Dreams do come true!

As a kid who grew up and just came to understanding things around him in the mid 80’s in India could not have been more influenced by anything as much as the the cricket explosion in the country. I was no different.

The ’83 world cup, the World Series in 85/86, the 2-0 test series victory in England in 1986 and the so near yet so far Reliance World Cup in 1987 were enough to want me to do nothing but be out there on the field and keep aspiring to become a cricketer. I have lived my life along these cricketers, in my head they were always there, we had conversations. I Read all sports section in the Gujarati and English newspapers, subscribed to the Sportstar occasionally even read the hindi magazine Cricket Samrat. From collecting crowns of Thums Up for getting flip books of a Sunil Gavaskar straight drive or a Vivian Richards pull shot or collecting wrappers of Big Fun the 25 paise chewing gum for Shrikant’s posters for me while growing up the staple diet was cricket and nothing else.

A first love as I always like to call it, I don’t claim to be a historian or a statistician or an expert but I claim to be a lover of the sport. Its a never ending love affair, with the Indian team’s performance becoming my mood driver.

In my boards in 10th India were touring New Zealand and my Mom was surprised when on the first day she heard me putting an alarm for 3.30, she couldn’t believe I was gonna study, but well I did study during the ad. breaks of that tour, only reason I got first class in 10th.

If the mid 80’s were inspiring for an Indian cricket fan, the 90’s were damning, the team that was set to take on the the cricketing world slackened, became tigers at home, lambs abroad, slowly a lot of people in this country started depending on just one guy to lift the mood of the country. The reason why Sachin became what he was is somewhere in this I would like to believe. India looked like they would become now a pretty combative a team in world cricket during the mid 80’s but like the nation itself its cricketers perhaps did not believe in it and so when kids like us were growing with high aspirations, loving only cricket and nothing else during the 90’s there was only one refuge the Sachin batting display among a lot of losses abroad, we would lose a test horribly and yet we would seek our happiness in that back foot punch off a 7 feet tall fast bowler through cover that our short master blaster would deliver time and again. Whilst some other batters and our spinners would put their hand up when we played in our own country abroad it was a decade of some pretty ordinary results.

It was here that the obsession in my head started to take shape more, increasingly I started to judge our batsmen on how they performed in countries like Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand at one point even performances in Zimbabwe mattered more than in India.

I can for one never get over the loss in Bridgetown in 1997 when India needed 120 to win in the 4th innings and fell short by 38, Sachin was skipper then and it seemed like it broke him by the year 2000 we lost at home to SA and Sachin resigned and it looked like it was all over, there was a point in life when you thought this love and mad obsession about the sport was all misplaced and you would better get on with life and the many other facets to it, cricket after all was just another stupid game and I should be doing more with my life than let the mood be influenced by what was happening on a field of play. In some ways my life reflected the state of Indian cricket in 1999 I passed out of college in third class, I could not pursue an MBA as I did not have any good grades to make me eligible for an entrance and my parents couldn’t afford a payment seat. I was to take up a job of a marketing executive selling computer courses with a salary that was lesser than the office boy who served tea to us and most of the income depended on how I performed abroad, I mean outside office and how many enrollments I brought in.

Things were bleak, college over, time to stand on your feet, you are in love, her dad discovers, you earn really less, India lose in India to SA and then even more painfully in Chennai to your arch rival Pakistan, your God had cried in the dressing room after that match, your idol was involved in match fixing and there was never a sadder moment in life as then. A dark abyss it seemed awaited.

But not for nothing I guess they have this old adage of it being darkest before dawn eh?

The new millennium brought new hope, a feisty Bengali came to lead the Indian team, a core group of some excellent batsmen gathered, Sachin discovered he was not alone, a wall from Bangalore was there to shield him, an artist from Hyderabad joined it, a dasher from Delhi reinforced that the Bengali had vision, hopes soared, a legendary spinner to back the batsmen, always one good quick around to keep us in the game and even without enough bowling things started to happen. A miracle was performed in Eden Gardens in 2001 when one of the greatest team ever to play test cricket was on a rampage and their fast steamrolling bulldozer was brought to a grinding halt by two men possessed, batting like a dream, a Sardar spinning the ball viciously earning himself the name of the “Turbanator”!

