side to score beyond 200. Tight fielding and precison bowling not great bowiling or acrobatic fielding.

    We have been learning since we started playing. To win, we have to select a team that will work together. To select that, in every game at every level team effort should be emphasised not individual brilliance. At grass root level you pick players; not stars. You are bound to win.

  • testli5504537 on March 27, 2007, 11:53 GMT

    Nice blog, Soumya. I've read your book and I definitely remember which year your daughter was born in!

    1983 would have been my first World Cup but I have no memories of it. My cousins tell me they were all over at my place, cheering India to victory. I must have slept through it all.

    1987, trying to squeeze in cricket with all the homework and exams...some of the things that come to mind are India's one run loss to Australia; Martin Crowe running backwards to catch Houghton - and waiting for the classic catches package everyday to see that catch one more time; Gavaskar going ballistic against New Zealand; and switching to the 'second' channel on DD every now and again to keep up with what was happening in Group B. I remember being not too disappointed by India's loss to England. I quite fancied Australia those days - maybe I was too young to be patriotic for India then.

    In 1992 while at school we used to try catching glimpses of the action through the windows of houses behind the school building. On the day of the final, I remember running out when school ended to catch the last hour and a half of the final. England in trouble, Lamb and Fairbrother fighting back - and then THOSE two balls. Richie Benaud, in his faraway voice, "Wasim Akraaam is on a hat trick..."

    I went for the Australia-New Zealand quarterfinal in 1996. It was my first time at a day night game. When I stepped back into the stadium after the dinner break I remember being completely awestruck by the floodlights. India's exit later that week was disappointing but I fully enjoyed Sri Lanka going on to triumph.

    Come 1999, and I was preparing to leave my hometown for my post graduate studies the day after the final. After the nail biting semi final I fully expected the final to be a let down - so I went out for some last minute shopping just as Pakistan were beginning their innings. Managed to catch some bits of the match at the store, and returned home in time to see Lehmann hit the winning runs.

    And in 2003, I had just started my working life - colleagues in the office had made big plans to watch the final at a pub and celebrate afterwards. We made it to the pub as planned, watched Ponting tear apart our bowling, and trooped out at the break with our tails firmly between our legs. I returned home and took in the rest of the beating in solitude.

    This time I will not be staying up late. I guess cricket has become secondary again - work, health, relationships...too many things on one's mind as one gets older. But perhaps in 2011, I'll be lining up for tickets once again.

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