Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Not Just Another Cricket Match

Picture Courtesy: Google Images
I was looking forward to this day since the past three years. Of all the match-ups in the whole season, this was the only match I really wanted to see. In 2011, this particular match was a complete wash out because of the rain. Last year, I was not even in a position to walk when the match took place but I was happy, we demolished them that day. This year, there were no obstacles, or so I thought when I booked the tickets to watch the IPL match between Rajasthan Royals and the Royal Challengers Bangalore on the 20th of April. One team in which my idol, Rahul Dravid plays at present and the other which betrayed him. Nothing would make me happier than seeing my idol in person and him being the victorious captain of a team against his former team on his ‘home’ ground.

This day was special to me in more ways than one. Not only was I ecstatic to watch my idol live, it was also going to be my first ever “Live” match. Yes, I know it sounds very shameful that I had never watched a Cricket match in a stadium before, but there’s always a first for everything. My passion for my beloved Cricket is unparalleled, but I always preferred watching the game from the comforts of my home rather than watching it live in the stadium. 

I never saw Dravid bat live in a Test Match in a stadium; that is probably my only regret as far as my beloved game is concerned. So, this particular match became all the more special as it might possibly be Dravid’s last competitive match on his home ground. He may not come back to play another season, although I said the same thing last year as well. So there is a glimmer of hope of Dravid coming back next year, it all depends on how he feels, he would be 41 by then. Anyways, if this was going to be his swan song then I had to be there at any cost.

There was a little drama even before the start of the match, nothing related to the Cricket of course. Because of the blasts that happened in Bangalore just three days prior to the match, the security was beefed up in the city and especially for this match, the security was heightened. The stadium had turned into a fortress, almost.

The day finally arrived and I, along with my buddy Suraj made our way to the stadium. My first experience inside a stadium was absolutely amazing. My excitement reached its peak when I saw my idol for the very first time. Dravid walked into the stadium in his training gear, started analyzing the pitch as he always does before the start of a match. There was a huge roar when he entered the stadium by a sparsely filled crowd.

My eyes were firmly set on him, watching his every move. I was absolutely dumbstruck, I couldn’t believe I was watching him live for the first time. The actual start of the match was still two hours away, Dravid and his teammates started practicing. After analyzing the pitch, Dravid got his pads on and started hitting a few balls in the nets, although he was practicing at the far end of the stadium as compared to where I was seated, I could still feel his absolutely commendable work ethic. This wasn’t new to me; he has been doing that since the past 17 years. 

Even after retiring from International Cricket a year ago, he still looked great physically. Dravid taking a break from his commentating duties during the recently concluded India-Australia Test series to prepare for this year’s IPL shows his commitment and determination. I was privileged to witness all that live for the very first time.

Virat Kohli won the toss and RCB chose to field first. Any team chasing always has a distinct advantage on this ground, hence I was expecting RR to bat last but it wasn’t to be. We needed a good start from Watson and Rahane but they fell very early in the innings. The run rate didn’t even touch six until the 8th over. Dravid was struggling but was fighting it out. I finally got to witness my idol bat live but at that moment I was so involved in the match, I didn’t even realize it. 

The run rate was slowly starting to pick up, and Dravid also started to find his shots, which gave me immense joy and happiness; that feeling just can’t be described in words. His flicks, his straight drives, his cover drives, his backfoot punches down the ground; although many found the fielders but for me just watching him hit those shots was pure heavenly. I was absolutely gutted when Dravid holed out for a fighting 35. It was an absolute privilege to witness my idol bat, I was content with the fact that he fought it out in the middle when the going was tough and again came up with a rock-solid innings. When Dravid fell, the score was 97 for 4, the rest of the team just dramatically collapsed. We eventually holed out for an inadequate score of 117. I wanted to leave the field at that instant, but there was still some optimism left inside me which said, there is still a chance. But honestly, I knew our fate was sealed.

In the second half, even though I knew what the result would be eventually, I still kept rooting for my team till the very end. I observed Dravid field all the way through, he would mostly field in the first slip or the mid off. I was keenly observing his mannerisms as I didn’t know if or when I would get that chance again. I learnt a lot of new things about my idol, that day. Something that would stay with me for a long long time.

For many, it was just another Cricket match. For me, it was something way beyond. Thank you, Rahul Dravid for all the memories.