A landmark victory that brought new hope, belief and inspired you to dream again! It was followed by Headingley in 2002, Adelaide in 2003, Wanderers in 2006, Trent Bridge in 2007 and the heady feeling of revenge and righteousness after the 2008 Perth Test win, surely it was a memorable decade. Life at personal front also started to slowly improve, good breaks, good jobs, marriage, kid and eventually a business that started to find its feet. Somehow series victories in South Africa and Australia still eluded us but then you cannot have everything in life in just one decade can you?

When a railway employee donned the skippers hat, it was like now the time for world domination has come. It looked like he had all the resources and that a golden era was to begin, whilst we won a lot in limited overs cricket under him. Test success abroad eluded him, I for one cannot fathom how he managed to earn such a horrible record in Tests abroad, we surely were not that bad or were we? He eventually threw in the towel on another frustrating trip down under and that is when this Feistier than anyone in life I have ever seen Delhi boy came up to take up the reins of Indian cricket.

Since last year I had been waiting for this year, tours of SA, Eng and Aus beckoned, hope was in the air, perhaps a chance to settle matters once and for all, it was during this whole year I was slowly wondering in my head if I could feel like the West Indian fans felt during their two decade domination or like the Australian fans who didn’t know what it was to lose from the mid 90’s to a few years ago.

I am a hopeless optimist, I never quit hoping as far as the Indian cricket teams chances are concerned. SA happened, we played not too badly, but we somehow managed to mess up things and lost the series owing more to our own inability or inexperience in winning in alien conditions, we managed to screw something or the other, a strategy here a selection there. Come England and it looks like there never was an opportunity better than this to beat them in their own conditions and suddenly in a blink of an eye England lead the series 2-0. Like I said, hopeless optimist, when India turned the tables at 2-1 I was getting this silly feeling that we could come back. We couldn’t, it was not as bad as the 4-1 scoreline suggest but it was a loss.

In my hopeless optimist manners even before the England tour I had thought in my head that we will beat England in England and our crowning of the undisputed best team in the world home and abroad would happen in Australia and so I booked my tickets to Australia smartly planning to fly off the day after I hear the winning speech of Kohli at Sydney. This was a long leap of faith, forget travelling to Australia but India beating them there and me being there to see it. Life had changed from earning less than our office boy to dreaming of an Indian win in Australia. By the time England beat us 3-1 it started feeling like a bad idea, whilst the experience of watching matches and travelling around Australia would be fun, I feared I would be all grumpy if India lost the series.

I was praying India would not blow the series in the first two matches as I was to reach for the last two test matches.

As luck would have it, it read 1-1 when I reached there, Boxing day test match was not the exciting, racy, thrill a moment cricket match, but a match where I felt like the team was determined to not let itself down. Not trying to make a statement any more, they just seemed like they didn’t care about anything other than winning and were ready to get dirty in the mud if the need be. They grinded to a painful 200 odd runs on the first day, they tired out the bowlers, it was searingly hot, it took its toll, India won the Test, I was there.

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This kid has been a discovery like no one before him in our history, if he stay’s fit and healthy, Indian cricket will conquer many a land which they never could earlier!

In many ways this victory was poetic, after years and years of attempts at winning down under, some magnificent Test battles were won with magical performances at times, the only time we won the War here it was down to sheer determination and grit.

I don’t know if this will mark the era of dominance for our team from here on, but this little piece of history I witnessed will always stay with me. I will always brag and boast and say, when India beat Australia in Australia in a Test series for the first time, I was there to witness history.

Yes dreams do come true, they take their time but don’t stop dreaming for when they do come true, the happiness you will feel will be unlike anything else you can ever feel.

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This historic stand was there to record another piece of history, India’s first series win down under! 🙂

The glorious Draw!

“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.”
― Alice Hoffman

You could easily add cricket to the above and it would still hold true. Predict in cricket at your own peril, who could have predicted the Australian’s winning 3-0 in the Ashes and who could have predicted India’s intensity going into the first test after their uninspiring show in the ODI’s. The game of glorious uncertainties was at its best at the Wanderer’s at Johannesburg.

