Taking a short break from the short story series (mainly because I cannot think of how to take it forward). On to cricket and that absolutely fantastic final between the Mumbai ke mawaalis and the Kannadiga kamineys. Would it be a vada pav or a bise bhele bath party?
Forget first class matches, I have not seen any Test matches in the past couple of years which would equal this one in terms of edge of the seat entertainment. No single session passed without any twist and the match seesawed first towards Karnataka and then Mumbai and back to Karnataka before Dhawal Kulkarni and Abhishek Nayar seemed to have bought it into Mumbai’s tent, Manish Pandey’s awesome catch notwithstanding.
With three wickets down in Karnataka’s fourth innings and a lot of runs to be made, it seemed like a canter towards the vada pav stall. However Manish Pandey had other ideas. Probably inspired by that awesome catch (I mention it again because it is worth mentioning again and again. Search on Youtube and you will get tons of videos showing it albeit with some techno crap background music…so please mute the same) he played a Godawesome knock full of drives, pulls and cuts. The man made a difficult pitch look like a flatbed. It remindedme of an inning of Vengsarkar inthe 1990 Ranji final where he pulverized the Haryanvis including Kapil Dev similarly. One particuler hook of Pandey was played with the left forearm almost vertical and the wrist on top. It was as if he was hitting a tennis shot. The bowler Agarkar smiled as if he too acknowledged the coolness of the shot. In fact, Pnadey has passed the ultimate test and shown thathe is ready for international cricket – he hammered Agarkar out of sight. And Agarkar was bowling well enough to take a five wicket haul.
However his dismissal trigerred a collapse and eventually with some minor twists and turns, vada pavs were indeed enjoyed abeit with the winning margin a mere six runs.
Positives were many including the rise of the young turks (Nayar, Kulkarni, Pandey, Pandey, Pandey) which bodes well for the future. The crowd was huge and helped in destroying the misconception that first class matches do not draw crowds. Allow a great match to happen i.e prepare a pitch which does not make the bowlers to want to kill themselves and see the crowds come.
However the match was marred by bad behaviour by the players. Sledging is good and spices things up. However too much sledging is not cool and can lead to disciplinary issues. This was too much. The match referees were surprisingly lenient with no suspensions. Maybe he did not want to punish the players after having the privilege of watching a thrilling contest for free! However this creates a bad precedent and I will not be surprised if next year there is more bad behaviour.
It was nice to thoroughly enjoy a first class game like this. Nicer to find a lot of other like minded cricket lovers who do not just follow international cricket. The final moments of the match were personally more memorably for me as I followed the game alongwith a lot of other fans through Twitter. It was like a 21st century version of hearing about the game on a chaiwalla’s radio with a few likeminded fans and enjoying together as if we were long lost buddies.