December 15, 2008

Mike Holmans

Cricket at its best

Mike Holmans

This was the stuff of which dreams are made. If it had been made up, it would have seemed unbelievably mawkish. As reality, it was intoxicating.

While England were still debating whether to come back to India, Andrew Strauss was the one who said that they had to make every effort to come back because they owed it to the game of cricket. Whatever debt he was referring to, it was paid back with massive interest in Chennai.

Instead of cricket doing duty in the war on terror, terror was unceremoniously dismissed as cricket pursued its own sense of history. All the horror in Mumbai achieved was to make it that much more exquisite that in this match it would be Mumbaikar Sachin Tendulkar who hit the boundary to simultaneously post his own century and top off the fourth-highest run chase in Test history, thus wiping away the pain of January 1999 when at the same ground he scored 136 in what many think of as his greatest innings but India fell so agonisingly short. This game was due to be remembered as the one which defied the terrorists, but that will now be but background colour adding extra lustre to the tapestry which should be woven in commemoration of one of Test cricket’s greatest epics.

There will be time enough tomorrow to strip down the engines and see which parts functioned according to specification and which failed – and the pit crews are no doubt already embarking on that given that the next match starts on Friday – but today we can but revel in such a glorious affirmation of our infinitely resilient sport.

India won the first and fourth days, England days two and three, so it was dead even as the last day began. That is roughly the ideal for Test cricket, which is at its best when four days of intense struggle get thrown out of the window and it’s down to a bowling attack and a batting order and may the best team win. Of course I’m disappointed that the best wasn’t the team I support, but a match like this needs both a euphoric winner and a dignified loser – and to be honest, no-one does dignified losing better than the English, so perhaps it’s for the best that it was this way round.

As I write, the game has been over for an hour. Usually when England have lost a Test, I want to kick the cats and I’m difficult to talk to until at least the next day; strangling seems too good for the incompetent bunglers responsible for throwing the game away and the opposition team can go and burn in the nearest waste incinerators for all I care.

But today, well, apparently we drew the short straw and had to play the losers’ parts not because we particularly deserved to but because someone had to if the game were to have a fitting conclusion. Today I just want to get on a cloud and float, happily burbling about what a fantastic game Test cricket is.

Tomorrow, though, the cats had better not annoy me….

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Posted by vicky on (December 18, 2008, 12:05 GMT)

Nice article..What a game of cricket it was!..good pitch,great crowd and intense cricket..and a huge total with a century from the God to finish the match..A cricket fan couldn't have asked for more..A million Thanks to KP and his team..Cheers to cricket!

Posted by Praise KP and the English on (December 18, 2008, 4:20 GMT)

The true winners are the English team and the fans and of course the game, Despite a nightmare in the one day series and a terrorist attack, the tourists decided to comeback and play the game, and as long as you dont quit, you dont lose, so I say the English are the winners and ofcourse, Viru and Strauss and YuVi are the champions and Sahin is the COC.

Posted by Sunny on (December 17, 2008, 17:56 GMT)

It was a dream come true. First, for the courage shown by both teams, England in particular, second the spirit in which the game was played and third, for a long dreamed of "Tendulkar scoring a century and leading India to a win". On the fourth day the game was set up nicely. Sehwag happened and the game was in perfect balance. I prayed real hard for a classic Dravid-Tendulkar partnership to "SAVE" the game for India. But then, Dravid succumbed. Then it was a prayer for "Laxman-Tendulkar" Sidney repeat. Then Laxman went. Now the prayers were only for Tendulkar's luck. I did not have any hope for Yuvi, and may be that's why he got stuck. But after years of dreaming for a Tendulkar performance leading India to victory, my dreams came true. My prayers were answered. When Sehwag said in his pre-fifth-day interview with R.Shastri, "If we can chase 250 against Oz, then we can chase 300+ against England" though sounded cocky then, showed India's attitude in retrospect. Great game.