A team was written off, Steyn and co mocked at the uncomfortable Indian’s against genuine pace, the pitch was hailed as bouncy and pacy, a grave had been dug to bury the Indians. Yet, India won the toss elected to bat, surprising the commentators and fans, the captain perhaps sent a message to his own team about a belief in its abilities. The team stood up and fought. A wonderfully crafted innings by Kohli forming the back bone and India raised a moderate but fighting total of 280! They did not cow down to the short stuff and actually most of their wickets on the first day were to their own faults more than the bowler’s skill. The pitch had enough in it and yet India buckled and put out wonderful judgement of the off stump and played judiciously. At the end of day 2 India could say they had their noses ahead.

Day two saw a comeback of sorts and after bowling India for 280 and the score at 130/1 you had to say SA were running away with it. Amazingly when you are just ready to give up hope, cricket bites you back and India took 5 wickets for 16 runs to wreck the African top order and all of a sudden they could think of a BIG lead! Yet again an African allrounder fought and ensured not too much was given. Whilst India again ended day two ahead, on day 3 morning almost all of that initiative was wrested back and a slender 40 run lead was yielded. Africa were to bat last which meant they were behind the game. End of day 3 and India had completely taken control of the Test. Two young batsmen from India dug their heels in whilst the bowlers were fresh and fought it out and pulverized the home team in the last session that gave 175 runs to make all three days belong to them. Day 4 was sort of the same, however, India could not post 500 lead, they had 450+ which was perceived by one and all as enough.

458 has never been chased successfully in the history of the game in the 4th innings of a Test Match. 8 wickets in hand Africa started day 5 with caution, Indian’s attacked and pitched up the ball a lot more than African bowlers and leaked runs but looked for wickets. Two African star’s though had other idea’s from judiciously batting and punishing the lose ball and displaying amazing restrain the two went into tea on day 5 with the Test match alive and left the crowd in huge anticipation of what could be in the last session.

As the end came neigh the Indian’s were perhaps staring at an unlikely loss, Africa were favourites and by the time the mandatory last hour began you almost started regretting why India bowled that one over extra. The game was Africa’s however, unlike in a limited overs match in a Test match apart from a win and a loss there is the draw as well as a possible result. I think that adds more drama, when players are not sure whether to go for a win or a loss. De’villier’s getting out at such a delicate situation threw major drama into the event. A silly run out of Faf Duplesis who had played most wonderfully ensured that crowd could not bear to watch the nail biting stuff.

A match where both teams gave all they had and yet could not come up with a result, however, the display put up was more interesting then any win or loss you might have witnessed.

A match where both teams gave all they had and yet could not come up with a result, however, the display put up was more interesting then any win or loss you might have witnessed.

Its easy to say South Africa should have gone for the win or criticise India for bowling bouncers at Steyn, but when faced with such a situation it is difficult to predict how most would go about it. In the end you also had a feeling that both the teams had fought tooth and nail and that neither deserved to lose. In the end cricket won, the uncertainty of the game won. Not the teams but the sport won. There are victories and there are losses and then there are these wonderful draws that are unmatched!

Pics Courtesy : Espncricinfo.com

Coming of age…

Apparently the match was evenly poised with India’s noses slightly ahead at the end of day two, however, day three was something no one expected. Everyone thought the match was going to be a close one and with lots of ups and downs. Day three though was a day when India went up and South Africa went down.

Philander and Duplesis had forged a partnership that ensured India did not lead by too many, the first over of the day started badly for India with Ishant not fully warmed up and gave away a couple of boundaries and it seemed like South Africa might get away if Indian’s let up their intensity, however, Zak was on the money and Ishant got his lines right and South Africa were soon dismissed. It was also heartening to see Steyn getting some lifters and being rapped on the fingers. Morkel not getting behind the line and Philander too struck on his fingers. So many times has India had to face this and it was good to see it being dished out back.

Whilst India led by 36, there were still murmurs of dismissing India cheaply keeping a chase around 200, India though had completely other ideas.

