Notes on Watching the Cricket World Cup Final in Zagreb

I wake up on Saturday morning to the thought – Oh Man, Finals!

Before I can put paste to brush, the blood pressure is up. There’s that knot sitting at the base of my throat. I feel it going larger with every hour on the clock. It’s a beautiful day in Zagreb – spring is here, and a cool breeze greats the new leaves outside. I switch on the TV.

The pundits say we have to bat first. We lose the toss, they will bat first. The knot is larger. Someone says Sri Lanka have a better bowling unit, Nick Knight says he has an image of Sachin Tendulkar, with the Indian flag, on a lap of honour around his home ground tonight. I like Nick Knight; I wish I remembered how he was with the bat.

We make a quick run to the store – cola, beer and chips. The streets are empty. No flags, no drums, no war-paint, no posters, no billboards, no street corner analysis, no one cares. I wonder if the few people out and about can sense our tension, our anticipation.

We’re having a few friends over for the game – all from the local cricket club. Only one of them is Indian. The rest enjoy the game in a calm only the neutral fan is allowed. I hear a car drive past, a horn, and chirping birds. On TV, Mumbai is inaudible.

It’s not like 2003. Zaheer is a new man. The fielders are young men. Everything is stopped, nothing is loose. Hope.

In the end they play fantastic cricket, they get a few too many.  The knot is so large it feels like it’s cutting off circulation. That much controlled BP is threatening to bubble up. India makes a bad start. I switch my glass of water for something harder. There’s little hope, surely. The pressure is gone. We watch for the cricket now. In the back of my mind, I weep for Sachin.

We order pizzas. Things are kind of going well. This new kid, he can bat. It’s still too far for a win, but yeah, there’s a fight. Who knows … maybe? The new kid is gone. The captain comes in. A surprise. He isn’t in the best of form with the bat. He middles it, and then almost doesn’t. He has still eyes.

He keeps things on course. We don’t say it out loud though; don’t want to jinx it, just in case. We laugh and talk like nothing has changed, from the corners of our eyes, we keep track of the TO WIN column. The number, it grows smaller and smaller and smaller.

Suddenly it’s under 100. Possibilities. Friends and commentators say India has it in the bag – we get even more nervous. I pace, he sits still. We scream – cheering the runs, begging the guys in the middle to stay calm. “What’s aaramse?” she asks. “Like, polako,” I answer back.

It’s going to happen.

We match the noise in the stadium, well almost; we  have good landlords, there are no knocks on the door or phone calls. We scream louder.

Oh my God, this is really happening.

I want to be home, in Mumbai, in the middle of this. But I’m in Zagreb, so I continue jumping in my livingroom.

India wins. I call my Dad, it’s his birthday. Happy doesn’t cover it.

The others congratulate us. It was a good final, after ages! Wankhede is going wild. Our smiles are just as wild. Too young for 1983, we finally have our own World Cup story in place. After the others leave, we rewind the last twenty minutes of the match and relive it.

As we head out, Zagreb is quiet. I want to whooo into the Croatian night, instead I smile all the way to the Pub. And all the way back too.

The highlights are on. One more time before we call it a night; like Knight said – Sachin, being hoisted on shoulders, lapping the ground, with the tri-colour – but better, much better, much much better.

I wake up on Sunday morning to the thought – Yeah, we won! We did! The reports, clips and articles can’t be updated fast enough.

On Monday order will return, as will perspective, but everything will have changed. The World Cup has finally come home.

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