September 27, 2009

Champions Trophy 2009

Walking on eggshells

Andrew Hughes


Shahid Afridi does his best Saturday Night Fever impression © Getty Images
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Some images from Saturday’s game linger in the mind. There were the ghostly faces of players shrouded in sunscreen. There was Mohammad Yousuf’s grim, expressionless concentration - a man of fortitude and endurance at work. There was the close-up of Harbhajan’s gleaming kara, his hand cradling the green-stained ball that looked like a moss-covered relic from a bone yard. There was 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer blowing Gautam Gambhir a kiss, Sachin Tendulkar’s exquisite square drive, the whirl of Simon Taufel’s finger to signal yet another free hit.

The surroundings played their part. As the stadium resounded with shouts, whistles, drums and music, the fierce light of a Highveldt mid-day seemed to belong to another continent entirely. Then slowly the Indian players’ uniforms began to turn darker shades of blue, night crept up unannounced and the broiling arena was transformed into a clammy, floodlit film-set.

It was compulsive television. And even though by the standards of one-day cricket it was not a nail-biter, you didn’t want to leave your sofa. We owed the players that much at least. They seemed to be walking on eggshells. Every movement, every gesture, every run, no-ball, misfield and stumble brought instant feedback from the crowd. The audience were part of this drama, not mere onlookers. The pressure was evident in the muted behaviour of the players, unleashed in moments of celebration and sometimes in wild, pleading appeals. India were the more inhibited team, made more bad decisions under pressure, and so they lost.

And in the midst of all this sweaty tension, there were some bizarre musical interludes. A failed Harbhajan sprawl and claw at third man was greeted with the chorus to “Come On Eileen”. A short while later, RP Singh had only just begun to wipe the grass stains from his trouser knees after an inelegant fumble when Abba’s “Dancing Queen” blasted out across Supersport Park. Either the DJ was a Pakistan supporter or he had a dangerously mischievous sense of humour.

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Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Posted by Shaikh on (September 28, 2009, 6:45 GMT)

Both Imran Nazir and Kamral Akmal should be extra careful when negotiating Bret Lees's bouncers or off side the off stump balls, which will be key amoung Australians' plan to get both of them cheply out.

Posted by Shaikh on (September 28, 2009, 6:42 GMT)

Umar Gul has been over-utilised, and against Australia he should be given complete rest. He should be replaced by Asif. Imran Nazir and Kamal Akmal should not try to look for 4 or 6 for every ball whether bad or good wicket taking balls. They should watch the field placing before making decision to hit the next ball for a six. Imran Nazir was well-set and could have scored cruicial runs. Kamal Akmal is very weak to negotiate good length ball, and getting caught. He should change his technique.

Posted by Ali on (September 28, 2009, 3:42 GMT)

Aamir taking the wicket of Sachin was definately the most spectacular moment of the game ..! =P

Posted by Faisal on (September 28, 2009, 2:49 GMT)

This was a great game, but i do feel bad for the people who lost all that money on India.....Malik...you are the man!

Posted by M Usman Azhar on (September 28, 2009, 2:19 GMT)

hi there Andrew!!! great article you wrote,....i have really enjoyed this one as much as i did when i saw my team winning!!.....i too won't say that it was a nail biter but it was as thrilling as a match between India Pakistan can get!!!.....and of course the end result of it made it more worth watching for us than anyone else in the world!!!..... as a Pakistani i can say that even with the highest of hopes and prayers for our team we never believed that we will be able to beat the explosive Indian batting...and winning against them is a lot to ask from our players!! i would say that now the favorites tag is surely on Pakistan and England too perhaps!!!...as we have unexpectedly beaten India we sure will carry that confidence and momentum against Aussies and if we beat them than surely we will go on to win the tournament!!!....InshaALLAH!!

Posted by Ray on (September 27, 2009, 22:47 GMT)

LOL @ Alexs' comment. Maybe people should start believing he was 17 when he started. Good game overall. The only sour point was the way Gambhir behaved when passing the crowd - that was low. After seeing gentlemen like Sachin, Dravid and now Dhoni (very open and gracious in the defeat), I will be disappointed if someone like Gambhir is provided the chance to lead India in future.

Posted by Cheena on (September 27, 2009, 18:58 GMT)

They also had "chuma chuma de de" (Kiss me, Kiss me) song when Aamer blew a kiss to Gautam Gambhir as he set off to move forward to play an aggressive shot..and end up being avoid a very good delivery. lol

Posted by Kiya mari India ki on (September 27, 2009, 16:36 GMT)

Some positive comments.

Here is the real story.

A passionate team, Pakistan, defeated a totally commercialized Indian business team.

What a shame for Billion Blues.

Thats the truth. Will be hard to swallow.

Posted by shahzaib ali on (September 27, 2009, 15:15 GMT)

Great to watch goood cricket.......

Posted by Mehmet on (September 27, 2009, 14:21 GMT)

HEY! The match WAS a nail biter, everytime you thought one team was winning, it suddenly changed! First at the beginging of Pakistan's innings, with Imran batting we thought Pak were winning, then when the top 3 got out, Ind was winning, then when Yousuf and Malik were batting so slowly, again India, then when they picked it up, Pak, and at the end there was a flurry of wickets, we thought Pak may not make it to 300, then they did. Then in India's innings, when the openers were in, Ind was winning, then Sachin out, Pak, Ghambir exploding, Ind, Gambhir Kholi Dhoni out, Pak, then until the Raina-Dravid partnership was broken, it was Ind. Then we saw Yusuf Pathan in, followed by bhajji, we got scared, but when they got out, Pakistan winning, and then dravid out, Pakistan pretty much won. I think that matches like these come ONCE in the history of cricket, if you havent watched this match, u haven't see some of the BEST of cricket. THANK YOU INDIA AND PAKISTAN FOR GIVING THIS TO US!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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