Wednesday, March 30, 2011

INDIA vs PAKISTAN – The mother of all Epic Encounters

Image Courtesy : Google Images
Yes, finally that day is upon us, the day each and every Cricket fan was waiting for, a day that brings out a kind of emotion and passion in every Indian and Pakistani fan that just cannot be expressed in words. It is the day when India takes on Pakistan in a World Cup semi-final. I can’t even begin to express the magnitude of this epic encounter. Any India-Pakistan encounter in any sport is a treat to watch but when they take on each other in a Cricket match and that too in a World Cup, we can’t term it as just another game or just another Cricket match. It is beyond everything else.    

Passion will run high
Today, time will literally stand still in both the countries, each and everyone whether they’re a Cricket fan or not, young or old, men or women will be glued to their television sets, radios, checking scores on their cell phones, watching the live stream on the internet, standing in front of TV showrooms or any which way possible just to check the score of the match. Well, you might think this is a pretty normal sight especially in both the countries as we do the above mentioned things even when a normal Cricket match is going on. But let me remind you this is not just any match, this is India vs. Pakistan for the very first time in the semi-final stage of a World Cup. I don’t need to explain the magnitude of this match for an Indian or a Pakistani but it is very important for us to understand what this match means to people of both countries without politicizing it. Our respected politicians are doing a great job in politicizing this match by inviting the Pakistan PM to watch the match. Yes, it will make me happy if Cricket matches between the two countries bring both the countries together and improve our relations but still in my opinion, this match being politicized in this way takes away some charm out of the game. I honestly feel that diplomatic ties between the two countries should be dealt separately and not just when a Cricket match or series is going on, that too a match of this magnitude.

An Ajay Jadeja special in Bangalore
Well let’s take a trip back to memory lane. India has never lost to Pakistan out of the 4 matches we’ve played so far in World Cups and more than a billion people will be hoping that record will be maintained today no matter what. The first Indo-Pak match that I remember in a World Cup was when these two teams met in Quarter-Finals in 1996, (I was too young to remember the match in 1992, but really happy we won) and it was a memorable match indeed, I remember that match like it happened yesterday. It was a very special match for me personally because that match happened in Bangalore but unfortunately couldn’t watch it live in the stadium. No one will ever forget that unforgettable dual between Venkatesh Prasad and Aamer Sohail, with the former coming on top after being hit for a boundary and the batsman taunting him and pointing where the next ball is going to end up. But Prasad came back brilliantly and Aamer Sohail was out bowled the very next ball. It gives me goosebumps whenever I see videos of this encounter on You Tube. And also a swashbuckling 45 of 25 balls by Ajay Jadeja which took us to a match-winning score of 287. We managed to beat them pretty comfortably in the end, thanks to Karnataka boys Kumble and Prasad working their magic taking 3 wickets each.

A Brilliant innings by Rahul Dravid
comes to an end.
In the 1999 edition we squared off against each other at Old Trafford in a relatively low scoring game. My Idol Rahul Dravid top scored with a classy but brilliant 61. We made 227 and bowled them out for 180. Again Karnataka boys worked their magic with Kumble, Prasad and Srinath sharing all the 10 Pakistani wickets between each other. Prasad came up with a match-winning bowling performance with a 5-wicket haul.  

Sachin on his way to a
breathtaking 98 of 75
But my favorite match would have to be in the 2003 edition at Centurion Park. Probably one of my favorite matches of all time. Pakistan batted first and made a competitive score of 273, with Saeed Anwar scoring a magnificent century. But what followed later was absolute magic. Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest cricketer ever was destined to live that day. It was one of his finest innings ever, if not the finest. A breathtaking, flawless display of batsman-ship showcased by the Little Master, it was something out of this world. He was a different Sachin that day, it was like he was possessed and absolutely determined to win the match for his country. In those days he was accused of becoming an accumulator of runs rather than being the aggressive and flamboyant self he used to be during the nineties. But the great man proved all his critics wrong again with a match-winning innings. It was an absolute privilege to have watched Sachin bat that day as it’s always been since the past 22 years. Even Sachin himself considers that innings as one of his best. Who can ever forget that upper cut for a six to Shoaib Akhtar, it was scintillating. He single-handedly destroyed the Pakistani bowling attack and the match was sealed for India in the 28th over itself when he got out for an absolutely stunning 98. Sad that he couldn’t get his 100 which he absolutely deserved but it was an honor and a privilege to have watched him bat that day. He has played many brilliant innings in his long and illustrious career but in my book this innings would be ranked on top of all other innings without a shadow of a doubt. In the end my Idol Rahul Dravid with Yuvraj Singh finished the match with ease in what was only a formality after the Sachin Special.

