911. That's just a concatenation of my current plan and eventual hope for this tournament - I'll be at all nine India group games and hope for India to play the maximum of 11 games, obviously with me attending them all. My brother, Raghavendra, travelled from Bangalore to accompany me to eight India league games.
India. As some cricketers say, if one has a long career, the milestones come along. Similar from a fans' perspective, if one attends events constantly over years, then milestones happen. Having been at Ahmedabad 2011 and Sydney 2015, this was my hat-trick of India-Australia World Cup encounters. While my brother accompanied me to the 2011 quarter-final, he did not travel to Sydney in 2015. It was a successful comeback for the siblings.
Shikhar Dhawan was the standout performer. His aggression at the top and relentless strokeplay through the middle overs made life difficult for the Australian attack. That solid platform provided the license for the middle order of Hardik Pandya, MS Dhoni and KL Rahul to throw caution to the wind.
The wow moment for me was a very Aussie effort by one of the Indian fielders. Aaron Finch had made his intentions clear with 19 runs off the 10th over and worryingly, the Indian attack did not appear to have a retort to Finch in prime form. As Warner hit the ball towards extra cover, the call for two seemed a risky affair from the outset. I watched closely from the stands, as Kedar Jadhav rushed in, picked the ball up and quickly relayed it back to Pandya to break the stumps. It was apparent with the naked eye that Finch was a goner and the crowd roared in approval of that superlative Jadhav effort.
With David Warner being out of sorts, I would have sent in Glenn Maxwell or Alex Carey in place of Usman Khawaja at No.3 to stop Australia from getting too far behind in the chase.
Warner got away off the first ball from Jasprit Bumrah, wherein the ball hit the stumps, but the bails didn't dislodge. It is extremely frustrating that the ICC has let the situation drift to this point. My greatest fear is that this could occur at a crucial juncture of the tournament and could mean the end of the road for some team. That would be a travesty.
The Australian World Cup attire brought back my first memories of cricket - the World Series Cricket with its floodlights, white ball and more significantly, mind-blowing jersey designs. It centred around something fundamental as A-B-C.
India supporters occupied more than 90% of the stadium, with isolated pockets of Australia fans. The stadium was absolutely packed and unlike Hampshire Bowl in Southampton, the cramped seating at The Oval packed more people together and certainly added to the decibel levels.
While Australian supporters predominantly stuck to match jerseys, their Indian counterparts came up with innovative versions of their traditional wear. The 1999 World cup jersey replicas are on sale through the ICC fan shops and many fans sported their respective country replicas. While it wasn't quite fancy dress, a group of about four-five England supporters were spotted outside the Lock/Laker stand, sporting India's 1999 jerseys and hats, loudly chanting "Jeetega bhai Jeetega, India Jeetega". Obviously they had taken to support the opponents of their traditional enemy.
Seemingly not recognised by the fans milling around, the unassuming Monty Panesar sported a relaxed look as he headed out of the Pavilion stand. He stopped to acknowledge and pose for selfies with the few fans who did recognise him.
In this age of T20-fuelled batting, Maxwell's second boundary in the 37th over was the sort one wouldn't associate with him in such a chase. The delicate glide between the keeper and gully got a boundary and also got opposition fans to worry.
Dhoni's presence sent the crowd into delirium as "Dhoni, Dhoni" chants erupted spontaneously. As Dhoni departed after a good little cameo, it just occurred to me that this might well be the last occasion for us to have seen him play in an Indian jersey in that wonderful ground in Lambeth.
An absolute 10 and a perfect day out. Fantastic all-round display by India, the best atmosphere I have ever experienced over the decades at The Oval, with plenty of singing through the day and a post-match party at the Fentiman Arms with friends.
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