March 27, 2015
Choice of match:
The semi-finals of the cricket World Cup are a natural choice for anyone who likes hunting for "big game". The fact that it was India v Australia, added a touch of romance, drama and guaranteed heartbreak.
I saw destiny in the prophetic words of the pop princess Taylor Swift: "I got a blank space baby, and I'll write your name." I decided to fill that blank space with India. I'm not the biggest fan of crickets, especially the chirpy creatures that provoke a sense of despair when they cross your path. It's probably how the Indian team felt when faced with Australia.
For the first 30 overs, Steven Smith was sublime. He had an extra split second to cut, drive and pull the Indian bowlers and he created the platform for Australia's mammoth total, which put the match beyond India's reach. For India, MS Dhoni and Shikhar Dhawan entertained with their big hits, as did Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane with credible 40s. Sadly, no one lasted long enough to seriously challenge Australia. The two Mitchells bowling ferocious bouncers with Test match-like fields never let India get a toehold in the match.
I was seated in the members pavilion at the SCG. Built over 130 years ago, this is a building steeped in sporting history, Victorian architecture and has the Don Bradman stand as its neighbour. The layout of the pavilion means that members and a few lucky spectators can sit close to the Australian players' change room, wander up the carpeted stairs into a bar (which served artisanal coffee and gastro pub cuisine on match day) and lord over the floodlit playing arena. My wow moment came when a setting sun magnified the beauty of our sport at the SCG.
Shot of the day
There were two shots that stood out for me. The first by Aaron Finch, who ramped Mohit Sharma for four, reminded of a surgeon's precision and an ice-skater's poise when he guided the ball. Poetry in motion for such a big lad. Rohit Sharma depositing Johnson's 148 kph screamer into the stands was a moment of collective release of emotions, and one of the moments in the game when India competed.
The stands were packed to capacity. Out of the 42,000 spectators, 70% were Indian, buzzing, heaving, and the heat was on when Australia claimed a bump-ball catch.
In Sydney, during the lunch hour, half of the central business district is busy running half-marathons in the nearby botanical gardens. For a nation with sport at its core, this sense of sportsmanship and respect for the opposition was evident even at the match. There was competitive banter among the spectators, but good cricket was cheered all round by the Australians and Indians alike.
Two kangaroos on pogo sticks jumping away, and four orange Lycra-clad turbanators impressed the fashionista in me. This was complemented by the myriad blues and tri-coloured ethnic wear that Indian spectators generally show up in.
In terms of music, the DJs had a good sense of humour and timing. They opened with Move like Jagger to get the crowd swaying. Avicii's Wake me up when it's all over, was almost a prophecy of the result India would face.Surprisingly, the DJ had a highly evolved sense of Indian music. The ethnic flavour was provided by Pussy Cat Dolls' version of Jai Ho, Vande Mataram to get the tears flowing and Men at Work's Down Under every time an Indian wicket fell.
Marks out of 10
8. It was a one-sided thumping! Well done to the Australian team, they played like champions in the making. As for India, the shoulders are drooping with disappointment, but the head is still held high with honour.
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Nikhil Chouguley is a London-based finance guru, an air-miles hunter and a cricket aficionado. A fast-bowling allrounder who played with Preston Momsen (captain of Scotland) at a club in Edinburgh, he counts winning the oldest Twenty20 cricket competition in the world (1891) as his proudest cricketing moment. Now he's on the lookout for an IPL contract to bring non-cricketing skills to an after-party.
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