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May 4, 2011

Samir Chopra

Deserting a dream

Samir Chopra
Shafiul Islam and Mahmudullah are ecstatic after taking Bangladesh home, Bangladesh v England, Group B, World Cup, Chittagong, March 11, 2011
If you leave too early, you risk missing out on watching your team make a thrilling comeback  © Getty Images
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On March 11, 2011, during the World Cup qualifying round, as Bangladesh stumbled to 169-8 chasing England's 227, several spectators at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong started heading for the exits. I was watching the game on my desktop machine in my living room; I was accompanied by an American colleague and friend that had stopped by, on my invite, to try and catch a bit of World Cup excitement. He seemed perplexed by their exit, and honestly, so was I. Bangladesh needed 58 runs to win in a little over 10 overs with two wickets in hand. It was unlikely, sure, but it was a World Cup game, only 10 overs were left. Sure, your team had come an absolute cropper in the last game, but surely, it was worth it to hang around and see if they could pull it off, given that they were this close?

Right. Well, we know how that turned out. And those folks in Chittagong that did leave must have wanted, if only they had the ability of professional contortionists, to be able to deliver a swift, painful kick on their own backsides. For nothing is quite as painful as deserting a game, whose eventual resolution is one you craved. You desert a dream in the process. (On these very pages, I have written about my painful decision to abandon India's run chase against Australia at Mohali last year).

The Bangladeshi rush for the exits reminded me of an abandonment with a twist. During the epic Kirti Azad game at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in September 1983, I sat in the stands, shell shocked and dismayed at India's collapse to 101-8, chasing 197. Victory seemed unlikely, and to make things worse, it would happen at home against Pakistan. Sitting next to me were a young man and his father. Soon after the eighth wicket fell, the father began pestering his son. It was time to go; the traffic would be bad later; these losers deserved no more of their time. The young man stoutly resisted for a while. But, eventually, an over or so later, he agreed to leave. Father and son departed.

Later, that night, after Kirti Azad and Madan Lal's pyrotechnics had won the game for India, as I rode home in a sweaty, smoky bus, I was haunted by the memory of that young man trying to get his father to stay.

Would he ever forgive the old man? Would this episode occur again in familial conflict? "The last time I listened to you, you made me miss the Kirti Azad match!" I haven't forgotten about it. I'm sure that lad didn't. I just hope it didn't turn him into an embittered rebel.

But the credit for the most catastrophically wrong abandonment must go to Alan McGilvray, the erstwhile doyen of Australian radio commentators. On 14th December 1960, as Australia chased 233 to win against the West Indies at Brisbane, McGilvray decided at lunch the game was heading for a tame draw, and took a flight back to Sydney with Keith Miller, leaving the business of commentary to other ABC commentators. McGilvray later described his decision to leave the Tied Test as the "biggest error of judgment in my life" and never abandoned a match again. (Thanks to Gideon Haigh for this story).

Commitment gets us the good stuff in life; a lesson that sports fans sometimes have to learn the hard way.

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

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Posted by waterbuffalo on (May 30, 2011, 19:37 GMT)

As can be seen in the Eng v SL Test, you never know what's going to happen in cricket. Only in cricket can you lose a day and a half to rain, start the last day at 3pm, with the other team's 2nd innings not even begun and still get a resut! With 26 overs left!! And this is not Bangladesh or Ireland, this is the vaunted Sri Lankan batting lineup! Only in cricket. Fan-tastic! Thanks for the stories Samir.

Posted by anil on (May 10, 2011, 23:44 GMT)

I remember the match well,i was sat in the stadium with my dad,beside us was a corky journalist. To all the readers,this was an exhibtion match for prime minister relief fund,so there was a hint of laid back bowling from the opposition. Wisely my dad decided to leave,as i guess he also sensed some nature call,i followed the suit,perhaps thinking that Madan lal and Kirti azaz,being good at batting at domestic cricket,could pull this off,as this being an exhibtion match.There was no real pressure on them. Some indian supporters expecially the journo next to us continued to watch the match as if his life depended on that. I am thankfull to my dad,to have whisked me away from stadium,and let india win some inconsequental match,while loosing the real competitive match. I am sure the jornalist next to me,would misunderstand this and would probably write some article somewhere in 2011 on cricinfo!