This is a new India it seems, they do not want to flash and show talent or go for that boundary. This team was ready to buckle in, patient, determined, skillful and harsh on only the lose stuff. They respected the good balls, did play and miss on a few occasions but by and large did not play loose shots and kept a big prize on their wicket. South Africa had to get them out, Shikhar Dhawan might have been disappointed with his dismissal in the first innings, but in the second he can take heart that he was picked by a very good piece of bowling and that he did not throw it away. The ball before he got out was the one that made him play that ball and got him out.

Vijay and Pujara together gritted it out, however, you were wondering if just staying in and not scoring too many might mean the game goes no where. Aided by the unfortunate injury to Morne Morkel though they found that South Africa’s back up bowling after Steyn and Philander was just not going to be able to trouble. Kallis at 38 can maybe deliver 5-7 good overs. Vijay was unfortunate to fall the way he did, he missed out on a golden chance to bat whilst the bowlers were tiring and the sun was out.

However, Pujara knows nothing else but how to bat and bat and bat. This guy has some tremendous appetite for batting and in many ways reminds me of England Captain Cook, nothing seems to affect him nor too bothered, he just bats and bats and bats. After tea the way he cashed in and made sure his hard work earlier paid plenty of dividends was wonderful to watch. Kohli on the other hand was again calm and reassuring, any Indian fan who was worried about the loss of the legends might have breathed a sigh of relief.

Indian Batting Order's no3 and no4 prove their worth in their first challenge.

Indian Batting Order’s no3 and no4 prove their worth in their first challenge.

In the end it was good, proper, basic Test match cricket that India played better in the three days gone by. The batsman have applied themselves and tried to stay in and score of loose deliveries without doing anything flash or trying to do anything extraordinary. The bowlers have tried to bowl in the right areas with good intensity and not allowed too many pressure free moments. The fact that India have 3 proper seam bowlers is something we have not always had, plus the fact that Bhuvaneshwar and Umesh Yadav sit on the benches is also a heartening fact.

South Africa have been left with many questions really, frankly none of their top order batsman can claim they looked comfortable in their stay on the wicket, not even Smith who got a shaky 68. Infact Philander looked like the best batsman in this innings by a distance, he too was aided by a tiring bowling attack on day 2. Their bigger worry though might be their bowling, I was wondering why they never tried to give a bouncer work over to Kohli and Pujara? I thought they did not test the Indian batsmen enough in this area. Their lines and their lengths in my opinion can be still a little more closer to the wicket. India gave away a few straight drives and cover drives but I think that is what also got them wickets.

India must also thank the sun for coming out when they batted, whether it was the sun or their superior batting we can only find out if South Africa get to bat in the sun and they are still bundled out. All said and done the match has shifted completely in India’s favour by some wonderfully determined proper Test Cricket by our boys.

They can feel proud about how they have played so far and keep up the intensity as there is a Test Match to be won here.

Photo’s Courtesy ESPNCRICINFO

Evenly poised

End of day two and this Test Match keeps see sawing from one end to another. Whilst the first day the honour’s were shared the first two sessions on day two went to SA. The last session though was a total ripper, as India found inspiration in the old ball and 5 wickets were taken for 16 at one stage. However, tiring bowlers and a softer ball combined with some grit shown by Philander South Africa might want to think they escaped from a big lead. India will rue the missed chances. Smith caught at 19 would have made matters very very different. South Africa would still like to add a few runs, they have to bat last and just because of that India can consider their noses a little ahead.

At the start of the second day, I felt India could have maybe look for runs alongside defence. The problem with being cautious is that if you get out the game has just not moved ahead. India will have to find a way of mixing aggression with caution and also look for runs, singles are also runs by the way. Dropping the ball and scampering like mad is one option, brings the field in closer and then the boundaries follow. Also pressure doesn’t rise and the game keeps moving forward.

