1st March 2003

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1st March 2003

My Birthday. Saturday. Mahashivratri. India vs Pakistan battling in the momentous occasion of World Cup after many years since before the Kargil War put bilateral relations in deep freeze. For a cricket fanatic child raised in 90s definition of perfect day can’t be any better.

All through India, people fast on the day of Mahashivratri, a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honor of the god Shiva. Scenes were none different in my house as well.

But like majority of people in India I was waiting for the match made in heaven. India and Pakistan clashing for glory.

A match which is driven by emotions more than cricketing spirit. A match which each one of us anticipated since the world cup calendar was published earlier that year.

I fondly remeber one of that newspaper calendar on the wall of my room. We were not living in the information age then. Such calendar, stats and all sorts of event build up mattered most.

India was coming to this match rejuvenated after their triumphs on co-host Zimbabwe, Namibia, England (that 6 against Andrew Caddick) after their disastrous start in the cup campaign.

India were undefeated against in Pakistan in WC (even now) but more than that streak it was pride and honor on stake (whatever one may perceive but this is the rivalry quotient).

Saeed Anwar had a regular day in office. Hitting century against India at will. A target of 274 pre-t20 age was tad difficult. If i am not wrong Wasim Akram hit Nehra Ji for two consecutive four’s in the last 2 balls of pakistan innings.

It was exactly then an untimely storm caused load shedding in my town. Just imagine, we are between innings. A fierce chase is on cards. Sachin Tendulkar vs Pakistan Pace Attack. And there is no power.

I ran to my neighbor’s garage. My gully friend was trying his hands on his father’s dust swelled fiat car battery.

Our CRT color TVs were not compatible so we arranged an old T-series brand black and white television and after several permutations and combinations heaven was restored.

We did not see that punch of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar against might Waseem but all our effort lived upto its anticipation. Sachin’s mind boggling six to Shoaib followed to a couple of boundaries.

That over read- wd, 0, 1, 0, wd1, 6, 4, 4

From 9/0 at the end of over 1 to 27/0 at the end of over 2. My birthday was shaping pretty well. Waqar replaced Shoaib soon after his horrendous over only to receive 6 my “Najafgarh ka nawab” who year later was “multan ka sultan”. At the end of 5th over India were 50/0. Meanwhile, Abdul Razaqq dropped Sachin. It was a mistake which has almost brought Pakistan”s World Cup campaign to a grinding halt. Entire India missed a breath. “Tujhe pata hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai (Do you know whose catch you have dropped)?” Akram screamed at Razzaq.

Everything looked so poised and god hand written until Waqar younis uprooted Sehwag and Ganguly in consecutive deliveries. As a cricket enthusiast carrying reminiscences, Ganguly getting lbw was as similar to Yuvraj getting bowled by Wahab Riaz in similar battle 8 years later.

Sachin at the other end looked determined and kept on squeezing necessary boundary to keep the momentum alive. Meanwhile, Kaif played his one of most important inning ( of course post Natwest final) in ODIs. He was constantly sledged by Shahid Afridi (with whom I share my birthday) until he removed him in 22nd over.

Sachin by then was struggling with cramps. Like any other Sachin fan watching him in pain was unbearable. Shoaib dismissed Sachin at 98. He missed century by 2 runs. But a man with 49 centuries in ODIs cherish that 98(75) one of his personal best. That was one of sachin “notable” contribution in winning cause/chase. It was THE world cup.

What followed was another regular day for unnoticed and underrated Dravid in office. Killing bowlers’ ego on his will. a 75 ball 40 may now ound awful but certainly not in those circumstances.

A young Yuvraj ably supported dravid with his attacking cameo of 45 not out of 50 balls. India won by 6 wickets. 26 balls to spare. Sachin received his 3rd Man of the match of the event. Sachin was God. Lord Shiva the destroyer was sensed in his act of tormenting Pakistan’s bowlers.

Waqar and Shoaib went for 70 odd runs in their quota of 10 overs. I still consider 1st March 2003 as my best birthday ever.

PS: Power was restored in the town. Nobody wanted a riot. But we continued to watch rest of the game in that tiny B&W TV.

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