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*