Let one start by admitting that this is not going to be the standard match summary/ report that one reads on haloed cricket sites. This is a fan’s account of the celebration, torture, hope, despair and sweat, which was the IPL semi final between the Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils.
The day started normally. One had no intentions to watch the match at the stadium. Long discussions on the previous evening had convinced every one in the room (cant call a dealing room a department) that watching the match in a pub with friends was far superior to going through the trials and tribulations of a Wankhede visit. Come noon, a few brave souls had started calling up friends to enquire about their well being in general and availability of extra tickets in particular. The replies were encouraging but needed a wait of another couple of hours. There was an air of quiet confidence in the group. Things began to change over the passage of a couple of hours. Confidence gave way to hope, hope to expectancy, expectancy to stark reality. Reality is like a life jacket. It takes long to sink in. One could hear growing mutterings about the stupidity of sitting in a packed stadium watching some pointless match. A couple of hours before the scheduled start time, plans were afoot to watch the game at a pub, when Christmas reached the shores of Nariman Point a tad early. Someone had caught hold of Santa Claus and arranged for 10 tickets.
This caused a surge of excitement across the room and frantic calls to the better halves were made excusing themselves for the evening. As is the norm in this country droughts are followed by floods. Sipping cold barley water at a watering hole, trying to fortify against the inhuman heat of the city, one suddenly realized that 15 tickets for 10 people was a bit of the American style of living. 5 lucky co-guzzlers were the recipients of Santa’s benevolence. Their initial reaction was of frank incredulence. They checked and rechecked the tickets to figure the catch. There was none. Having done the good deed of the year, one proceeded to the stadium.
The semi final was billed to be a clash of the titans. Shane Warne had turned an average Rajasthan Royals (RR) team into an outstanding one. Virender Sehwag’s Delhi Dare Devils (DD) was well balanced. One was interested in the spectators’ reaction to the two teams as the home team was already out of the semi finals. Royals seemed to be winnings hands down in this category. The huge roar that preceded McGrath’s first ball was just an anomaly. The majority were backing the Royals. Normally Indian crowds back the underdog. A team which was standing at the top of the points table in the league stage couldn’t be termed as one. But the perception of RRs being a weak team, which was built up before the start of the IPL seemed to be lingering after a span of some 40 odd days. Or maybe it’s just that Mumbaikars disliked Delhi more.
Graeme Smith, who was injured in the prior two matches was opening with Swapnil Asnodkar. The first over went off quietly without any major cricketing action. Mohammed Asif seemed to forget that Asnodkar was a passable boxer at a young age. Upper cuts and jabs and pulls continued to form a large part of his cricketing prowess. A straight bat was anathema to him. A couple of short ones from Asif and the floodgates opened. Graeme Smith immediately pulled one of his many muscles and asked for a runner.
Whether Sehwag commented on this later in the post match conference is not known. If a player who has sat out of 2 matches with a suspect injury is played in a crucial tie with common knowledge that he may get unfit during the course of the match then the opposition captain has every right to deny him a runner. Adam Gilchrist had commented on the DDs strategy of using good fielders as substitutes. It did bring into picture the concept of fair play. Smith’s inclusion highlighted it.
With Smith and Asnodkar giving a flier of a start, Yo Mahesh decided to contribute. And boy, did he contribute. He was pulled, flicked, cut with impudence. Maharoof dropped a sleeper (it was easier than a sitter). The momentum seemed to be turning the Royals’ way. Smith departed, followed by Asnodkar with Maharoof trying to make up for his earlier lapse. In walked Shane Watson. The stadium erupted. His name was chanted with a religious fervour. He didn’t disappoint. Along with some help from Yomy, he never let the run rate slacken despite wickets falling at regular intervals. Sehwag got Asif back desperately trying to get Watson. Why he didn’t try to bowl himself or throw the ball to Dilshan will never be known. The highlight of the evening was a gala solo from who else but, dear reader you guessed it right, Yo Mahesh. A Watson shot sailed in the air towards deep mid wicket. YM who was probably wearing a telescope lens in the reverse, thinking the ball to be far ahead of him rushed forward gallantly. The ball seemed to have reassessed the situation and decided to jump and kick a bit more. YM was seen lying flat on his stomach on the practice pitch and the ball was lying outside the boundary. That one moment encapsulated the day for the DDs. Yusuf Pathan got into action with his customary swats and the scoreboard showed 192 by the end of 20 overs.
It was heading to be a good close match. Sehwag and Gambhir had been in good touch and with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Dilshan, Dinesh Karthik and Manoj Tewary to follow, the match was on. Well it got switched off pretty early. In fact it never was switched on. Watson cleaned up the top 3. Even Munaf Patel looked threatening. The crowd was getting restless. It had come to watch a breath taking contest but only the extreme heat and humidity seemed to be succeeding in doing that for them. By the eighth over the fat lady had sung and the stadium was emptying out. Watching Warne bowl was the only reason that kept one glued to the seat. Once that objective was achieved one was out of the stadium in a flash.
The walk back home was not pleasant. Cabs were at a premium and after half an hour and a 4 km walk one was back at one’s castle swearing never to watch a live game again.
As one is writing this, frantic calls are being made to check the availability of tickets for today’s game.
Posted by Rahul