The Indian bowling performance will give a lot of heart to MS, he has an attack that can take 20 wickets in these conditions, whilst I expect Zaheer’s performance to imporove, I am sure he will be happy with the way Ishant and Shami bowled. Also in hindsight perhaps its better to play Yadav or Bhuvi in place of Ashwin. Whilst Yadav could give pace and bounce yet could be erratic, Bhuvi will not just move the ball around but also give Dhoni a lot of control. Unless something drastic is done by Ashwin bowling wise in the 2nd innings, I guess we must field a 4 pronged pace attack in Durban.

South African batting order will have a lot of questions, apparently Kallis has been short of runs for a while now and all of them were caught at the crease, talking of Indian batsmen not coming forward, so far actually Indian’s have shown a better technique. Indian’s will have to find ways to score a few more runs though.

Day three normally tells you the way this Test is headed, however, I suspect this one will go down to the wire and keep Yoyo-ing till the end.

Not for nothing do they call Test Cricket, Real Cricket. I can never understand or comprehend such riveting, see-sawing battles ever in a T-20 or an ODI!!

Jitter’s be calmed!

Day one of a new Test series in a foreign country is always a nervous moment, especially when it is played in countries like Australia / South Africa / England for teams from the subcontinent. The perennial question is always raised how will our batsmen adjust to the pace, bounce and movement on these pitches. Will our players show heart or shy away, whilst India’s four best batsman aided with Sehwag for a while had kept these nervous moments at bay. The last two series were 4-0 in England and Australia. However, most of the current team was not there to share this pain. Whilst Kohli played two matches of the 8, one in Perth and one in Adelaide, he got 74 in Perth and a century in Adelaide, so really he had no baggage. Apart from Dhoni really no one from this team was in the 8-0 drubbing.

The first two ODI’s had the tongues wagging and all of Africa were licking their lips, whilst almost all of India dreaded the Test series.

The gauntlet was thrown at India, Wanderer’s is their most bouncy pitch, talk of a fast bouncy track, add to that India won the toss. I suspect South Africa were surprised by the Indian decision to bat first! Full marks to M S Dhoni to bite the bullet and bat first, so many times Indian captains will look for an easier alternative and insert the opposition in and see them score 400+ and then be chasing the game.

In many ways this was also a message to the team that yes, we can do it. India began cautiously and Shikhar’s ego got the better of him. Vijay got stuck at one end and ended up falling to pressure that was rising.

24-2

Well, no Rahul at no.3 and no Sachin at no.4, Indian cricket fan was one nervous soul at that moment I tell you. However, contrary to anyone’s imagination, Virat Kohli batted with absolutely aplomb. No, this was not a stroke a ball century, but it was a wonderful display of proper, responsible batsmanship. He left well outside off, had a couple of close moments with Morkel but apart from that it was judicious stroke play till he got out. He was very decisive in leaving the ball or going for it. There were no half measures and it was an innings even Sachin would have been proud of. He went for the lose ball, be it short into his body for thumping pulls or outside off when he would lash at short wide ones, he was not running high on emotion and would go for any short ball that was too short keeping adrenalin under control and there was no tentativeness.

A superb knock that not only puts India in a good position but calms the dressing room and gets rid of all nerves

A superb knock that not only puts India in a good position but calms the dressing room and gets rid of all nerves

This will give a lot of people in the team assurance, calm the nerves and also raise hopes. Virat didn’t just get a hundred but scored a lot of psychological points more so for his team’s batsmen. Now is the time for the other batsman in the team to rally around and raise the level.

Pujara was solid and was settling in when a bad judgement by Kohli sent him away. Apparently though what is evident is he is not going to throw his wicket away and SA will have to bowl better. Rohit will be very disappointed at the way he threw his wicket away. He lost out on a golden opportunity to bat at a time when 50+ overs had been bowled the bowlers tired and the pitch flattened out. There will not be such easy chances always available in overseas conditions and Rohit would have done well to not let this go. One man’s failure is another man’s opportunity and Rahane cashed in on what Rohit missed.

Day 1 may look even, but psychologically it will serve India greatly, they now know they can compete and they are not going to be blown away.

