Where The Spirit Stays Alive…

Staying with Slumdog Millionaire, the movie starts with a multiple choice question. One of the options is – “It is written. It’s destiny”.

What happened at M.A Chidambaram stadium, Chepauk, Madras turned out to be quite like it.

The cricket fans of Madras are often referred to as the most sportive and the most intelligent of the lot. Nobody thinks twice or feigns modesty before bringing up the standing ovation the crowd gave the Pakistan team after the match of 1999. The sight of a  Pakistan team doing a victory march in an Indian city, speaks volumes about the power of sports. And the heart of the Madras cricket fan.

One man had his dreams turned into nightmare that same afternoon. Sachin Tendulkar, broken back or not, played a masterful innings. A typical effort from him, during an era when he was shouldering India’s hopes and he was the only one. What could have been a match winning and career defying knock turned into the most excruciating and regrettable moment of his life in Test cricket. There were some, praising him for the effort and for carrying on without a soul for support. There were many, finding faults in him, for repeatedly failing to finish the job.

Sachin would later come back to Madras and score a century against Australia. It was business as usual. But the euphoria of a match winning knock was missing. The pride of a fourth innings century was missing. The chance to silence his critics once and for all was missing.


Sachin was not the only one missing all the fun. The other guy missing all the fun was the Madras cricket fan. There have been 5 Test matches played in this venue since 2002. And three One Day Internationals. One ODI was abandoned and the other had no result as only about 25 overs could be played. A Test match against Sri Lanka could not be played during the first three days. The Test match against Australia, superbly poised at the end of fourth day, with India all set to win, had its fifth day’s play washed out. I still remember going to the match on fourth day, during internal exams at college, watching Damien Martyn and Gillespie grind the bowling attack. Another against South Africa was a boring draw.

The M.A.Chidambaram stadium is not used to such ordinary levels of cricket. It is a historic and famous venue for the kind of cricket played over there and for the fans of Madras. The place was just waiting to witness Test cricket of the finest quality and that is exactly what was handed on a platter in the match against England. A match where the opposition were in full control for the first four days. A match where one single session on the fourth day made a huge difference. A match where four players scored above fifty in a fourth innings of a match. Sehwag’s in particular, for laying the foundation.

The script, couldn’t be more perfect. Madras was destined to witness one of the highest run chases in Test history and the highest in India. The city and its fans rightly deserved the match of a lifetime, after being treated to very mediocre plays and abandoned games. It regained its glory as the best venue to play cricket on, in India.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, scoring his 41st Test century and the match winning runs, and ultimately burying the demon of 1999, was only the icing on the cake. It was written.

*Cross posted on desicritics*


19 thoughts on “Where The Spirit Stays Alive…

  1. I got no words for describing this soul, he was so modest to ask yuvi to finish off the game with a bang while yuvi was almost pleading him to finish his century.. His devotion towards the team is unquestionable regardless of any guy scribbling on his column, we know how dedicated he is with cricket. Today was yet another day to throw light into it.

    Well to speak about the cricket crazy chennai fans and the environment in the stadium, i was one of the bottle-bangers on the 4th days :). This particular match and crowd proved how important the sport of cricket is in India.

    Adi: Contrary to popular opinion, no amount of praise would do justice to his stature!


  2. Nice one…Sad I didn’t get to watch this brilliant knock! And hey, I was there too on the 4th day vs Aus when Sehwag ended the day with so much promise! It was the day before some Lab exam for me :)

    Adi: Heh yeah! I had CAT 3!! So lab models were also during tht time I think!


  3. dude, awesome article man. stole the words from my mouth! still cant believe ppl are complaining abt sachin’s innings against pakistan

    Adi: I know! Thanks!


  4. We are awesome, aren’t we? I remember when I went to the IPL matches over here, it was chennai superkings v/s delhi. And delhi was winning, there seemed to be no way CSK could bounce back esp cause sehwag was on the rampage. As it is with all cricket matches, when we were discussing this disappointment (aiyayo…match poyidthu saar) with the random fan behind us, he was like “ada vidunga ma…sehwag-um namma ooru payyan dhaane. avanoda game-a enjoy panna vendidhaan”

    And we did :)


  5. hmm..i was there in the crowd watching the events unfold…i think cricket was the winner…test cricket beats t20 hollow..u will hardly see a sac century when it matters most in t20… He proved me wrong and he is the greatest india has produced… Chennai deserves a game like this..we will get either the best or the no problem..

    Adi: Wow coming from you, that’s a huge impact!


  6. Super match…total goosebump moment only it was…sad i cudnt go…was at work refreshin the only site that is accessible for the score…but that’s ok, watchin the highlights was more than worth it :)

    Adi: Yep, it’s DVD material!


  7. I’m falling asleep over my book now, but I’m so glad I stayed up till 5 am to watch the game till the end. A classic in the cauldron of Chepauk!

    Adi: Classic is the right word!


  8. I do agree with you, Madras is FANTASTIC for anyone who watches cricket. the atmosphere in the stadium can really grip you. get into conversations with random strangers over what-will-happen-next, what-could-have-been-done-better and so on :)I love madras

    Adi: Welcome here! I love madras too!


  9. Nice u mentioned about the Pak match in 1999.
    I was in 10th std following the match in radio (dint hv cable then)
    i just broke down when we lost that match because it could have been one of those all time epic knocks in test cricket which VVS holds for Australia in kolkata match! Sachin deserved to lead the team from front and win that match!

    As you put it , now Team India is on verge of becoming world champions and i am sure this victory one in chennai makes me happier for that loss in 1999!!

    And for all those idiots in media who called for his voluntary retirement after SriLanka Series where are they?

    Adi: Exactly, where are they? Sachin is well, Sachin. Inimitable!


  10. I don’t remember the 1999 game. The game I do remember is the 1996 World Cup Quarter Final game in Bangalore. I saw that game and I was a huge fan of Jadega back then. He annihilated Waqar Younis. Also remember sneaking in a-bombs into the stadium in sealed sweet boxes. The cops were dumb back then, they never opened it. Who the hell would eat sweets in a stadium?

    Adi: I remember that one. Jadeja was awesome and the contest between Prasad and Aamir Sohail. Super match that was!


  11. This was one of the few matches that had me hooked to the TV. Sachin is the perfect example of this saying I read somewhere – a successful person is one who uses the bricks thrown at him as his foundation stone.

    Adi: I think he said that himself!


  12. well.. i have seen a lot written about the spirit of the chepauk crowd.. invariably all these conclusions are drawn from that occasion when a standing ovation was given to the pakistani players.. can u or anyone else suggest one other instance that demonstrates this “sporting spreet”?

    Adi: I don’t think you need one. It hasn’t happened anywhere else, and I don’t think it would.


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