Prem Panicker

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Prem has been writing about cricket since 1996 -- and sometimes wishes he hadn't.

To be seven years old again!

Meet Charvi.

She is the seven year old daughter of my colleague, Priya. And she stole my heart as the April 2 World Cup final unfolded at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.

I remember the exact moment. It was the 10th over; Nuwan Kulasekhara straightened the second ball of the over onto the middle stump line. Virat Kohli, who at that point had gone 10 balls without opening his account, flowed into the shot, and with perfect timing and unsuspected power, flicked hard to beat the fine leg fielder to the fence.

There were close to 20 of us in the Yahoo newsroom in Bangalore at the time, watching on the two screens in the edit bay. And as the fielder retrieved the ball and threw it back, all was silent.

It was a stark contrast to the earlier mood. We had gathered in the newsroom a good hour before the game; as Zaheer marked his run up, the first of many bottles of beer was being opened; as the game progressed and India dominated with the ball and in the field, the beer was supplemented by prime bottles of vodka and whisky.

And the noise! Fueled in equal parts by alcohol and adrenalin, stoked to a blaze by the sense of imminent possibility, the Y! newsroom was making noise enough to rival the Wankhede -- and not even the late explosion by Jawardene and Perera could damp the decibel levels.

"274! Hmph! We've got the batting to chase that with ease" summed up the prevailing mood.

India began the chase. Off the second ball, Viru Sehwag was nailed plumb by Lasith Malinga. The noise continued unabated.

"If Viru scores, it's a bonus, that is all. The team doesn't depend on him. The real batsmen are all still there."

Then Sachin Tendulkar got out. He walked off -- and with him went all that edgy energy that had permeated our space. What replaced it was the silence of death -- the death of dreams, of hope.

Kohli got off the mark with that four. And Charvi -- who needed no artificial stimulants to fuel her buoyant enthusiasm -- began bouncing around the newsroom, her clear treble raised in a compelling chant.

"India! India! INDIA!!!"

She seemed surprised to find hers the lone voice in a wilderness of despair, so she took to coming to each one of us in turn, bouncing up and down in front of us, her voice raised higher still in that ceaseless chant, as if daring us to stay unmoved.

Gambhir danced down the track, took Perera on the half-volley, blasted it over midwicket.

"He is taking too many risks," someone said. "Ab out ho jayega!"

"Indiaaaa-INDIA!!", Charvi said.

Gambhir cracked Kulasekhara over the covers. Next ball, he took a single. Charvi greeted both the four, and the single, with equal enthusiasm.

Charvi didn't know that at the ten over mark, India was ahead of Sri Lanka (41/1 against 31/1). That by the 15 over mark, that lead had been stretched further: 81/1 against 58/1.

Not being a 'monkey with a calculator' (Amit Varma's pithy phrase for journalists -- and by extension, cricket fans -- who only know to read statistical tea leaves, not understand and appreciate the patterns of the game as it unfolds), Charvi didn't appreciate that the opening up of a gap in the scoring patterns meant that India was, in the middle overs, making up for the Sri Lankan mayhem at the death, and positioning themselves for an assault on the target.

Her worldview was simple: her team was playing; two young sweat-streaked players were out there under lights, scoring runs, fighting on, not giving up.

She wasn't about to let them down.

Just as they weren't about to let her down.

Perhaps with the instinctive understanding of the truly young and unspoilt, Charvi understood what makes this team great, what sets it apart from its predecessors: the knowledge that as long as a game is live, there is hope; that as long as the team is out there on the field, fighting, defeat is not a consideration.

We -- the cynical 'elders' who show all the inconsistency of weathercocks; we, who fell silent when one player got out; we, who walked in our dozens out of the stadium because we anticipated defeat before it was upon us -- think of it as our team. But it is, in attitude and belief, Charvi's team; its component parts are more closely aligned with Charvi's optimistic mindset than with our own cynical, been there seen that all before pessimism.

Thus, when questioned about the absence of a key bowler in the semi-finals, a Suresh Raina could say, simply, "Main hoon na!".

Thus, while the game was on we talked endlessly about Sachin Tendulkar's propensity to 'choke' on the big occasion (and while on that, read this excellent post by Siddharth Vaidyanathan on Tendulkar and the big occasion).

That is our attitude, and it is a fair-weather one. There is another, and it was exemplified by Virat Kohli who, when asked about his chairing of Sachin Tendulkar on his shoulders could respond, with easy grace: "He has carried Indian cricket on his shoulders for 22 years; it is only right that we carry him on our shoulders today."

In an excellent piece written after the final, blogger and author Greatbong, who was seven when India last won the Cup in 1983, pointed out why winning the Cup matters. He said:

"It matters because it makes us believe we are part of something bigger than our insignificant selves.

It matters because it creates a new pantheon of legends for a new generation."

Exactly. A new pantheon, for a new generation. Charvi's generation. Because we are grown too old, too cynical, too world-weary (Even as the chase was on, there was an SMS doing the rounds, 'predicting' the outcome and suggesting the game was fixed), to deserve heroes.

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