If I am honest, I must say that I now take some pride in adding some ‘I was there’ moments to my live cricket viewing experience. And so there I was at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi for the second one day International between India and England. For a start, the name of the venue doesn’t evoke the same feeling as an Eden Gardens or a Wankhede does, there must be a dozen or even more Jawaharlal Nehru Stadiums across the country, as in the case of Mahatma Gandhi Roads in India. And secondly, It wasn’t a match where somebody made a record or some incredible batting or bowling performance was seen. Usually we associate ‘I was there’ with matches like these. So what was so special about the day ? I would like to call it this way. ‘I was there’ when the Indian cricket fans made it clear that they are not detached from the game as some point out and that they don’t need the cosmetic tweaks that some T20 league offers to a viewer’s experience to bring them to the ground. ‘I was there’ when the Indian fans made their voices heard and that too in a big way. ‘I was there’ when the noise levels for a match inside a stadium reached its maximum. If only they had a device to measure the decibel levels like the speed guns.
Frankly, when I decided to go for the match, I never thought that it would become a sell out like this. It was a weekday and Sachin Tendulkar had retired from ODIs. So I thought only nuts like myself would bunk their work and be there at the stadium. How wrong I was. I went with my cousins for the match and we got into the stadium a good two hours before the game and the crowd was filling up quickly even by then. We took our seats. One of the most enjoyable parts of reaching early is that you get to see the players doing their warm ups and the cheers they get when they first come out indicate how popular each of them are. People were ready with ‘Miss You Sachin’ placards and those with out that were too missing him, just like us. We were left to ponder how it would have felt if Sachin too was there playing.
So India won the toss, and they were batting. The English bowlers started with some short stuff and the openers were forced to the back foot and then two fuller deliveries accounted for them, clean bowled, both of them. Yuvraj Singh looked in supreme touch square driving, half pulling, cutting and scoring nearly a run a ball. At the other end was Kohli. He came into this match with some poor form and struggled through most of his innings. The spinner Tredwell got Yuvraj LBW and it was a poor decision from the umpire. As he was coming back we could see how disappointed he was at that decision. He was fuming with a mouth full of foul language. But Kohli was not to be left behind in that respect. After a delivery where England had only 4 fielders inside the circle, Kohli asked the umpire to call that ‘no ball’ and the umpire was having none of it. Kohli looked really angry and the next ball he faced from Samit Patel, he hit a six over extra cover inside out and I thought, yeah, finally he is back in track, but that was not to be. Chris Woakes got Kohli caught at deep point after an unnecessary attempt to charge the bowler.
We were left with the Captain and his trusted partner. Dhoni must have spend more time with Raina than with his wife Sakshi, oh no, why am I trying to sneak in these unwanted jokes here. Anyway Raina was playing cleanly if I have to use a word for his batting. Hitting boundaries from time to time and running well between the wickets, he made sure that the run rate was not dropped down drastically. As expected, the batting powerplay did India no good and they lost the wicket of Raina while it was on. Jadeja joined Dhoni and India was still not getting a move on. Their run rate never took that big leap during those overs and it was always around the 4.5 mark. After 42 overs India were 192 for 5.
Then came the moments that made this match memorable. It was not that surprising that India got 94 tuns in the last 8 overs considering MS Dhoni’s pedigree as a finisher. There is a template to a Dhoni innings in one dayers now. He just waits and waits and unleashes in the last few overs. He may play a lot of dot balls but he hardly hits a skier too early in his innings and get out leaving his side with no one to finish off the innings. Even though the crowd were cursing him while he was struggling to hit the boundaries at the beginning, at the end it was only ‘Dhoni Dhoni’ ringing around the place. At the other end, Jadeja in the initial parts struggled to get the ball off the square for even singles and then some loose deliveries by the English bowlers let him off the hook and that was it. He finished the Indian innings with 4, 4, 6 and India reached 286, which was a lot more than we expected half way through the innings.
The English innings virtually got over in the first 15 overs. After threatening to take the game away from India, Cook and Pietrersen got out. Cook was a bit unlucky with LBW decision though. England were 4 down after 15 overs and with no batsman of the class needed to pull of this chase, all of us were assured of an Indian victory by then. We were feeling a bit disappointed because the edge was taken away from the game. Even though we wanted Pietersen to get out it would have been far better if that had happened after him hitting a few sixes to where we were seated. In the end it was a bit of an anti climax as England folded up in 36 overs and that was that. Our day at this theater was coming to an end, a premature one we felt. To be fair to the English, the pitch started turning in the latter half of the match and batting looked tougher as the match progressed.
As I pointed out at the beginning, what made this match special was the crowd. They or rather ‘We’ were having a party out there.We must have done countless Mexican Waves and it was a sight to behold every time. Kevin Pietersen tweeted the next day ” For the record – last night was the best atmosphere I have ever played in front of.. Deafening! Thanks Kochi.. Love KP x “. I often fantasize about getting to watch a test match at Lord’s or at MCG. These traditional venues carry such an aura and romance that makes them a cricket tragic’s destination in dreams. But last Tuesday, even a free trip to these places would not have taken me away. The Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium was my place, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium at Kochi, Kerala, my own state was my place. 2012 was a frustrating year for Indian cricket supporters. With this win at Kochi, let us hope that 2013 will see a turn around in fortunes for our team.