“If Sachin & Azza don’t get you, Rahul & Saurav will. And then Jadeja will thrash you!”
That was my brother’s suggestion as we brainstormed through various options to make a banner in our preparations for yet another big-ticket game at the Chinnaswamy stadium.
This game in Bangalore was supposed to be the penultimate game of cricket, before actor Amitabh Bachchan and the ABCL crew would descend upon the Chinnaswamy stadium, as they prepared the arena for pretty damsels from all over the world to compete for the Miss World 1996 competition. For now, cricketers with a wide variety of facets – studious, elegant, stylish, tenacious, ragged, determined, never-say-die etc – other than pretty – held centre-stage at the Chinnaswamy.
After the collapse in the World Cup semi-final and disappointing ODI performances through the year, there were doubts about India’s ability to chase down targets. However, with Rahul Dravid doing well in England and with six Karnataka players in the ODI squad, the local interest was at its peak.
Planning and strategies were implemented in an almost identical manner to the World Cup quarter-final. Once again, about 30 of us spent the night in the ticket queue on Cubbon Road. The public’s interest for tickets had multiplied as it was the festive Dussehra season and the Chinnaswamy stadium had upped its stakes in being a formidable 12th man.
After Australa elected to bat, captain Sachin Tendulkar backed the two local players – Sujith Somasunder and Sunil Joshi – at their home ground. Although Australia were not known to be too aggressive at the top, runs came only in a trickle in the early exchanges. The four main Indian bowlers were from Karnataka and they exploited the home conditions well.
The stands had plenty of Indian support and also lots of Karnataka flags. Some Aussie backpackers had brought in their flags to show support. A big group of local Bangladeshi students, who had brought in their Bangladesh flags, were also chanting slogans in favor of India.
After a slow start, Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh revived the innings before Waugh holed out for 41. Michael Bevan came in and tried to deal in hard-run singles and doubles, but Taylor struggled to keep up with him. When Taylor eventually got to his maiden ODI ton, the entire stadium rose in appreciation of one of the most respected captains ever.
Just when Australia seemed ready for the late onslaught, they imploded as Taylor, Bevan and Stuart Law all got out trying big shots. As it turned out, the visitors ended with only 215.
Since the early 90s, Kiran in our group was crazy about tracking the ‘caught Karnataka bowled Karnataka’ type dismissals. Despite six local players in the team, he did not get a chance to announce that stat until Bevan’s wicket. Caught Kumble bowled Prasad.
As the Indian batsmen walked in for the chase, the arena reverberated to rhythmic sounds generated by banging empty water bottles onto seats. Somasunder had a nervy start and Glenn McGrath put him out of his misery with a well-executed yorker. Rahul Dravid didn’t last long either. Soon after, Jason Gillespie trapped Azhar lbw. As the umpire raised his finger, Azhar appeared to be taken aback and visibly showed his disappointment at the decision.
Perceiving this as an umpiring error, the crowd went berserk and some spectators threw bottles onto the playing area. I watched on in dismay, as this behaviour was completely out of character for a historically sporting Bangalore crowd. Azhar came out in the direction of the stands and walked along the boundary, gesturing for calm.
Once the ground was cleared, play resumed and Sourav Ganguly was run-out. At 47 for 4, the target seemed very distant. Ajay Jadeja joined Tendulkar and there were none of the “Jadeja will thrash you” predictions on display. Both batsmen took their time to weather the storm.
Enter again, Steve Waugh. After his lbw appeal was turned down, he argued repeatedly with umpire Shyam Bansal. This added to the tension in the stands as well. Tendulkar then got going and the crowd got behind him. After Jadeja was also run out, it was all down to Tendulkar, as was the case so often in the 90s.
Nayan Mongia and Sunil Joshi fell cheaply and then came the killer blow. After having remonstrated all evening, Steve Waugh trapped Tendulkar lbw for 88. Many spectators instinctively headed to the exit. In our vicinity, Natesh and crew had restarted the popular “Hum Honge Kamyab ek din” (we’ll be successful one day) Hindi song in self-pity.
While the crowd’s hopes weren’t too high, Srinath raised those with a brilliant six. This was followed by proper cricketing shots, which left the Aussies stunned . Each run was lustily cheered by the Bangalore crowd.
Kumble was constantly in Srinath’s ears. However, Gillespie and McGrath erred and were hit for boundaries. It was a rare lower-order success for an Indian team that regularly botched chases during the 1990s.
It was fitting that Srinath hit the winning runs. The jubilation in the crowd held no bounds as firecrackers went off. The post-match street parties that followed were amazing and invoked a sense of deja vu.
The popularity of Srinath and Kumble soared further in Bangalore. Few weeks later, Srinath was on a regular visit to a Javagal family home near Shankar Mutt. Word got around and that home was surrounded by students from a neighbouring school, who wanted to get a glimpse of their latest batting hero.
Kumble’s family members were regularly shown on TV during this Titan Cup fixture. Just like Sohail-Prasad incident during the World Cup quarter-final, we spectators at the ground had no clue about Kumble’s mother and grandmother being there. Their gleeful expressions after the local boys pulled off the coup was memorable.
Sudhindra is an electronics engineer and a sports buff based near Frankfurt. He treasures his cricket tie collection, which dates back to the 1975 World Cup. He co-founded Dresden CC (now Rugby Cricket Dresden) and captained the side to the Bundesliga divisional final in their debut season.