March 19, 2015
Choice of game
After watching bits and pieces of most tournaments, it was my dream to achieve a 4-2-1 - watching all four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and the final of the World Cup. The way the Indian team turned itself around after the tri-series, and the schedule - which made it impossible to travel from Adelaide to Wellington before the fourth quarter-final - made me settle for a 3-2-1.
India. My first World Cup game was the second quarter-final of the 1996 World Cup - that game against Pakistan in Bangalore. Between that match and Melbourne, India have played only one other quarter-final game - during the 2011 World Cup, also the second quarter-final of that tournament. I was present at the Motera stadium on that amazing day in Ahmedabad, when Australia were knocked out. By planning to be in Melbourne, I was hoping to extend my (and India's) unbeaten (second) quarter-final record.
Choice of attire
The standard ODI fare - 1999 World Cup jersey, flaming hair-do, face-paint and the works. With most Indian and English grounds banning the use of musical instruments, my poor old bugle was in hibernation since the 2013 Champions Trophy final. Given the leniency of the Australian ground authorities, it made a deserved comeback on my accessory list.
Virat Kohli's wicket. Rubel Hossain ran in hard in his first spell and hardly gave away runs. No sooner had Kohli edged the ball behind to Mushfiqur Rahim, one saw a huge contrast among the two sets of fans: the Indian supporters faces' dropped in despair, while the Bangladesh fans belted out their chants and waved their flags, as an opportunity to fell another big team beckoned.
In the 46th over, Rohit sent a ball sailing over long-on. Positioned bang behind the Bangladesh team bench, an Indian supporter took a step to his right and took an excellent two-handed catch. He was so overjoyed that he held on to the ball, fist-pumping and celebrating for almost half a minute.
A thin line
The review of lbw decision against Suresh Raina was interesting. When the big screens showed slow motion replays of the ball hitting the pads, it appeared to pitch in line with the stumps and the decision seemed inevitable. However, a closer look at the pitch map showed that the ball had pitched outside leg by the thinnest of margins. If the outcome of that appeal were different, the Indian total would have likely been much lower and could have given Bangladesh an opportunity to provide a stiffer fight.
With over 51,000 fans on a week day, one could call this game a success in crowd terms. Though a majority of the crowd was Indian - and they also won the volume stakes hands down - the excitement of the passionate Bangladesh fans was visible during my journey from the Sydney airport all the way to the MCG. It was good to see the Bangladesh team provide some joy to their loyal fans during the course of this tournament.
Being seated quite close to the Bangladesh bench, I could see Heath Streak make his way repeatedly to the fine leg and third man fielders for quick chats. On one such occasion, it seemed like the request was to attack more and get men in catching positions. Though the request came in the middle of the over, the third-man fielder immediately relayed instructions, and a second slip was put in place before the next ball was bowled.
Shot of the day
Raina's six to long-on off Shakib's first ball of the 37th over. It sailed over the ropes and confirmed that India's charge was well and truly on
Fancy dress index
With two sub-continent teams in this contest, it promised to be a very colourful occasion. The Indian fans sported different shades of blue to go along with the tricolour making an appearance in paint, on dresses and even contact lenses! The Bangladesh fans displayed tigers in many forms - soft toys, face-paint, small tigers stuck on caps etc. The standout for me was the headgear of a few cricket tourists from Mysore.
During the presentation ceremony and well after the match, a man in the No. 84 jersey made his appearance often. Stuart Binny went jogging around the MCG after the game was over. He kept going, for five or six rounds and this provided a glimpse of the drive MS Dhoni, Ravi Shastri and the team management have instilled in the squad.
Marks out of 10
8. It was a good win for India, but not clinical by any means. If Raina or Rohit had fallen before the 35th over, the final score may have been lower and the game itself would have been much closer. The atmosphere at the G was fantastic.
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