We can’t lose to England! I mean… it’s Twenty20, and aren’t we the World Champions. Two years since Yuvraj walloped Stuart Broad for six sixes in an over on a cold Durban night, the southpaw had single-handedly vanquished the entire English side more than once. Hailed as The Rockstars of Cricket, from Dhoni to Raina, Gambhir to Rohit, each a stalwart in himself…more than capable of putting it across England on their own. And then, our bowling attack….its the best in the world, people say.
Bursting with over confidence, I headed home from work...on that fateful night.
I switched on the television. The `lucky` couch, which had borne my presence when England had been whipped at Kingsmead during India’s World Cup winning run, besides being testimony to many other glorious victories, was occupied by my brother. I was about to ask him to vacate it, as I usually do before every `crunch match`, but that night, I stopped…almost inexplicably!
`Lemme preserve all the good luck for the game against South Africa …we are gonna need all of it against ‘em, if not more` I thought as I saw Yusuf Pathan warm-up for the match with a few lusty blows in the nets.
Another tradition that I religiously abide by on the match days is I make sure some part of my clothing sports my team’s colour. That night, I wore no blue!
I had the opportunity to pack my pocket with a blue handkerchief before the match, but I let it pass...consciously (sigh!). I was challenging fate.
I usually pick one water bottle and stick to it for the entire match. That night, as Bhajji and Jadeja were spinning a spin-web around England, complacency crept in yet again as I succumbed to the lust for some cold water…and committed yet another sacrilege.
India lost a match they should have won…by 3 runs. One boundary here…an inside edge somewhere and we would have been in the reckoning still. In short, we were done in by luck.
I struggled to escape the sinking feeling as Dhoni fumbled for words to conjure up reasons for defeat. My guilt was pricking me. What made things worse was that somehow Dhoni seemed to be looking at me, painfully, in the eye during the post match press conference. I had let him down. I had let down the entire team. For all the pure and undiluted joyous occasions the team had provided me all these years, I deserted them just when they needed some luck. I switched off the television and retired to my bed.
I couldn’t sleep. I tried to offer logical excuses for the defeat to myself. `Jadeja should not have been promoted up the order. Dhoni should have batted first…Irfan should have played`, I consoled myself. But deep down, I knew that I had committed a blunder.
I could barely read the newspapers next morning. ‘They should have opened with Yusuf’, said my dad handing me a 500 rupee note for my daily expenses, still gloomy after defeat. If only he knew how careless I had been.
Guilt made me decline the money. `I must suffer`, I said to myself.
Next person to remind me of my hara-kiri was our locality’s watchman. He blamed Bhajji for conceding 10 runs in byes for the defeat. Using his arithmetical brilliance, he figured out that that India would have won by 7 runs had some `luck` gone India’s way. Drat!
‘How’s your father’s health now’, I asked, desperation in my voice to change the topic, I am sure was not missed by him. I drove away without even waiting for a reply.
The day after was my weekly off. It was one of the most restless days of my life. I avoided my friends, for the fear of the match being discussed. I went to the gym, but left early…just as a post-mortem of India’s defeat was gathering steam.
I needed to confess. I needed the world to know where the blame actually lay. My guilt pangs were killing me.
I will own up, I decided…and on the widest platform available to me.
As soon as I reached my office, I got down to putting my confession to words.
‘Open confession is good for the soul’, I had read somewhere. Never before did a proverb seem so right.
Not that I stand absolved of the blame, but now, I do feel a bit lighter.
To all the fans of the Indian cricket team: Please don’t blame Dhoni and his boys…it was all my fault!