I'd wanted to write an article about Sachin Tendulkar when the master blaster scored the first ever ODI 200 in history, last year; but then, an exam kept me from doing that. I'd also wanted to write an article on the eve 1st match of this World Cup; but then a bad fever and infected throat had me rest in the hospital instead. Now on the day of the what is called the business end of the tournament, the first quarter finals, nothing will and nothing can stop me from coming up with this piece of writing on a sport that i love, that flows through my veins, that flows through the veins of over a billion people, Cricket!
Ever since that historical test match at Kolkata against Australia in 2001, the outlook of Indian cricket team had taken a U-turn around the world. Under the inspired captaincy of Sourav Ganguly and magical performances by Laxman, Dravid & Harbhajan India thrashed the then "Invincible" Australian side from almost impossible scenarios and even went on to win the series. The 2003 Indian tour to Down Under saw India winning a test match in Australia after ages, once again choreographed by Dravid & Laxman. A final resistance from Steve Waugh in his final international innings saved the test for Aussies and the series was drawn at 1-1. Since then, huge waves of anticipation followed every single India-Australia fixture and also produced some of the most finest & exciting performances of the last decade.
Today we are one day to go for yet another India-Australia contest and probably the most important one since the 2003 finals at Johannesburg. The core of Indian team remains the same even today, but Australia is no longer the might they used to be.
- Zaheer Khan will be daring to go against the Australian openers again, wanting to make up for his ill-fated opening over 8 years ago.
- Sachin Tendulkar will want to make his 100th international ton against his favorite opposition in a match that will take him closer to his only remaining dream, the World Cup.
- Sehwag will be looking forward to relish the big stage yet again, wanting to bat for the length of the innings and thus single-handedly take the match away with his blade.
- Yuvraj will want to continue his excellent showings with both bat & ball in his rebirth, a couple more of good performances and the Player of Series trophy could be in his showcase!
- Harbhajan will want to lead the spin trio from front, hunting the kangaroos down just like the way they did over a month ago at the warm-ups!
Enough said, Australia have always been my favorite team outside India and Ponting the captain is placed shoulder-to-shoulder with my icon Ganguly. I know its funny, but I often compared his autocracy in the field to the then President of USA, George W Bush. Its a shame that this game ain't happening at Mumbai with the World Cup all but up for the grabs. On any other day, against any other opposition Ponting, Lee & Clarke would've been the players I would've loved to see smiling, but not tomorrow. Come tomorrow evening, the Kangaroos will enter into the bulls ring surrounded by over 50,000 cheering fans, taking on the mighty tigers of India. Over a billion viewers will want to see the raised willow of a smiling Sachin & joyous celebration of Zaheer & Co in the field. Go India, Go!!!