Monday, November 28, 2011

Predictions & Surprises

Last ball, India need 2 runs to win, Ravichandran Ashwin is on the strike, Fidel Edwards running in to bowl - length ball, Ashwin smashes it down to long-on, completes the single, turning back for the second and oh no he is Run Out, run out by a mile. Wait a second before you start thinking about the Super Over, it’s not a T20 game neither is it an ODI, it’s TEST cricket, yes you read it right. The match ended in a last ball Draw with scores level. No one would have imagined this even 8 hours ago, all the predictions failed and cricket surprised us again.

Actually, cricket is a game of great uncertainties and we have witnessed it many times but still we never leave any opportunity of predicting the outcome and passing the judgement. More often than not our predictions fail but still we never learn.

Cricket is very much similar to our daily life, like life it surprises us when we least expect it. They say 'Miracles happen, each day and every day' - Yes it does, we just need to keep the faith. Faith till the last day, last breathe, last ball.

This India vs West Indies 3rd Test at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai is the latest example of it. First 4-days wicket looked very good for batting, almost everyone scored runs, there was no support for the bowlers at all, even a lower order batsman like Ravichandran Ashwin scored his maiden Test ton here. The Test match was going to be a dull draw.

We were criticizing the pitch from the very first day and cursing the curator for making such a flat pitch just for a milestone i.e. Sachin’s 100th hundred in International cricket. With every passing day, there were more and more debates on why this kind of wicket is not good for the health of Test cricket and why it will kill it eventually.

West Indies were 81/2 with a lead of 189 runs in their 2nd innings at the end of day 4 and still India had to bat, 1153 runs were scored for the loss of only 22 wickets during these 4 days i.e. 52 runs per wicket. As usual, everyone (including me) passed the judgement quickly that it is a dead-rubber and it’s going to be a dull Draw.

26th November – last day of the 3rd Test, despite of the weekend, people looked less interested in watching the match, it was not in their priority list but the new day had something special in store. The dramatic day of Test cricket was about to begin.

The pitch started assisting the bowlers specially the spinners, no doubt West Indian batsmen played some loose shots but no one can deny the fact that both the Indian spinners showed some quality spin bowling in the morning session. Pragyan Ojha ended up with 6 wickets and Ravichandran Ashwin finished with 4 wickets, West Indian innings collapsed from 91/2 to 134/10. The uncertainties of cricket surprised the fans again, India needed 243 runs to win from 64 overs. Suddenly, the match was on. Every single soul was looking at Virendra Sehwag and people started predicting the match result again.

At 1:10 PM local time, Sehwag was looking good for a big knock, Dravid was there too and India needed just 150 runs with 9 wickets in hand in next 3 hours, at that moment 50 runs per hour was not a big task and everyone started to predict an Indian win.

Soon, Indian innings collapsed - Sehwag, Sachin and Dravid got out in quick succession and suddenly India found themselves 4 wickets down. A little ray of hope, a door was opened for a courageous West Indies team. Indians were looking at 2nd innings specialist VVS Laxman now, he tried to build a partnership with Virat Kohli and took India to 165 and when Indian fans were feeling bit relaxed, Laxman left them too. Now Kohli and Dhoni were the last hope for India. Dhoni never looked comfortable and got out to Rampaul after adding 24 runs with Kohli. West Indies were back in the game. First innings Hundred scorer Ashwin arrived to bat, he and Kohli tried to take India closer to the target and when India needed only 19 runs to win, Kohli gifted his wicket, failed to finish the job. 

Now, West Indies needed just 3 wickets to win. With every passing ball the pressure was mounting on Indian tailenders, somehow Ishant and Ashwin managed to bring down the required runs to single digit. India needed just 4 runs to win with 8 balls to go and Ishant left the field too. Epic last over was about to begin.

The match ended in a last ball Draw with scores level, the great uncertainties of cricket surprised us again, the last day saw lots of ups and downs during these 7 hours, suddenly everyone started praising the wicket and the curator and regretted dissing him.

This is why we should not pass judgements till the match is not over and this is why I love cricket, like life it shows us mirror sometimes, reminds us the value of being humble, helps us becoming a better human being.

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