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November 22, 2010

Samir Chopra

The Night of the Living Refund-Seekers

Samir Chopra
Members of Australia's 1987 World Cup winning squad pose in Sydney during the celebration of Australian ODI cricket, Sydney, February 27, 2007
The Australians may have lifted the World Cup in 1987, but many Indian and Pakistani fans were denied watching the most riveting cricketing encounter of all: an India-Pakistan World Cup final.  © Getty Images
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In 1987, I had just moved to the United States and was dealing with the sad loss of cricketing access as best as I could. When the World Cup rolled around, my sense of deprivation grew even worse. Was there no end to this cruelty, I thought? I cursed myself for ever having succumbed to the "onwards to the US for graduate studies" bug. What price US F-1, indeed, if it meant denial of cricketing pleasures? I, who had been so eager to bid my park cricket friends farewell on the night of my departure flight, now bitterly regretted ever having left. There was no Internet, no Cricinfo, no rec.sport.cricket (newsgroups existed, of course, but I hadn't discovered them; heck, I hadn't worked out how to send email to non-Bitnet addresses).

And then, miraculously, as the Cup progressed, it seemed I would be delivered; perhaps a telecast of the World Cup final was possible via satellite hook-up. An enterprising Indian graduate student had figured out the technical details, and was now set to organise what could be quite a festive night: the final of the World Cup, telecast live on a Saturday night, onto two large projection screens in lecture theatres.

As the final approached, an India-Pakistan encounter looked likely: both teams had made it to the semi-finals. The US $10 tickets that the graduate student association had put on sale went like the proverbial hot cakes, as scores of hopeful subcontinentals lined up at the ticket desk I manned in the student centre. A sell-out was a foregone conclusion.

Disaster struck as Pakistan lost in the first semi-final to Australia. The next day, the lines of the refund-seekers formed early, only to be rewarded with our persistent, "Sorry, no refunds possible". I suspect a few Indians snickered inwardly at the sight of the disconsolate Pakistani lads. The Cup was ours; or so they thought. Could India really be denied at Eden Gardens?

Alas, a semi-final still had to be played, and in it, India were "swept" aside by the English. And the refund-seeking now had an Indian flavour to it. My persistent cry of "Sorry, no refunds" still rang out, but it was tinged with the same disappointment writ large on the faces of those who had seen their hopes dashed by the Anglo-Australian usurping of the final. The lines were longer; the disenchantment even more pronounced.

I didn't need a refund because I didn't buy a ticket; I was employed as a ticket checker and food vendor for the final. Which meant the final was a bit of work, and a bit of pleasure. It also meant I faced an exhausting, sleepless weekend: I had to work from 10am to 6pm on Saturday, (baking pizza in the school cafeteria), then from 11pm to 7am on Saturday night, and then again from 10am to 6pm on Sunday (yes, more pizza). On the night of the final, we still had a full house; no one was going to stay away from a World Cup final, after all, but that largely Indian and Pakistani crowd couldn't quite summon up the same enthusiasm for an England-Australia final, knowing especially that it was built on the backs of their greatest disappointment.

By Sunday evening, I was delirious with sleeplessness and almost catatonic thanks to all the bad coffee and junk food I had consumed over the weekend. And as I staggered home, on a commuter train that Sunday night, I resembled most of all, those zombie-like creatures that had lined up just a few days previously, demanding their precious US $10, denied, cruelly, what would have been for them, the most riveting cricketing encounter of all: an India-Pakistan world cup final.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Joel Short on (November 24, 2010, 3:51 GMT)

Probably the greatest upset in World Cup history that Australia won that cup. Still not sure o this day how we managed it, especially given the quality of the Indian and Pakistan teams and in their home conditions, but we did. Never mnd India, you will win it one day.

Posted by Kiran on (November 24, 2010, 2:55 GMT)

Superb article

Posted by DG on (November 23, 2010, 14:19 GMT)

I remember this final it was on a weekend I had bunked a few days in school to watch the matches of the tournament as an 11 yr old. Was delighted with the Aus-Pak match result and then the Gooch masterclass took India out in the semis. The final was a very good one, Foster's superb opening spell, Boon played well and so did Border and Veletta. Somehow I feel England should have played Chris Broad in the final instead of Robinson made a duck. Maybe its Ian Botham's greatest regret, he didnt want to be a part of the tournament, we will never know. I have been searching for video footage of this game and both the semis ever since!!!

Posted by Anonymous on (November 23, 2010, 9:40 GMT)

HA...Still remember it..Despite all the bravo we were not really looking forward to face Imran Khan's not-so-cornered-tigers in the final(the previous one day series was a 7-1 pakwash with the lone win coming off a tie). So everyone was delirious when Pak lost. England were seen weaker of the group everyone was expecting a coasting to the final..and well..we know how that turned out!

Posted by Anonymous on (November 23, 2010, 4:42 GMT)

Wow, brings back a flood of memories - '87 was the first cup that I was old enough to follow obsessively. I still have the special edition magazine brought out by Reliance before the tourney began. I don't see much material of that pre-internet era online so am wondering if I should scan the mag and upload it somewhere!

Posted by waterbuffalo on (November 23, 2010, 1:13 GMT)

@Visal, yes, it's unfortunate that the 96, 99, 2003 and 2007 finals have all been one-sided and boring, 1992 was the last good one, almost 20 years ago..

Posted by Ali Shah on (November 23, 2010, 0:55 GMT)

Wonderfully well written article that really captures the mood of that time. Imran's wonderfully led Pakistan side were the favorites to win the cup and India were no pushovers at home......lol at Indian fans snickering at the Pakistani lads :).......a very well written article indeed.

Posted by Madappa Prakash on (November 23, 2010, 0:46 GMT)

Hi Samir, I'm surprised that you were not in more trouble than what your words convey. Cricket can be all consuming. I've had trouble all my life about it, if that is any consolation to you. I was blissfully unaware of the 1987 drama as I was concentrating on my career at that time, but I played for the Stony Brook - Brookhaven team during those times against those who would play us; mostly for pleasure. I had no idea about the drama you describe in your article. Unplugged, I guess.

Are you going to write an article about Daniel Vettori or not?

Cheers, Prakash

Posted by SP on (November 23, 2010, 0:42 GMT)

I guess lessons learned are passed on thu generations ... during my time, a good 15 years later the graduate organization would start with the 'no refund' disclaimer for all telecasts!

Posted by Visal L on (November 22, 2010, 19:47 GMT)

I agree it must have been disappointing for India & Pakistan to miss out on the final. But looking at how the final turned out, it seems a bit ludicrous to complain given the exhibition that the Aussie and English put on! Boon's 75, Veletta smashing it at the end & then Gatting's failed reverse-sweep which turned the game around. That final along with the 1983 and 1992 finals were probably the best ODI World Cup finals to watch in terms of a well fought match :)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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