Before I left for London, I had decided that I will be watching the fifth test match between India and England. That was of course subject to tickets being available at affordable price. Future held a surprise: I was going to watch battles between rising stars and setting stars. Sports often mimics life!!
My son decided to buy a ticket for me. I suggested Day 4. There were two reasons: first – I expected the tickets to be cheaper on that day – a Monday, and two – Fourth day usually holds a lot of drama for the spectators.
I went to the Wimbledon station and boarded the South Western line. Vauxhall station was the third station. It was also close to The Oval where the match was being played. There were two old British men who were also going to The Oval. They were holding the ticket in hand and were talking about Alistair Cook.
I decided to follow them. But the two men walked too fast and I lost them in the crowd. When I came out of the station, I wondered how to reach The Oval. A man in red T shirt was asking people to use a tunnel for crossing over to the other side of the station. ‘Watch Alistair Cook’s last century, go, go…’ he said pointing to the tunnel.
After that it was quite easy work to reach The Oval. All you have to do is to go with the crowd. That’s how it happens if you go to Wankhede, right? But I surely did not expect a person to sell India flag to Indian supporters. It was a surprise; but looking back I feel I should have expected this, after all the businessmen love people of all nationality, as long as they are willing to pay.
A quick bar code check on my ticket and I was seated in what Mumbaikars will call the ‘North Stand.’ The seats were not uncomfortable, the weather was!
The match started. Crowd wanted Alistair Cook to score a century. It was his last match. Cook built his inning carefully. A thunderous applause and standing ovation which lasted for full three minutes was given in appreciation of his century. People seem to have forgiven him for not-so-good performance in the earlier four tests.
Finally, he lost his wicket to Vihari who was playing his first test. A stalwart loses to a beginner! Wow!! A setting star losing his position to the rising star!
The electronic board declared ‘Thank You Chef!’ taking a pun on Alistair’s surname.
By the end of the day India had lost three wickets and the position looked precarious. On the fifth day, I stayed at home and watched the match. Rishabh Pant batted well, it was an inspired innings with four sixers and fifteen fours!
Rishabh Pant’s innings was a full contrast to Alistair Cook’s. Alistair had carefully built the innings, Rishabh exploded on the scene. Their strike rates 51 and 78 tell the story.
And Rishabh lost his wicket to Adil Rashid who had stopped playing the red ball to join the English team! Alistair Cook lost his wicket to Vihari who was playing his first test match.
So, we have two stars, one retiring, one rising. They were ousted by two stars, one rising and the other setting!
Life is like that!! What say you?
Vivek S Patwardhan