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Historic spectacle celebrated in right spirit

The fans - Indian and West Indian - who came to watch the first T20 international in Florida were treated to an amazing game, and they enjoyed it together

Dwayne Bravo exults with his team-mates after West Indies' one-run win, India v West Indies, 1st T20I, Florida, August 27, 2016

West Indies won an incredible game, but the Indian fans at the venue did not complain  •  BCCI

One ball, two runs to win. One to tie. A few seconds pass in silence. Hands are clasped together; the pressure palpable. And then red flags erupted as West Indian supporters came running down the stands of Central Broward Regional Park.
A one-run victory for West Indies. The fans could have asked for little more.
After the initial shock of loss wore off, the Indian fans applauded, realising what an unprecedented game of cricket they had witnessed. More than 30 sixes and fours; 489 runs separated by one.
"You can't get a better finish than this to conclude the first Indian match in the US.," a West Indian fan called out to a group of Indian fans. They hugged and shook hands. They had got their money's worth, and some of the tickets were not cheap.
The game was an example of why cricket goes beyond who wins and loses. It goes beyond who takes the Man-of-the-Match award home. It was all about enjoying the thrill and the uncertainty of sport. With eight runs needed to win in the last over, the Indian fans looked confident, pumping fists and waving flags. But they wouldn't be heartbroken if India didn't make it. To witness the game was all that mattered to them.
They wanted a spectacle and they got one.
KL Rahul and Evin Lewis kept the crowd entertained in both innings, their cover drives and midwicket sixes elicited wild cheers from the crowd. Both got standing ovations when they reached their centuries.
"Chak de India," screamed a fan and the rest followed suit. Sometimes a West Indian fan joined in.
When Rahul cruised to his century with a six, the crowd chanted "Rahul, Rahul." When Dwayne Bravo pulled off the near impossible - denying India eight in the final over - the crowd chanted "DJ, DJ."
It was not about who would win. It was about how.
"If there is one person who could do it, it is DJ," said West Indian fan Geta Whitehall, waving her flag and jumping in excitement. Despite the overwhelming Indian fan base, the West Indian fans remained confident throughout. "We're closer to home, you know," said Chris Whitehall.
Midway through the first innings, a dance broke out in the stands next to the press box. A West Indian fan and an Indian were battling it out. The crowd chanted words of encouragement. Bhangra on one side. West Indian jive on the other. The fans bonded like never before.
"Most people have never witnessed India playing here before. The passion and happiness is more intense here because of how rare cricket is played here," said Gourabh Arora, an Indian fan who flew down with his nine-year-old daughter from Virginia.
After the game, MS Dhoni said Indian fans follow the team wherever they go and it was a pleasure to play in front of the crowd. "Even if we're playing in the Bermuda Triangle, they'll be there," he said. Dhoni also joked about how the closest people came to witnessing sixes here were home runs in baseball and not many of those are scored in a game.
At the tail end of the chase, the big screen read: "Fan of the day - Cherry." And the stand next to the press box broke into loud cheers. Cherry Patel, an Indian fan from Tampa, was going to get a chance to get a photo with Virat Kohli. She stood up on the chair and screamed, the painting of the word "Virat" visible on her legs. The crowd cheered "Cherry, Cherry."
The crowd stayed back for the presentation ceremony as Ravi Shastri's booming voice rang around the stadium. "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I won't forget this," said Raja Selvaraj, an engineer from Atlanta.
Fans walked out, flags and posters safely tucked away in their bags.
"We are coming back tomorrow," they said.

Aishwarya Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Washington, DC