The weather could not be any more perfect for what turned out to be one of the most unforgettable matches of my life. Not just for the reasons on field, but it was the last time two legends of Indian cricket would take guard in a limited overs match.
Being a hardcore Dravid fan(atic), I reached the stadium well before time, dragging my friends who were equally excited, albeit cheering for the other side. We had booked the tickets a long time back even before we knew who would be in the finals. As our Facebook friends enviously looked at our check-ins, I knew no one could take that night away from me. My throat and eyes refused to surrender as I cheered for my men in the darker shade of blue!
Weirdly enough, my favourite Sachin moment turned out to be before the match even started. When the teams took field for practice, I was sulking because Mumbai Indians were near us. Anyone would have died to be in my place but my eagle eyes were on Rajasthan Royals. I enviously looked at their flexible bodies as they stretched, jumped, ran, exercised their apparently boneless limbs.
The Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, played a simple catch the ball game. It was here that I got to witness Sachin’s childlike glee which commentators, journalists, players have often talked about. I was spellbound as I saw the open laughter that reached his eyes. Was this the guy who was apparently being forced into retirement? Was this the guy whom the crowd tortures by mouthing his name fanatically each time he walks out to bat? I was seeing the guy who has been through this drill every single day for the last 20 years but that smile was like that of a newcomer!
Mumbai Indians plundered runs mercilessly and I helplessly glared on as the crowd screamed out loud for the Rajasthan blood. Since when did Delhiites show immense loyalty to Mumbai Indians? I could only wonder that loud since there was no one to hear me. Sachin perished early but not before knocking off couple of fours in his full glory. The much predictable stunned silence around Kotla was replaced by a warm applause which wasn’t quite enough to thank his services to the world of cricket.
Soon, Rohit Sharma’s perfect stance as he hit that sleek cover drive, which was so very orgasmic, was in front of me. But I refused to applaud his efforts, playing the part well of a loyal Rajasthan Royal. Maxwell came in and hit a huge six right away. I instantly did a facepalm and the whole world saw my disappointment on television. My misery continued for the next few overs as Mumbai mercilessly chewed Rajasthan’s bowlers on.
The innings break made me thirsty for more. Not the anticipation for the next innings, but because water bottles were banned inside the stadium! In came Anjinkya Rahane and a man who did not look like Dravid. K. Perera walked in, in what could have been a master-move by the captain, for the asking rate was 11 per over.
It was as if the two maestros of Indian cricket had passed on the baton to the youngsters Sanju Samson and Ajinkya Rahane as they ensured it was one hell of a match while they were on the crease. A few sixes off Samson’s bat were targeted at my stand and I knew we were still in the game.
Sanju Samson furiously whipped up a quick 60 from 33 balls which was astounding seeing his lean profile and tender age. The national selectors would do well to keep an eye on this young lad. He was well supported by Rahane who quietly notched up his fourth consecutive half century in style.
I cursed Harbhajan as he chose this match to give his best by quickly picking up 3 wickets in an over. I sent a few telepathic messages to Brad Hodge who was unlucky to miss out on this game due to an injury which he suffered in the previous match. Finally, in came Dravid at number 8. After a couple of much needed slogs, owing to the escalating asking run-rate, the shattering of his stumps broke my heart into several pieces.
Agonizingly, I joined the stadium in applauding him goodbye for one last time. The last wicket soon fell as Rajasthan Royals lost the last 8 wickets for a mere 32 runs. Well deservingly, Rahane and Tambe took the honours of the Golden Bat and Ball of the Tournament respectively.
While I sulked at Mumbai Indians and their fans’ celebration, Dravid came onto the field along with the support staff and applauded a section of the crowd. That turned out to be my favourite Dravid moment where I got to see his humility by gracefully thanking the crowd which cheered their lungs out for him. While Sachin hogged the limelight by being lifted by his teammates during the victory lap, once again, Dravid was shunned into the dark. Ironically, it was fitting as Sachin always overshadowed Dravid so even the last match was no exception.
My TV debut, Sachin and Dravid’s last limited over match as well as good cricket from both sides, was what the Champions League final was all about. Just a tip – Lip balms, coins, tabs (the phone not the medicinal tablet!), belts are not allowed in the stadium. Be warned!