There you are. India beat Pakistan in the 2011 Cricket World Cup Semi-Final and will now face the Sri Lankans tomorrow. There. Every Indian is happy. The victory sparked off wild celebrations, even in dry Ahmedabad (Formally dry. Informally, like Sabarmati flows the Scotch).
That morning, before the match had begun, I was thinking, "What if we lose this match now? How would the Indian fans take it? After all, it IS Pakistan. And every news channel is already gung-ho about this match and the political who's who attending". Indeed, this match was seemingly becoming bigger than cricket itself. But then again, aren't all Indo-Pak matches are?
Meanwhile, my mind decided to pull into reverse-gear and arrived at the flashback of the 1999 World Cup. A couple of my cousins and I, ages 9-12, used to gather at this aunt's place to watch the matches. Some Pizza outlet had a scheme running -
"Call 66333444 when a Batsman hits a six. Name the Batsman. First caller wins a Pizza".
This was just brilliant. A free Pizza was like the biggest dream of our life. And we all decided to try our luck at every single match. We had the number on speed-dial and took turns to sit next to the telephone. The number, however, was always "busy". Too young to realize the marketing strategy, we had plenty of hope that one day, we shall get to the Pizza.
India - Sri Lanka Match. 26 May, 1999, Taunton (England).
Without much luck in the previous matches, we were hoping we'd strike Pizza in this one. We had this younger cousin of ours, Puneet, put the number on speed dial and wait for someone to hit a six.
Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid were batting. The signs were ominous. Somebody was going to hit a six. And we had Pizza Puneet ready to make the call. All of 10 and hungry for free Pizza, he waited anxiously, praying. Then came the moment we were all waiting for. Ganguly hit a massive six and we rejoiced. One more shot at the Pizza. Puneet speed-dialed and it was finally ringing at the other end. Someone picked up -
Man - Hello?
Puneet - Hello. Hello (stammering. Still thinking about the Pizza)
Man - Yes?
Puneet - Haan. Hello. Hello? Ganguly ne chakka maara. Ganguly ne chakka maara!! (Ganguly hit a six)
Man - Haan to? Main kya karoon? (So. What am I supposed to do?)
Puneet - Pizza bhejo na. Ganguly ne chakka maara hai. Pizza jeete hum log. Bhejo. (Send the Pizza. Ganguly hit a six. We've won the Pizza.)
Man - Kya? Kaun sa number chaahiye? (What? What number did you dial?)
Man - Number sahi hai..par kya Pizza? (The number is correct. But what Pizza?)
The moment he said the number we were shouting behind him to put the phone down. Wrong number. Wrong number.
DOUBLE SIX, TRIPLE THREE, TRIPLE FOUR You Idiot.
Not TRIPLE SIX, DOUBLE THREE, TRIPLE FOUR.
A few of us slapped our fore-head as Ganguly hit another six. And THEN we all laughed. Puneet thought we were all going to hit him for the missed chance. When that didn't happen, he joined us to share this moment.
Ganguly went on and hit a few more sixes in that memorable innings where he scored 183. However, thanks to Puneet, we remember the match more for the Pizza rather than the final outcome.
Did we call again? No. Everytime Ganguly hit a six, we joked around as Puneet looked on sheepishly.
Did we get the Pizza? Yes. Not immediately though. And definitely not free.
Thinking about it now, watching cricket for reasons beyond cricket, has always been a way of life. At least for me.