Posted by Madan on (December 17, 2008, 6:22 GMT)

"to be honest, no-one does dignified losing better than the English, so perhaps it’s for the best that it was this way round."

Man, do I feel sorry for England when I read this! They had done just about everything to win the match and though they got the second session on day 4 wrong, teams have made worse mistakes and won. They got too taken aback by the Sehwag onslaught and forgot that it takes more than a blistering 83 to chase such a steep target. But thank you England for coming and putting up a fight that made the effort of hosting this match worth it. Yes, I was sceptical of the need to have a match - and one that entails the kind of security it did - at a time when we in India should be concentrating our energies on tackling the worsening threat of terrorism. But cricket has proved me wrong again and this was not a match that could have been missed for anything! Over to Mohali now.

Posted by AG on (December 17, 2008, 3:24 GMT)

Indian win fade away what strauss did. In larger picture that was the problem only strauss and colly batted other just came and went. Well wahterver this arguably one of the best test I have seen. and so rightly said england lost becuase one team had to loose.

Posted by Michael Jeh on (December 16, 2008, 22:42 GMT)

Terrific article Mike. The courage of both teams, in playing the match so soon after the Mumbai attacks and then the individual courage/skill of the players like Strauss, Collingwood, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Vuvraj etc was a fitting tribute to the symbolism of this game. Don't forget the role that Dhoni and Harbajhan played in India's first innings too. If not for their valuable partnership, India might have been too far away to catch up on that last day. Full marks to England for turning up, playing with spirit and not making any excuses. It's a real shame that pay tv in Australia did not see fit to cover this series. Instead, we got live coverage of the rain from Dunedin!

Posted by VB Seeker on (December 16, 2008, 2:11 GMT)

Engalnd deserve a lot of credit for showing up full strength for the test series. And they got off the blocks fast in this test. They clearly are a different side when they play test cricket. Too bad they ended up on the losing side, but this was India's and Sachin's moment. KP's gracious comments at the end of the match and sentiments echoed in this and other articles by Englishmen, are a throwback to the past. This is a gentlemen's game. And while I am excited that my team won, on top of a winning Sachin ton in the 4th winnings which was 20 years in the making, I think that it would be selfish of Indians to not doff their hats to English courage. There is a new ally in the war against terror. And they sport 3 lions. Terrorists, you can go to hell. Your cause (if you had one in the first place) is doomed. Each time you murder innocents, you steel the resolve of common people not to bow down to your evil intent. Religion, language, color of skin no bar! Thank you England. Thank you KP.

Posted by Rohan on (December 16, 2008, 0:41 GMT)

Well written mate! Game was too evenly balanced, too well played to say that a team lost it. Yes on the scorecard it did. For me both teams won the game. As a famous NCAA coach once said something similar to the lines of "If you give your 100% then i dont care if you loose on the points. You have allready won it in your heart" Both teams won the game by putting in 100% and not only won the game in their hearts but in their supporters heart and oppositions and their supporters heart as well. That is what i think is the spirit of the game.

Posted by satish on (December 15, 2008, 18:30 GMT)

that's v sweet mike. but truly cricket won and big big congrats to england for turning up. real courage - in the bigger picture they were the ones who had the opportunity to make the bigger statement and they did. god bless them.

Posted by tonrag on (December 15, 2008, 16:27 GMT)

I watched Lara score that incomparable 153 to lead West Indies to that famous victory, on late night TV. I played hookie from office and watched Laxman and Dravid turn the tables on Australia at Calcutta. I mourned over a Sunday when Tendulkar succumbed to back pain and India failed to pip Pakistan at the post in Chennai. Today, I watched Tendulkar exorcise that ghost. No 20 twenty or pyjama cricket for me, Just tests, in whites and a red ball thunking into the meat of the bat. God, give me a century in each innings from Pietersen in Mohali. And while you are at it, could Dravid score a hundred and India win, by one wicket, in the last over on the fifth day? A tie will also do nicely.

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