South Africa came into this match after a lot of talk, the commentators, media all were cocky and had thought that the bowlers just had to turn up and India would be blown away. Infact at many times it looked South Africa were bowling far too wide outside off stump. Smith and his bowlers showed little imagination when Indian’s didn’t go after the wide outside off line. They know it now, they are in for a fight. They might adjust and work harder now on, however, on day one they were caught napping. Neither did they make the batsmen drive enough for my money and there in they made their biggest mistake nor did they properly work out Kohli with the short stuff with Morkel going around the wicket or Steyn going around the wicket and testing them out.

I guess the pace battery was just shell shocked at the application and clarity of judgement shown by our batters. At the end of the day if you clearly look at it, just Vijay was a batsman that they got out. Shikhar got out to his own ego, which was bigger than the team cause. Pujara was run out, Kohli & Sharma played lose shots to rather innocuous deliveries and got themselves out. So let’s say the world’s best bowling line up as it it dubbed had a rather poor day or were largely kept out at bay by some gritty and solid batting. 😀 😀

Frankly, never thought I would be able to write this after the first day’s play. 😀 My chest swells and it feels extremely wonderful to be in this position, lets hope we can add atleast another 100-150 runs tomorrow and then it will be over to the bowlers 😀

Photos Courtesy ESPNCRICINFO

Caught in the headlights..

Thats what the Indian team might be feeling like right now.

MSD has said there is no point blaming schedule, but seriously it beats me. The BCCI can surely do better than give DICTAT to MSD and the commentator’s to not blame the scheduling.

This is what we all knew where we are to be tested, everyone knows we are flat track bullies, but Australia / South Africa where the bounce is where we have to prove ourselves. England / New Zealand to a certain extent. Amazingly, year after year, we talk of less preparation and yet year after year, the schedule is the same. 4 days into a country they are thrown in to the wolves.

It was painful to watch the top order having no clue how to cope. Whilst you saw that things could become easier as you spent more time, it must have been a great blow to their ego’s.

Source : Getty Images

Source : Getty Images

This very thing could have been managed in two Warm up ODI matches without the glare of the camera and the spot light. A good 3-4 nets and atleast two warm up matches is what would have atleast given them a reasonable chance.

It is quite ridiculous that everyone keep’s saying MSD as captain has nothing left to achieve. If India really want to be counted as a top cricket playing nation in all conditions it will have to seriously look at changing their attitude to this.

For the record MSD or for that matter any Indian captain has never won a Test Cricket Series in South Africa or Australia. We have not managed a series victory in South Africa in ODI’s as well. MSD as a captain in Australia and England has a record of 4-0 in both nations in Test Cricket, I am sure he would like to change that stat.

As a cricket lover and follower of Indian cricket it hurts and aches. What I want more than anyone is our Board provide our players a fair chance first.

You cannot play on pitches that bounce waist high to pitches that fly by your ears in 4 days without any significant practice, let alone no practice matches.

As the tour progresses you will notice Indian batsmen get to grips and start looking comfortable, however, the problem is by the time they will get used to the conditions, the tour will be over.

This is surely not how you plan to prepare to play or win in places where you have historically always done badly. Unless there is clear priority that is set to India winning outside the sub-continent the board must use it’s dollar’s to actually enable the team to spend more days in these countries preparing and playing more practice matches before they enter the arena of international matches.

Anyone who has played serious cricket will tell you its a hell lot easier adjusting to bounce that becomes lower than when it becomes higher, one of the reasons why we struggle more when we travel and the Australian’s and South African’s don’t.

The BCCI must recognize that in a clash of ego’s of the administrator’s they are now not only losing out on opportunities to win in these places, but also showing that our player’s are actually inefficient instead of providing them a level playing field.

I am quite sure the tour only gets better from here, but seriously the board can avoid this pain every time we travel. It require’s no Einstein to figure this out.

2 days to go…

For the African Safari to start.

Yes, its a short tour, but it won’t be any short on the competition. The Proteas will be out to get us, we will have to play out of our skins to keep our pride intact or come back with bruised ego’s and can’t play on fast pitches adage.

The crowd maybe nasty with the team as well as they have been robbed of a long series and the way they can get back to our cricket administrators is via the players.

