Home Sports Billion hearts, one dream: India prays for encore

Billion hearts, one dream: India prays for encore


New Delhi : It isn’t quite war this time. With three days to recoup from the spent emotions of Mohali, a cheerful and excited India Saturday was in the mood for a solid good game of cricket, hoping their team would repeat its World Cup feat of 1983, this time against Sri Lanka.In hundreds of towns, villages and cities, people thronged temples for prayers, shopped for party food and firecrackers, and scampered to finish the day’s tasks before settling down in front of TV sets for the India-Sri Lanka final in Mumbai.

Others tuned into their radios well in time for the 2.30 p.m. start.

Many dressed in blue in support of captain M.S. Dhoni’s men, never mind if that was the colour of both the final teams! India had after all reached a World Cup final after eight long years. The day would also bring to an end emotions that had begun one and a half months ago.

There were the lucky few who made it to the 33,000-seat Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, but the rest of India huddled in village squares, pubs, restaurants or simply curled up at home with family and friends to watch the all-Asian final.

With dignitaries like Indian President Pratibha Patil and her Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapakse among those watching, south Mumbai, which houses the stadium, turned into a fortress. Incidentally, Rajapaksa had prayed too for captain K. Sangakkara and his boys at the famous Tirupati temple before flying into Mumbai.

Road traffic in Mumbai was noticeably thin, tourist hot spots were deserted. “This will be compensated when India wins the match and the entire nation celebrates. It will be a Diwali in April!” predicted Krishnamurthy S.K., an avid cricket fan.

With the sun shining bright in Mumbai, the weather was perfect.

Aamir Khan, Vivek Oberoi and Rahul Bose were among the Bollywood celebrities catching the action live at Wankhede. With the Maharashtra government declaring Saturday a special public holiday, private offices also followed suit and declared it a half working day.

But even hundreds of kilometres away from ground zero, the excitement was no less. Would India repeat its 1983 feat when it had defeated the West Indies? This time it was home ground, after all.

In Delhi and Gurgaon, giant screens were put up, friends and family called over, and food and drinks ready.

“I went to the supermarket and was surprised to find it packed with people who wanted to finish their last ditch shopping before the match began. Even my 13-year-old daughter made it a point to wear tri-colour clothes,” said Teesta Bajaj, a Gurgaon resident.

Many decided to take the day off from work.

“We have set up a large screen in our neighbourhood park, apart from arranging snacks and drinks for everyone present,” said Divya Tilak, a resident of east Delhi.

Across the country, people said their prayers.

A lamp with five kilogram of ghee that was lit at a temple in Orissa’s Cuttack city before the Mohali semifinal when India had played Pakistan continued to burn bright. Devotees said the lamp would be put down only after India lifts the World Cup.

An unusually large number of people were seen at shrines across Himachal Pradesh.

“Normally I come here every Tuesday. But today, I have specially come to offer prayers for India’s victory,” Meenakshi Bhalla, a Class 12 student, told IANS. Some even kept a fast.

The enthusiasm did not ebb in Punjab even three days after the high-octane emotions for Mohali semifinal, which had catapulted India into the final.

“That match with Pakistan, we played for our pride, but this time it’s for history,” said Tara Chand, who lives in Mohali.

In Chandigarh, some fans cut a stadium-shaped cake. The city’s hotels, bars and restaurants had the taps flowing, with some rolling out special menus and offering discounts during match hours.

“Our guests can enjoy the match on new wide screens, installed in our hotels. Special menu cards have been made in the shape of a bat and a ball,” A.K. Malhotra, general manager of CITCO (Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corp), told IANS.

“There are special drinks, cricket-themed cocktails and mocktails like dazzling yorker, LBW, India’s punch, captain’s cooler, googly and whipping cover.”