Cricket Jamboorie… !
By Maxwell Pereira
Jt. Commissioner of Police/Traffic, Delhi

maxpk@vsnl.com

By a strange quirk of fate I became part of the cricket jamboorie to South Africa, landing there with many others from my country for the world cup finals. Had somehow got berthed in the same plane, but not as part of the hoi-polloi jet set group from Delhi including Union and State Ministers and other politicians, media barons and a great many journalists from the written as well as visual medium, film personalities, playboys and glamour girls from the society pages, also some cricket lovers and some more motley lot from all over India constituting the likes of me - for all of whom Air India apparently organized a chartered flight to South Africa at the last moment - a special jumbo 747 that made the trip Friday night ex-Mumbai... that stayed on there for us till we returned with the team members (…the only maha-excitement) leaving Johannesburg on 24th night, reaching Mumbai on Tuesday morning.... with not a wink of sleep because of the whole plane load being in a riotous party mood, cheering up the downcast players with a million demands for autographs, and some of the movie artistes and play back singers starting a sing-song session in which the majority of passengers joined... lasting what appeared to be almost till day break when breakfast trays were handed down! Totally pooped, I returned to Delhi the very afternoon after missing the morning flight thanks to the understandable delay and confusion that prevailed at every step.

Landing in South Africa, one could feel that excitement rent the air and the tension that one could sense, beat that of high voltage. Euphoria led us all, ensconced as we were in large numbers in every hotel in town, to believe that the World Cup was ours. "Jetega bai jeetega - India jeetega" and "Come on India - karlo duniya muttimein" were common refrains one came across intermittently in an otherwise orderly and disciplined atmosphere one encountered. In a country, which perhaps had seen sloganeering not since the days of over throwing the erstwhile apartheid regime. It was also amazing to witness how the earlier ruling white communities have in the last many years since 1994 adjusted themselves to black rule - both having assimilated themselves into a harmonious and homogenous co-existence perhaps unparalleled anywhere else in the world with divided and multi-racial ethnicities.

The airlines had quite imaginatively organized for each passenger a 'tiranga' on a bamboo stick and a T-shirt in the Indian colours with the legend 'Come on India' prominently stamped on its front! And so without doubt I too became part of the cheer-leaders community of Indians that flooded the stadium with our national flag in numbers never seen before. Perhaps of the over 16,000 visas granted to Indians by the South African embassy here, majority stayed over for the finals… and it was amazing to also experience how Indians and those of Indian origin from other parts of the world - from right across the globe… USA, Canada, UK and the rest of Europe, from the Middle-East and the rest of Africa, from Singapore Malaysia to Fiji - had all flown down to SA to show solidarity with the Indian dream for the world cup! And the very South African community not to be left out in its total backing for India against Australia (…I saw a girl with a legend on her shirt - I support South Africa and anyone else who plays Australia) - the mood was apparent: India lacked no support in SA and were literally on home turf with everything going their way. Erstwhile test cricketer Dilip Sardesai after watching the boys at net practice on the day previous to the match, summed it all up " …the boys are relaxed…. That's good!"

A little over-relaxed, perhaps…. as it appeared the next morning as the drama unfolded before our eyes in the stadium. All the excitement of watching the Zulu warrior dancers performing the entre in the stadium soon vanished with the Aussie's hammering 15 runs in the very first over off Zaheer Khan's wide, wider and yet again more wide bowling. As the frustrating moments for India progressed, SMS messages from across the world and the stadium filled and flitted to and fro across the cyber space - my own Sonal from Lancaster Univ in the UK lamenting with her crisp "dad hpe u r kping yr eyes shut" You wanted to get up and go (…which Raj Singh Dungarpur said he did when the Aussies were over a 100 for no loss, a comment he made while in the shuttle transporting us to the plane on our return lap) and yet stay and watch, hoping against hope for that lucky break!

The wet pitch and over confidence in his bowlers that prompted Saurav Ganguly's decision after winning the toss to elect to field and let the Aussies bat… the dismal fielding that gave an impression that we were not even trying to attempt the catches nor stopping the boundaries… and the man of the series letting down his side at the most crucial juncture, are all issues that will be debated for long by cricket buffs and connoisseurs of the game. But looking back especially in terms of my own 'jonah' status, I shouldn't have ventured on this trip, I feel! Suffice it say, right from the start we were pathetic on the crease and on the grass! ....and sickenning in the stomach it was to see and suffer your country boys giving away the match on a silver salver to the Aussies - who, all said and done, were a better side - and that was the only consolation.

Great trip, otherwise... with memorable escapades in the wildlife sanctuary safaris and other sight-seeing including experiences underground in the gold mines - all managed in a razor-sharp jam-packed schedule, the very limited though interesting interaction with the friendly cop Van Der Mewer of the South African Police... and the breath taking ambience of the place with superb climate, and the beautiful, orderly, disciplined and immaculately manicured environment the country presented to a first timer!

 

(The author can be reached at http://planetindia.net/maxwell or his email: maxpk@vsnl.com ) 900words: 25.03.2003:Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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