Posted by Anonymous on (May 9, 2011, 7:36 GMT)

I'm proud to say that we Sri Lankans never desert our team if they are losing a match. We stay back backing them till the end no matter what the end result is. We party in the stands and we know how to accept defeat like we enjoy victory. I did watch this particular B'desh vs England match and I was so proud to see how our Asian Brother went about beating the POMS.

Posted by SDHoneymonster on (May 8, 2011, 20:47 GMT)

I have an acquaintance who left the Edgbaston Ashes test of 2005 early, unable to stomach an Australian victory after the position England were in. I have never let him forget it, even if I didn't see it myself; I was cowering behind the sofa, terrified.

Posted by Theena on (May 6, 2011, 10:34 GMT)

There is a flip side of the coin.

I can't quite remember the series - it was one of the countless Sharjah tournaments in the late 90s sponsored by some corporate or the other - Sri Lanka v Pakistan: former needing 40 odd to win 8 wickets in hand. I had school the next day and, assuming it was an easy victory, went to sleep, sure Sri Lanka would win. Imagine my surprise the next day. I was glad I had gone to sleep though - if I had witnessed that nonsense the teenage me would have probably resorted to throwing something or the other at the TV.

Posted by Kunal Talgeri on (May 6, 2011, 1:48 GMT)

I had a Bangalore-Delhi flight to catch in March 2006. Saw the news ticker about an Australia-South Africa game in Bangalore. Ponting's team had scored 434. I switched off the TV not delving further, and left for the airport. Back in Delhi, before a TV, I saw another news ticker, show the number '438'. That wasn't supposed to happen! I also remember the Natwest Trophy final in 2002 when Kaif-Yuvraj went against the grain. Everyone left the TV when Sachin Tendulkar was bowled and the last batting pair came to the crease!

Posted by Arvind on (May 6, 2011, 1:06 GMT)

Oh, really? You mentioned Bangla's game against England, but conveniently forgot their game against SA? Seriously, these last hour fightbacks occur rarely, and leaving is the right decision in majority of cases.

Posted by Arjun Kumar on (May 5, 2011, 12:01 GMT)

Great story. Reminds me of another thriller played out in the late 90s at Bangalore between India and (I think) Australia. Chasing about 215 to win, India were 160 for 8. It looked all over but for local boys Kumble and Srinath swinging their bats. At first it looked random and that they might get out anytime. But as the target score came closer, the excitement grew. India won. My lasting memory of this match that I watched on tv was that of the mother of Kumble jumping up and down in the stands.

Posted by Valerio on (May 5, 2011, 4:53 GMT)

Great story Samir. I knew a guy who went to an English football match with his dad when he was 11 years old. It was Leeds vs Manchester City in the 70's I believe. Manchester City were the top team in those days and were very good at hanging on to a lead (so I am lead to believe anyway). My friend and his dad were rabid (too rabid as you will see) Leeds supporters and attending the game was a rare treat. Anyway, Manchester City scored in the 11th minute, and that was enough for this guy's dad. In his opinion the game was over, so off they went, home, after 11 minutes. The final score in this one: Manchester City 1 - Leeds 0.

Posted by Bala Yugandar on (May 5, 2011, 0:31 GMT)

Indeed that match was a hopeless cause...I thought Kapil's dismissal to Bari's brilliant catch infront of the 1st slip was end of the road. Then Kirti smoked 2 boundaries of Azeem Hafiz but they still seemed to be desperate strokes of bravado....then Kirti started hitting them more regularly....he hit 4 glorious sixers and for sheer excitement this came almost close Kapil's 175 in WC the very same year. But from mid 80's to even 90's Pak specialized in winning totally lost causes against us. If Sharjah was most shining example, Saleem Malik almost improbable 60+ in calcutta(86-87), Elahi's 50+ again in Sharjah and quite a few more comebacks left the suffering fans depressed. Stirring comeback and India didn't go together until very late in the new century!

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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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