Sports come up with a lot of intangibles that we often find ourselves emotionally attached to. Moments and memories illuminated by persons and places. We all have our own collection of such precious pieces of memorabilia. Without us even noticing it they grow on us and they make a huge impression on our consciousness. They sometimes form a chapter in our life which goes well beyond the number of pages it should in a completely rational world.
Then one day we happen to read or hear somebody else saying something about that same thing, our very own personal treasure. We often feel that something is not right about this. “Will justice be done to that jewel in the realm of our memory ?”, we fear. “Nobody would or could appreciate and revere this as much as we do!”, we prejudice. So now I run that risk of writing about something that adorns the forefront of our cricketing memories. It started only as one of those many tri nations series in Sharjah in the year 1998, but in the end it became a folktale in our lives.
Yes, I am after the Desert Storm, those April nights in Sharjah. If we go by exact dates the desert storm happened on 22 April 1998. But without what followed on the 24th of April , would it have become an iconic moment of this magnitude ? So I would like to call this chapter ‘Desert Storm April 22 – 24, 1998’.
We often hear quotes like “Where were you when the Desert Storm happened ?”. But what if the answer is that you were in your bed at home, thinking about the game, cursing the cable connection for not having the channel telecasting the match. You wanted to go to a distant relative’s place where it was available, but then as a 9 year child you also wanted to hide the fact from people around you that you are somehow addicted to this game of cricket. Internet, live score updates and live streaming, you never saw it coming then. You picked up the newspaper the following day and had that mixed feeling reading the match reports. You couldn’t have written a better script, you felt rejoiced and you wouldn’t get to see something like this live in the future, you got despaired.
But within a few days you managed to get to see the full replay of the matches, yes replays, not highlights, definitely not the half an hour shows that we are presented with these days on T.V. That was to be the beginning only. You would go on to watch it time and time again for a million times since then. But still missing out on them live hurt you for a while. You started asking people whether they had managed to see it live, and if they had, you would think how lucky they were then.
Coming back to the highlights shows, on the field, Sachin had already been your king but they introduced you to a voice that was to become a household name in the coming years. Tony Greig all of a sudden would become your favourite commentator. ‘Whaddaplayer’ gave you goosebumps every time. And every time he said ‘Sachin tendulkar wants to win this match’, after he had managed to get India qualify for the finals, you would hold your breath and watch it even more closely as if expecting him to do it this time. But that was never to be the case, every time he would get out to Damien Fleming, “Tendulkar is walking”, Greig would say, everytime.
But the best part about them is that the highlights of these matches are often shown back to back, one after another. In the finals, you knew that Shane Warne would come around the wicket at once, and Sachin would greet him stepping down and hitting over long on and you cherished everytime the look on Warney’s face. Was he really swatting flies or was that a gesture of the disbelief on the treatment he received. You preferred to believe the latter.
On days when there would be no friends to play in the evening, you would recreate the match situations in your mind and replay the shots all on your own. You would run down the ground and play a front foot pull. You would then have a look at an imaginary Michael Kasprowicz in front of you and have a nod at him suggesting that you had his measure. You would scamper between the wickets, and after reaching the century, you would be pretty particular about not removing your helmet, there wasn’t one in any case. You would acknowledge the applause with that bat with an MRF sign holding it horizontally, not lifting it above your shoulder.
But the most you had done in stretching your imagination is when, you would assume a sandstorm blowing around you, all opposition players and umpires lying on the floor covering their face, you having that determined look on your face ready to counter the next ball, not even closing your eyes. Yes, you realized then that the Desert Storm chapter had really grown big on you.
Happy Birthday, Desert Storm (April 22-24, 1998), Happy Birthday Sachin Tendulkar.