Let me take you back in time to the summer of 1983 to the lush greens of Lords. The stage was set. The timid Indian team was put up against the roaring lions of West Indies. Having won the last 2 world cups, Clive Lloyd’s men were all set to repeat history and clinch the cup once again. Only, it was not to be. Even after putting up a minial score of 183 on the board, the Indian bowling exploited the weather and pitch conditions perfectly to bowl out the best batting lineup of the era for 140 from 52 overs in return, winning by 43 runs and completing one of the most stunning upsets in cricket history. This was an almost unbelievable win – further reiterating the fact that Indians can do wonders when no one expects them to! Kapil Dev then lifted the cup he probably never expected to, leaving a nation starved of any kind of sporting title, hysterical! In many ways, it was Kapil Dev’s men who brought cricket to each and every household. The image of World Cup in his hands is probably one of the most recognized pictures in India.
And ever since that fateful night, our cricketers have bore the burden of legacy! Everytime they went to play the World Cup, they were reminded (in not so subtle ways) that it was time to bring the cup back! The entire Nation would pray and wish for their victory… We would back them up whole-heartedly… Elevate them to the level of Gods.. and when they crumbled under the pressure of fulfilling the dream of 120-billion people, we would spare no obscenities and sometimes even cause harm to their families. Some of us would go to the extent of vowing never to watch Cricket again… I remember how my dad always used to switch off the television everytime Sachin got out… Coz thats how we were back then… solely depending on the master blaster to perform. If it was his day, no team in the world could stop us… If it wasn’t, we could easily lose to the minnows! For years, maybe decades, Indian cricket had only one player in the form of a tiny little man, whose shoulders not only carried the remaining 10 which form a team, but also the entire nation’s hopes! And that one man was deprived of only one sporting award (if possible) and that was the ever-eluding World Cup!
The stage was set again… 28 years later and this time, in the historic journey… it was those 10 others who gave their sweat and blood to win the world cup… for that one man!!! At 38, it was going to be possibly his last world cup. As a team, we had the toughest journey to that grand finale, beating not just Australia but also Pakistan on the way to meet Sri Lanka who were in good form and desperate to take the 2nd world cup home (Their first being in 1996).
When Dhoni clinched it with that historic Six, a billion eyes lit up and sparkled with the glory that had been evading us for so long… As I saw Virat Kohli and Bhajji lift Sachin on their shoulders for the victory lap, I felt a tear kiss the cheek… It was finally ours…
To India. To Sachin.