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Boxing Day – Memories

People mark time by both the significant landmarks that occur in their own lives, and the ones that occur in the world around them. I? I mark them by the cricketing action that’s taking place.

Boxing Day, 1996 was one such significant cricketing landmark. Sure I’d been following cricket for almost half a dozen years by then, but that was my first full Test tour after we got cable television in mid-1996. The English tour that summer had at last forced us DD loyalists to get cable, too late for Sachin’s Edgbaston heroics or the twin debuts at Lords, and just in time to see the Trent Bridge test peter out into a draw. That was the season I (we – my sister, and I guess the brother as well) became well and truly hooked to the game – Harsha and ESPN covered Sachin’s maiden tour as captain to Toronto, the one-off test in Delhi, the Titan Cup, and a home victory against Cronje’s men, and I was in the 9th grade, in a way the last year of innocence, before getting battle-scarred in the board exams in ’98. I kept wickets for the school team, we played paper-ball cricket in our big class-room, our class girls played cricket during the P.E. period – we just couldn’t get enough of the game.

Kingsmead, Durban. Lunch time in India. First strike India – Gary Kirsten’s off stump uprooted by a leg cutter from Prasad. The pitch provided pace and bounce, the opening pair bowled bouncers that passed over Mongia’s stretched hands, and even Sachin fancied a spell of seam bowling. However, nothing much else happened before lunch, as Andrew Hudson and debutant Adam Bacher held the fort. Things started happening soon after resumption, as Srinath and Prasad struck in quick succession, and wickets kept falling at regular intervals thereafter. Andrew Hudsen provided the lone resistance, till Jimmy Amarnath’s voice picked up a pitch – “He’s done it here again, Ganguly” – a lovely out swinger had drawn the edge. Prasad cleaned up the tail, getting Donald in the slips with a mean bouncer aimed at the throat. W.V.Raman and Vikram Rathore survived two fiery overs, but Sis proved right, if India could bundle out the hosts for just over 200 on that pitch, what would Donald, Pollock, Zulu and MacMillan be able to do? 100 all out in the first innings, and 66 in the second. Dravid, just in his third test overseas, displayed early signs of his solidity – he even earned his sobriquet that season in South Africa and the West Indies. The second test was similarly disastrous, in spite of that magical 222 partnership between Sachin and Azza, while Johannesburg was a desperate case of so near, yet so far.

Boxing Day, 1999, was in Melbourne, again under Sachin, but this time already 1-0 down in the test series. After a promising start in the first session of the 1st test in Adelaide, India had wilted. Their fortunes barely improved over the rest of that tour, over the Ansett tests and the Carlton and United ODI tri-series. Meanwhile, my attention to cricket was less than undivided; after all, that was the big year – II PUC. Cut to 2001, that was the Mike Denness tour to South Africa. I have little clue what happened on Boxing Day. In fact, I am not even sure we played a match that day. That was 3rd semester, KREC, and we were in the throes of sophomoronic club activity and later in the semester, eleventh hour mugging for the exams.

College-life-wise, 2003 was hardly any better. Things had plateaued after that 3rd semester – I somehow plodded through third year, and by December, my final-year project was not only not completed, I didn’t even know what I would be doing. Cricket-wise though, it could hardly get better. I was home for my mid-year break, and woke up half an hour into the Indian innings, batting first at MCG. Dad joined me soon after; Sehwag, Chopra, and then Sehwag again got hit on the helmet; there was the odd four through third-man. Give the first hour to the bowlers, they say, and our openers did just that on that day. As the sun came out, Sehwag started opening out with some glorious strokes, and we went in to lunch on a high, after he had exhilaratingly driven McGill over long-off for six, and then straight-driven him for four. Sehwag continued in the same vein all day, undeterred by the loss of Dravid and Sachin within the space of a few balls. He perished like he’d thrived, caught at long on, and the innings went into a tailspin the next morning. The match was lost in an hour’s time, and eventually the series remained drawn.

There’s been something about Durban’s air that our cricketers don’t like – at least until the World Twenty20 this year. Exactly ten years since that Boxing Day, and less than ten days after their first test victory on South African soil, India returned to Durban in 2006, and promptly lost again. That brings us to 2007 – I was just two months past my 14th birthday then, now at 25, I feel old by Indian cricket’s standards. But there will be several good men, all aged 34 and above, who’ll be doing battle tomorrow morning at the MCG. Expect 70,000 mad Victorians and a lesser number of crazier Indians, a moist springy pitch, ESPN, and 5:30 a.m. start. Win the toss and bowl first? Uh, you never do that against them Aussies. Viru for a reprisal of 2003, or Yuvi in the middle? In any case, you know who’ll be up at 5:15 in the morning, hot water on the stove, a blanket wrapped around the shoulders and remote in hand.

That reminds me, I’ve got to get these ****** roommates to fix the telly!

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All my life, I never understood the workings of the mind of the cricket-crazy. I simply didn't get it until now. If you could recite all those facts from memory, and I trust you didn't use Wikipedia, then I'm truly shocked by how deep the passion goes.

I didn't use Wiki. Some details could be wrong though.
But cricket, she's a hard mistress. We've paid our pounds of flesh, believe me. Cricket tragics, they call us...

96 was the year when I got totally hooked to cricket, the main reasons being the World Cup & the 7th standard exams running at the same time :-). We didn't get cable till I finished 10th. But the antenna would still grab some signals from the neighbours' cable connections. Watched the Toronto series & the Singapore one in 96 on grainy ESPN/Star Sports.

Lovely post man! Brings back so many memories. *SIGH*

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