I can’t help falling in love…

This post cross-published on Holdingwilley

This week I thought I could concentrate on everything else on my list except cricket. This week was supposed to be boring, entailing domination of the powerful over the meek. Andrew Strauss and Kevin O’ Brien had other plans – plans to make me fall in love again – me who loves the underdog, the fighter, the gutsy performance, the grit, the fightback.

First the India Vs. England encounter – we were supposed to sleepwalk over England. They who had lost 6-1 to Aus. recently and huffed and puffed to a win against Netherlands. Sachin and Sehwag and then Gambhir were sailing through. Sachin played a delightful knock ,so I heard – I did not see it that day and have not seen it yet; what I did see though was Strauss’ knock. His knock had me floored. His 158 of 145 balls surpassed Sachin’s 120 of 115 in the same match.

Don’t call for my neck , I’m not committing blasphemy when I say that Strauss’s knock was way above Sachin’s – not in class but in the the context of the game. Strauss was not backed by 40000+ crowd cheering for him ; instead he was in the danger of being booed by them. He played against 11+40000+ Indians that day. He was chasing a difficult score of 338 against the home team and he had to lead from the front as a captain. And he did a splendid job of it.

I’ve liked the bloke as a player and as a captain ever since he hit the scene in 2004 but my fondness for him was overshadowed by my admiration for these two men who were pivotal in England winning the Ashes for first time in decades in 2005. Strauss never was and don’t think will ever be spoken of, in the same breath as the greats of this game or even his contemporaries. He is not the guy around whom an entire fandom will be built.

He is though a tough competitor – his test batting has proven it and so did his knock on Sunday. Since his debut in 2003 and 123 ODIs, this was only his 6th century – and had sheer class written all over it. There was no going bonkers, just plain application of the basic cricket principles – see a bad ball will put it away. Not known for playing spin as well, he along with Bell gave a lesson in tackling the “most feared” aspect of Indian bowling. He swept, he reverse-swept, and he came out of the crease to hit out.

From the moment he had taken to the crease and till he got out, Strauss remained unflustered by the events around him; quietly going about his business and giving his team a belief that they could pull this one off. England almost did – but in tying that match, they let down their brave captain horrendously.

His knock made me forget Sachin’s knock , made me forget to watch a re-run of the Indian innings and made me forget to curse the lousy Indian bowling and fielding. So disheartened was I by the England surrender in the final overs, that I ended up feeling that they ought to curse themselves more for tying this match instead of winning it for their captain. If that knock could not inspire them to come out victorious , I wonder what ever can.

I had still not recovered from the magic woven by Strauss on Sunday, that Kevin O’Brien came out of nowhere and hit me right on my face.

Sorry Kevin, was I showering too much praise on Strauss whom I’ve not given my due attention or is it that you were sick and tired of me venting out my frustrations of seeing the minnows fight it out with the big boys. You decided to prove a point and what a proof you handed over to me – my wicked Geometry teacher would’ve been proud of you. All my life in school she hated me for getting things right and now she will love you for proving me wrong.

Your team was playing its  Big Brother – its dear neighbour – the one who was riding high on a brilliant fightback 3 days ago against the hosts and tournament favourites. Your team on the other hand had lost a match to Bangladesh which it could have won .  Your team allowed England to get to 327 which was a good effort; considering Trott and Bell were cruising along and looked good to set a 350+ score.

And when I thought there would be some resistance, your team decided to succumb and fall apart at 111/5 in the 25th over. I admit I’ve not followed your team and I do not know much about them, but of the remaining  25 overs in which I saw you, Cussack and Mooney, you all have ensured that I’ll be rooting for your blokes.

How did you and Cussack get those 162 runs in 17 overs? Those 30+ runs in both the batting powerplays you guys took where other teams have faltered; taught the test nations a thing or two didn’t you? How on earth did you believe that you could belt out 4s and 6s against the likes of Bresnan, Anderson and Swann and make a match of it or worse win it? How did you think of ruining Strauss’ birthday party? How did you make the entire world on Twitter, Facebook, irrespective of their nationality, get behind you and root for an upset? How did you manage to get us Indians in two minds on whom to support when you play us on Sunday? How did you pull off that  win? How did your team not lose sight of the target once you were gone and things were looking tight? How on earth did you hit those earth-shattering 113 runs of a mere 63 balls?

And I know what your answer to me will be – go watch that match again lady – and I will humbly do that again and again and again.

Have you realised what you have achieved today Kevin – apart from that awesome win for your nation, the WC fastest hundred record, the humiliation meted out to England, the million fans you will now gather, the billions that will chase you via IPL contracts, the tons of boys who will want that dash of pink hair, the hundreds of girls who will line-up at your doorstep to catch a glimpse of you – Today Kevin, you made the cynical fan believe in this game again. The same ones who thought the game was commercialised, was governed by the bookies , that close encounters were planned and that players played for money and nothing else and those who were beginning to believe that ODIs were dead – yours truly being a culprit of the last one.

You shattered that belief system and as a girl who has breathed this game for the last 20 years – I cannot thank you enough.

In a short span of 3 days, I’ve fallen in love twice over again – thanks to the knocks played by Strauss and Kevin. I could replay them  in an endless loop in my head and not get bored and not recover from them – not until someone plans to better them in this tournament.

I can’t find more words to express how I feel today after having watched 2 marvellous knocks ; so I’ll just let UB40 do the talking with  – I can’t help falling in love with you!!! 

(Images Courtsey: www.telegraph.co.uk)