Another Bangalore Epic
by Ateeq Abdul Rauf

Ground:M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
Scorecard:India v Pakistan
Player:SC Ganguly, A Kumble, SR Tendulkar, Shahid Afridi
Event:Pakistan in India 2004/05

DateLine: 30th March 2005


Watching the highlights last night was very sweet. In fact, it was saccharine. Perhaps it was all the more satisfying since it greatly contrasted the absurdity that had transpired the day before.


But then that is why we watch Test cricket. It depicts drama in reality. The swings and melodramatics, the mental versus the physical, the luck and the misfortune, the graceful and the ugly, the unpredictably of it all, and most importantly the knowledge that miracles can happen are virtues that we as spectators unconsciously embrace and accept, even though we may not forthrightly approve them.


So what in essence was the story of last night's episode? A clique of young and not so young men embarked on a 50-day journey across the border into territory that was not only intimidating because of the strength of the opposition and the partisan crowds, but also because not many at home had given them a chance either. Last night's episode was the fairy-tale ending, the moral of which was that in the sterner test of the 15-days of intensive battle, the underestimated young warriors had stood toe-to-toe and stamped the note that they were equal to their much superior opponents. Perhaps that sums it up. Hollywood has written similar scripts many times, but there is no beating the feeling when reality bears witness to the extraordinary and the quixotic.


The Indians, no doubt, playing for a draw had carved a pitch that perhaps had more stone in it than clay. Dennis Lillee may have been correct in declaring Faisalabad as a 'graveyard for fast bowlers' -- but what we saw in Bangalore may aptly be called a Batsmanís Paradise. Fortunately in spite of the pitch, in the glorious record of past Bangalore Test matches, this one too produced a result.


On Day 4, it was evident to the television viewer what was happening. Pakistan, after bowling India out for 449, tried to press on the gas. After initially succeeding to do so courtesy of a Shahid Afridi blitz, the two Indian spinners Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble started bowling a negative line. It was interesting to note that some years ago Ashley Giles had been accused by the same team of bowling this line, although for Giles (being a left-arm orthodox bowler), this was the natural angle of delivery. More intriguing was to fathom how the commentators appreciated this line of attack as intelligent bowling.


Moreover, Sourav Ganguly and the Indians made it a point to deliberately slow down the game by making changes after virtually every delivery, pondering and discussing over field placings as if they had taken to the field for the first time in their careers and using up time for treatment of injuries and other whatnots in any way their creative minds could come up with. It is interesting to note that the umpires did not take up this point, nor did it occur to any of the expert commentators until Aamer Sohail mentioned it late into the day.


Unfortunately for the Indians, this defensive mindset was exactly the hole they found themselves sink into once Virender Sehwag departed the crease on Day 5. No one would have given the Pakistanis a chance at lunch with nine wickets to get in two sessions, but as one great person said, "Hope is a great thing and no great thing ever dies." It surely didn't die for Inzamam and his men and that is why their achievement is more like a burlesque fantasy that we are still having difficulty finding ourselves come to grips with.


On paper, it is still logical to say that India were the better team in terms of all the three main disciplines of the game. But if cricket were played on paper, stadiums would never be built. When two teams comprising human beings compete with each other, the abstract coefficient of the human spirit can often be the deciding factor in telling them apart. It can hoist the talent of an underdog to surpass that of a favourite and yesterday was one of the rare instances that it happened. Like the fascination an eclipse has because of its infrequency, such moments are like oyster pearls. Abilities mean nothing without the intrinsic motivation to exploit them.


The enormity of this victory has already been commentated on and hopefully it will act as a springboard to continual self-belief in each of the team's individuals and to struggle no matter what the situation.


And, of course, the best thing about these sweet moments is that take some time to imbibe and stand out in the history books as palm trees in the barren desert so that they may be reminisced with the same tinge of sweetness down the years as they would be when the moment was fresh.


I would like to end with two quotes which aptly describe Pakistanís historic win. Mr Atif Rauf graciously related the second one to me.


"If you want something strong enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen." --- Paulo Coelho


"It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog." --- Mark Twain

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2005 Ateeq Abdul Rauf


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