Boria Majumdar’s take on the India Pakistan T20 World Cup encounter

90,000 people erupting like a collective volcano with Virat Kohli taking centerstage, Indians couldn’t have hoped for a better Diwali. It was almost a Manmohan Desai movie. Full of drama. Indians losing the plot, game slipping away, wickets falling, asking rate going out of control and yet everything falling in place at the end with the hero, read Virat Kohli, winning it all back amidst all odds. The perfect happy ending if ever there was one.

Indian fans at the MCG (Picture by Debasis Sen)

And most importantly, it wasn’t scripted. It was real and that made for a night of unbelievable intensity and passion. Not a single seat at the MCG was empty and the stage was set for a humdinger with the rain gods deciding to allow people a night out like never before. Fans from across the world had come to watch Virat and Rohit play and no one was disappointed.

The match had everything. Arshdeep Singh who was trolled a month earlier picked up Babar of the very first ball and that set the tone. Rizwan followed soon after and India, it seemed, had it. Thereafter we witnessed a spirited fightback and Pakistan eventually put up 159 on the board, a total that was enough to give the fast bowlers something to bowl at.

Just as the Indian fans were settling into a decent dinner hoping for a comfortable victory did the Pakistan speedsters take over. Rohit, Rahul, Surya were all out in no time and India had to yet again, turn to Virat Kohli in a critical run chase. And he was special. Some of his shots, especially the short arm pull for six, was the best we have ever witnessed and Kohli, in tandem with Hardik, managed to take the game deep. However, even when he was doing so, Pakistan was hanging in there. Even looking the favourites. Getting Hardik and DK just in the nick of time meant Kohli was running out of partners. Just when it seemed we had seen enough did Nawaz bowl the most costly no ball he has ever bowled. A waist high full toss, called a no ball by Marais Erasmus, which was hit for six meant India, all of a sudden, had the game in control. And then Kohli was bowled off the free hit and the ball, believe it or not, almost sped to the third man boundary allowing the batters to run three byes. Whether it was dead ball or not, the debate shall continue.

Picture by Debasis Sen

With each run the roar was becoming louder. Indian fans had started to lose themselves and Kohli, it was evident, was getting ready for the final celebration. He knew he had it control and when Ashwin unleashed the straight stroke over mid off, Kohli had started to sprint. He was the man of the moment and after months of going through a tough period, he was back at his best. Sunil Gavaskar jumping up and down like a kid and Sachin Tendulkar calling it the best ever innings from Virat, the world cup had started in a manner the ICC couldn’t have imagined in their wildest dreams. All they could have asked for was real. No rain. Last ball finish. A Virat classic and an early Diwali.

Most importantly the fans too were soaking in the moment. When have you seen Pakistan fans dance to Indian dhol? We witnessed it at the MCG as the Pakistani fans, disappointed and hurt, shed all their inhibitions and joined in to wish the Indians happy Diwali and be a part of the celebrations. Seeing them dance and celebrate, it was hard to believe that these two nations don’t play sport with each other. In that one moment when three Pakistani women fans wished Virat and the Indian team a happy Diwali, the sport had been elevated to a very different level. Win or loss did not even matter. Everyone was celebrating the superhuman feat of Virat and cricket had turned the unifier that we know it can be. All is well in the world at least for the time being. The cyclone can wait and so can every crisis. Virat and the team have given us the best Diwali gift we could have asked for. As I finish the piece, its 2am in Melbourne and the dhol is still blaring. Whether it is Amherst Street in North Kolkata all decked up for Kali puja or it is the Melbourne CBD, it is impossible to decipher. What we do know, however, is that the world cup has captured peoples imagination back home and will be the headline at least in the immediate future. The king is back. Long live the king.

After the win (Picture by Debasis Sen)

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