I had the confidence, or call it faith, that we were going to win this one.
Confidence, as India had won the last two matches in pressure-cooker situations against strong oppositions while Sri Lanka had had it easier. And therefore India were in a better position to handle the pressure of the final. It was like, after lifting 200 kg in two bench press sets, they had been allowed a half hour break and then asked to lift a sparrow. For Sri Lanka, well, it was a world cup final.
Faith, is kind of unexplainable, but Sheila Dixit, the aunty-CM of Delhi, put it really well. 121 crore people of India were praying for an Indian victory against 2 crore of Sri Lanka. Surely the vibes, if not the Gods, would give at least a helping hand? And this team had it in it to make any extra helping hand count.
Sri Lankan wickets kept falling at regular intervals but Jayawardene held fort and the Sri Lankans scored in the last power play to reach a healthy-looking 274. It did not matter. If the Indians batted with the intent they were bowling and fielding, nothing could stop them. Even otherwise, all it needed was about 15 overs from Sehwag. During the break, as we went out to replenish our beer stocks, everyone in the market was betting on a Sehwag blitzkrieg.
Sehwag fell, and Sachin followed soon after. Malinga was smoldering, and the next few overs were actually a bit tense. But once India reached to about 100 in 20-odd overs, the match was in the bag. There was a long line-up of players in good form playing or yet to come. Everyone somehow give their best when Sachin is out cheaply. And Sri Lanka bowling was now looking ordinary.
Lightness was in the head when Yuvraj got two near misses. Music started playing in the 46th over. ‘Aarambh hai Prachand‘ was playing for the second time when Dhoni hit the six and brought things to conclusion.
Within 2 seconds, dhol started playing in the Galli. Me, Pawan, Murtuza and Siddharth ran outside. The entire Galli boys were there, dancing their assess off. We were stopping the oncoming traffic and making people dance. We were lifting each other up, sharing high-fives with total strangers. Girls were staring and smiling at us from balconies. Some were making videos of us. Out of the irresistible beats of the dhol, one could clearly make out the words ‘India… India’ and ‘Jai Bharat Mata’.
Soon after, we left for India Gate. It was my idea. I wanted to take a look at the Amar Jawan Jyoti, the most inspiring sight I have found in Delhi. We were three people, me, Pawan and Murtuza on my bike. I was riding without a helmet. Around us, people were riding four or five people on a single bike. Whatever four-wheeler there were, people were dangling out of the windows, swerving and shouting like crazy. There was police all around, but for once, they were not interested in the fortune that was there to be made. To every Indian, and firang, that I saw on the street, I screamed ‘Jai Bharat Mata’, or ‘Jai Hind’ Or ‘India… India’. Although it later came to me that it was ‘Gali gali mein naara hai, world cup hamara hai’ which was the most popular line everywhere.
About 2km before India Gate, I realized that everyone had had the same idea as us. The entire Delhi, it seemed, was going to India Gate. As a result, the roads were blocked. And once they got blocked, Everyone opened their car doors, and turned on the stereos full blast. Dancing, interspersed with a snail’s place of traffic movement, was everywhere. Everyone was dancing or shouting. For once, cars were standing in the middle of the road without a volley of abuse deluging from behind. People were shouting, but in glee. The only expletives flying around were out of pride or love. “Duniya ki M* C*** Di!” and “B****** utro na gaadi se neeche!” followed by the best improvisation of salsa over Bhangra music you could ever find. Girls were roaming around in Delhi, making videos of boys at past midnight and nobody was paying any attention to them. Horns were honking loudly, but for a change, today they were conveying bonhomie rather than an intent to decimate. I brushed my bike with the side of a Wagon R, looked sheepishly at the aunty sitting at the passenger side, and said Sorry. All I got in return was a ‘Arre bhaiya, aaj ke din sab chalta hai!’ I suspect I would have gotten away with murder.
We could finally see the Chhatri behind India Gate beyond which it was impossible to go. A lone policeman was manning the barricades, forbidding people to go anywhere nearer to India Gate, even on foot, and for once, nobody argued with him.
Traffic had come to a complete standstill now. After another half hour of frenetic dancing, I came to stand at the side of the road, staring at the Chhatri, gazing at the Tiranga flying everywhere. A guy had somehow managed to get a piece of road cleared and was doing bike stunts on his Karizma. Some body-builders had taken off their shirts and were posing from on top of their SUVs. The entire town was partying together, and each one in his own way.
I danced like mad, soaking in the moment, catching a glimpse of India Gate now and then, and had the very indescribable feeling that I was in the middle of things. That this was it. That I belonged. That at this moment, we all belonged. That we were where we ought to be. Ahead of everyone else. That we hadn’t achieved anything extraordinary, but had taken what was long overdue to be rightfully ours.
And that is the emotion in me. It’s a great sporting achievement for the players, support staff, selectors, board and everyone else involved in the process. As a nation, it is great, but not extraordinary. We haven’t achieved anything which was out of our limits. We haven’t pushed our limits. We have merely reached where we are supposed to be. A nation of 120 crore cricket crazy people which provides for 80% of cricket’s spectators deserves to win the World Cup 80% of the times. As simple as that.
Just that even breaking even out of repression is an ecstatic feeling, too.