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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
It was India versus Pakistan, in Dhaka. That kind of a thing happens literally once in 12 years, and my absolute sweetheart of a friend got hold of two of the most sought-after tickets of the year, through her dad's contacts. I felt the match was more important than my electrical engineering lectures, and to my surprise, I found two of my favourite lecturers from the university in the same gallery as me.
Pakistan, because their win would allow Bangladesh a slightly easier equation to reach the finals. Though, I would have supported Pakistan regardless.
Virat Kohli. The man, bursting with confidence from a dream run, was a class apart. To me he resembled a mountaineer - focussed, gritty, and determined to keep going no matter what the circumstance. The strength of his mind outdid his muscles by a fair margin, which was something, given the muscle-power on display. In the end, he did justice to his name, getting too "Virat" (Hindi/Bangla for "big") for Pakistan.
One thing I'd have changed
Wahab Riaz's lunch menu. Or the DVD he watched the night before. Or maybe the alignment of his bowling shoulder a little bit to the left, so that all those deliveries down the leg side would have been on line. Hard to believe it was the same guy who took a five-for the last time these two sides met.
Face-off you relished
Saeed Ajmal v Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin looked like his old self against the seamers, timing everything exquisitely. But against Ajmal he stumbled, more than once, and was eventually outfoxed by his doosra.
Suresh Raina pulled off a Paul Collingwood-ish blinder at cover to send a dangerous-looking Younis Khan back. If he loses his touch with the bat, Raina can certainly audition for the position of "Seeker" in any Quidditch team.
Praveen Kumar fielded near where we were sitting, and he got heckled for his name, which when translated to Bangla means "elderly bachelor".
Close encounter II
I met the Indian supporter who claims to be Sachin's biggest fan, and backs it up with his action. His face and torso were painted perfectly in the India colours, and "Sachin" was written on his back. He was blowing a conch shell and wielding a huge Indian tricolour flag. He is such a common sight at India's games worldwide, and it was good to have him at our gallery.
Shot of the day
Tendulkar's upper-cut off Aizaz Cheema in the fifth over was like a maestro doing a quick encore of one of his oldest, most famous classic sonatas. It was a moment to reminisce on a bad day - that I have seen Tendulkar hit a bowler for six over the keeper's head will surely cheer me up no matter how low I may be feeling!
Despite it being the first weekday, the stands were packed long before offices closed. The atmosphere was festive, upbeat and dynamic. Pakistan were narrow favourites, especially because a victory for them would pretty much shut India out of the final, and open it up for Bangladesh. The loudest cheers, very predictably, went up for the two most loved characters of the game in this part of the world - Tendulkar and Shahid Afridi.
With too many restrictions on what we could take into the stadium premises, all we managed was my friend's little camera, whose lens covered just us and the wide-angle shots of the grounds.
It was a high-scoring encounter, had three centuries, and a stunner of a catch. Not much more to expect from an ODI. The atmosphere in the stands was scintillating and the weather just about perfect. Can't complain, unless you're a hardcore Pakistan supporter. Then again, the players have themselves to blame for the defeat.
Marks out of 10
The game would get an 8.5 from me, the deductions being for Pakistan's listless bowling and fielding efforts, and the overall toothless-ness of the Indian bowling attack.
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