Greif-stricken faces says it all
Well, less said about the 2007 WC the better as both India and Pakistan shockingly crashed out in the initial stage of the tournament itself depriving all the Cricket fanatics of another Indo-Pak classic. It's even more painful for me to describe the feelings of that disastrous campaign as my Idol Rahul Dravid was infact the Captain and I really hoped he would finally be part of a World Cup winning team and that too as a Captain, in what turned out to be his last ever World Cup, but heartbreakingly it was not to be. The memories still hurt me.

This time we Bleed Blue
Now, coming to today’s match the stakes are much higher. The winner will earn a place in the Finals of the World Cup; will face the formidable Sri Lankans in the final who probably possess the best bowling line up of all teams participating in the tournament. This will be the very first time India and Pakistan face each other in the Semis of the WC. Both teams have been in sublime form. It may very well come down to India’s batting versus Pakistan’s bowling. Pakistan ended the mighty Australia’s 34-match unbeaten streak in World Cups in the group stage to top their respective group. And India beat Australia in the Quarter Finals and knocked the World Champions out of the WC. So both teams have played some exceptional Cricket so far and will be high on confidence. Only time will tell who will win this high-voltage encounter in Mohali which promises to be an absolute classic. 

Will Sachin get his 100th Century?
A Special Note: I wish and pray that Sachin gets his 100th International Century in this particular match especially considering the occasion and the opponents. It is a historic match indeed but it will be even more special if Sachin gets his century and India wins the match. More than a billion hearts will be praying for the same I’m sure.

C’mon INDIA De Ghumake. This time we Bleed Blue!

PS: All images in this post are sourced from the internet.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

My battle with Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura - A Year On!

“When life tries to fuck your case, show life your middle finger and say, ‘Fuck you, I ain’t going down without a fight!’”
Today, exactly a year ago I was diagnosed with a condition called ITP - a condition of having low platelet count. The days leading up to Mar 9, 2010 were crucial. Initially, I noticed some blood clots on my arms and legs and on my upper body, (pale pink dots and worst part was it started spreading) and I had not taken this seriously. A day or two later I started bleeding through my nose and my teeth gums. By this time I realized something is seriously not right, so I went to a clinic to get a blood test done. My platelet count was very low at 11,000; doctor advised me I need to get admitted immediately as my condition was potentially serious but I was in no position to accept that as I felt great physically and apart from the bleeding I didn’t feel there was anything wrong with me. I was also adamant I needed to attend my 1st internals (of my 6th sem) no matter what the following day, so I declined getting admitted to a hospital. After much deliberation and insistence from my mom I finally gave in and got admitted to Manipal Hospital (in a very dramatic fashion I might add) at around 4AM on Mar 9th. Few hours ago my platelet count was 11,000 but now in hospital it had reduced to 5,000 and dangerously decreasing.

The next few months that followed were the toughest months of my life; mentally, physically and emotionally. My platelet count kept fluctuating below 10,000 for the next 40 days or so and no signs of recovery in sight. At this time due to all the side effects of the medication, I had gained a whole chunk of weight, (I had literally gained 15kgs in 2 days at one point). To top that my bleeding hadn’t stopped, apart from the gums and nose I started bleeding through my motions as well (and every conceivable hole in my body, well maybe I'm exaggerating a bit but it certainly felt that way!). I had developed some petechial rashes throughout my upper body and face and some of the rashes exist even to this day.

It was more of a mental battle for me rather than physical. I kept fighting, never gave up. I used to feel frustrated because my condition was not improving, also because I couldn’t do anything in my power to make it improve. A little nervousness kept creeping up in my heart every now and then and I used to have some weird illusions in my head, maybe due to the medication which made it very difficult for me to sleep every night (I really can’t explain those feelings in words).

Finally after struggling for more than two months with this condition which included almost a month in a hospital bed, I finally started showing some signs of recovery and my platelet count started improving. Today, my platelet count stands at a healthy and safe 326,000 and most importantly it’s keeping steady at that level from the past 6 months and hopefully will stay that way in future. 

But what really kept me going was, I had the support of my wonderful family and my beloved friends who kept supporting me all the way through thick and thin. I will forever be indebted for their support and care. Every “How are you now?” “Get well soon” “Take Care”, every text message, every Facebook comment, every call asking about my health meant everything to me. It made me a lot stronger and gave me strength to carry on. I will never ever forget it.