Steyn – Dhawan
Morkel – Kohli
Ashwin – De Villiers
Philander – Rohit
Amla – Pujara
Zak – Smith

Boy… this is going to be one heck of a short series and I promise to cover it here! 😀

Adios’ Sachin!

Sachin,

Thank you is too small a word really. Yesterday tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw you struggle, pause, choke, struggle through your speech to convey your thanks to the people who really mattered in helping you realise a dream. If not for them perhaps you would have been doing a 9-5 office routine balancing most things in life like a large majority of us do living a domestic civil life.

But then you were cut out for something special, by no means was your life just fun and frolic but I absolutely understand the hours of practice you put in, the sweat, your crazy craving for perfection, the insecurities when it came to choices which you made perfectly at all stages that you got to live a dream that was not just your’s but of a lot of others. Not just that you told a lot of us growing up kids that there is hope, that you can play and still make a life. For me you signified hope, you inspired us, you provided joy, lifted us up on numerous occasions and took a brunt of our expectations on your shoulders.

My growing years and your career almost together I have followed most of your career and there are some unbelievable memories.

Your batting in Pakistan against Waqar/Wasim/Imran even after being hit in the nose and bleeding told us that you were not going to be rattled, however, we had quite a few gritty players before you and so whilst we felt that you were not one to throw in the towel we still didn’t know how special you were. But then it was only the beginning and you were just 16. Then came your century in England which perhaps told you that you were to be here for a while and be a part of Indian cricket for a while.

But then better things awaited, for me your defining moment came in our disastrous tour of Australia and even more significantly when you smashed that 100 in Perth, the worlds fastest pitch, the rowdy Aussie fast bowlers and we Indian’s always dreaded the thought of Perth. Perth signified terror for us. To see you score that hundred, defy the bowlers and actually scintillate and dominate was something we Indian’s had never seen an Indian do. Unfortunately this being a team sport we didn’t win much then, but you gave us hope, that we could dominate. Though we lived in the subcontinent and the pitches here didn’t bounce it was not a deterrent for us to go and play around the world, not just play and compete but dominate.

The word ‘Dominate’ was rarely used for Indian cricket, I may be wrong, but I cannot remember too much of the word Dominate being used for any Indian Batsman overseas. Yes, they scored runs, grinded the opposition out and eeked out a ton but watching you Punch of the backfoot through cover, Hook, Pull, Square cut was a completely wonderful feeling. I guess after that tour of Australia you and the whole world knew that you are here to stay for a long long time.

Over that long decade you provided with so many memories that its difficult to list them down, we cried with you in Chennai in that pain staking century which ended in a defeat and we were thrilled when you raised a desert storm in Sharjah. I can for one never forget even more than your performances your dedication to your sport and the hours you put in practice. For me the tale of you preparing for the 1998 tour of Australia, with L Sivaramankrishnan bowling to you around the wicket with the pitch dug up told me volumes of how much you worked at your craft. The innings of 155* that followed where you collared and completely obliterated ‘The Warne Myth’ is what every one remembers and is stuff of legends. However, the hard work you put in for that performance to follow is what defines you for me.

The legendary battle that took centre stage in Chennai... The Myth that the world could not decode was smashed to all parts of the ground. With arguably the Best Bowler in Cricket History acknowledging that he got nightmares of Sachin running down the pitch and smashing him...

The legendary battle that took centre stage in Chennai… The Myth of Shane Warne that the world could not decode was smashed to all parts of the ground. With arguably the Best Bowler in Cricket History acknowledging that he got nightmares of Sachin running down the pitch and smashing him…

I hated it when people called you lucky, you weren’t, you damn worked your ass off for your successes and I salute that effort you put in day in and day out.

Innumerable memories will remain and I for one cannot even imagine what you might do without playing cricket. I guess your love for the game can be second to none, what came out in your entire playing career was your sheer passion, enthusiasm and love for the game. I hope and wish you a very good time ahead and hope you can find something to engage with equally passionately in your life ahead.

For me and an entire generation you were a Superman, a dream, an inspiration and gave us a lot of reasons to smile, feel joyous on a tough day and I would actually like to thank you for that.