ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
England v Ireland, Group B, World Cup 2011, Bangalore
'Watch out India, you're next'
Abhishek Purohit in Bangalore
March 2, 2011
Strangers embraced; total strangers, Indian and Irish, without inhibition at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. It was almost as though they'd been waiting to exhale for the longest time - for 20-odd overs, when the unthinkable first appeared within reach once Kevin O'Brien began his battering. As John Mooney finally despatched Jimmy Anderson to the recesses beyond the midwicket boundary, the hundreds gathered at the ground let go all at once.
As the Ireland team celebrated mid-pitch in a raw burst of emotions, so did their fans, who had not given up when Ireland were 111 for 5. They had dared to dream along with O'Brien, they had willed Mooney on, and finally, they had believed in Trent Johnston. Their reward was what one delirious fan called "the biggest sporting achievement in the history of Ireland." How special was it? "Come on, this one's against the English!"
In the crazed moments after the historic win, standard reporting practice went out of the window. There was no point in asking for names or back stories; the fans, fuelled by whatever was available inside the ground, were in seventh heaven, unable to comprehend the manner and magnitude of the achievement.
"It doesn't matter if we get beaten by everyone else in this World Cup. What matters is that we have beaten the English," one fan said.
Wednesday's win came in the backdrop of the ICC reaffirming its decision to cut the next World Cup down to ten teams and, though it's been a sore point with Ireland and other Associate nations, it didn't seem to matter a jot today. "We don't want to play Tests. We don't want to do anything. The World Cup is over for us. This is it," shouted a tall, Boyd Rankin lookalike.
Some supporters had almost given up after seeing Ireland stutter early in their mammoth chase but they decided to wait as long as Kevin O'Brien was batting. "We had decided that we'd leave if Kevin O'Brien got out. But he didn't. Oh, he just didn't get out. He just kept going on and on. It's a massive innings. It's just fantastic," said Rankin-lookalike's companion.
Keeping them company was a smattering of locals, who were cheering for the underdog and were soon turned into believers. Suddenly, what was a leisurely outing with the family turned into fierce rooting for the Irish. Singles were loudly cheered, boundaries drowned in the cacophony - as much as a few thousand could muster - usually reserved for Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar. When a close second run was attempted, there were frantic cries of "beda, beda" ("don't" in Kannada). Alex Cusack's run-out drew groans, the eerie silence that accompanied O'Brien's was deafening.
The pre-match prediction was that it would all end in tears. It did - but tears of joy when the winning boundary was hit and more of them when an emotional O'Brien accepted his Man-of-the-Match award. Soon they dispersed into the night, and as they made their way out of Chinnaswamy Stadium and into the depths of Cubbon Park, they thanked the Indians among the crowd for their support.
But they did so with one caveat. An elderly Irishman, his eyes glistening with pride, said it all. "The Indian fans are good and friendly. But after today, watch out India. You are next." The Green Army marches on.
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