All sober men and women of India, save some foresighted folks who stocked the barrel before the Gandhi Jyanti, waited anxiously for the last match between India and South Africa. The advantage of being sober is that you can lay all your facts into a straight line, and order them correctly. The excitement in anticipation of the match was, therefore, palpable.
Politician, in between, paid homage to the country’s sole international hero, by dropping some choicest flowers at Gandhi’s Samadhi in the morning secretly praying to get rid of this mandatory yearly chore, while disguising it as prayer for the mankind, and also ensuring that the TV cameras, and photographers capture their candid pictures in a form which meticulously conceal their state of mind.
When the clock struck nineteen, everyone glued in front of the television sets. The match between Australia and Pakistan had just ended. Pakistan, to their own surprise, had defeated Australia which while losing ensured their tickets to the semi-finals, was now sitting pretty and yet a little concerned in the dressing room for the outcome of this match. Pretty because they had just defeated the mighty Australians without the sound of match- fixing hovering in the air, and concerned because they knew that only Indians could outclass them in unpredictability.
South Africa, on the other hand, was out of the tournament but gleaming in confidence of different kind. The colour of this confidence bore resemblance to the poem that I had read long ago – one who is down needs fear no fall. This glowed confidence quickly got transmitted into the tossing coin. South Africans won the toss convincingly, which remained their only convincing win in the tournament. Indian players, on the other side, appeared nervous and clueless trying to cope up with the hapless situation where they had to play the game while doing the math, both at the same time. Not a happy state considering when half of them flunked their math test by a greater margin than their latest defeat to Australia, while the other half fainted twice before facing the first question. Oblivion fans who despite being sober, were in full frenzy. People were leaping up and down in their places in an effort to drown the disquiet that was creeping inside.
The match started in full gusto.Two players promptly walked into the park looking up in the heaven as if asking the almighty to convey about their secret plan. Celebrations of the fans ceased soon after the match started for it was now clear from the outset that the players’ secret plan was to internalise Gandhi’s lesson of non-violence on to the field as they refused hitting the ball despite the opponent kept hurling it down their throats. Rohit Sharma, for instance, entered the ground with a Gandhi-like composure. His demeanour, however alien to the fray, was no less than a saint who had taken the opponents blows peacefully without hitting back, and had only gaped his mouth in appreciation of the challenges presented before him. When he left, he had already attained the sainthood by demonstrating the world of his interpretation of Gandhinian prophecy. His existence on the ground marked the stamp of the camp India, declaring to the world that how peace loving folks we are, and that we never hit any hostile even if it’s just an inanimate object such as a cricket ball.
But South Africans, too, had this deep rooted relation with Gandhi. At first, they might have thrown him from the first class compartment but later embraced him the way they embraced Mandela. Their claim of Mohan Das becoming a Gandhi is not a secret, similar to the tale of Siddhartha becoming a Buddha in our own land. That’s history, of course, but history has this uncanny knack of repeating itself.
Playing true to the history, South African first forcefully rejected the Gandhian approach. Du Plessis, especially, was adamant to abide the lessons which Indians so kindly presented, perhaps also because formerly he was not the part of his own team, and therefore was unfamiliar to its generous policies.
After the downfall of Du Plessis, who before exiting ensured that the Indian pain became agony, South African soon realised their mistake of not abiding by the non-violence approach quickly rectified them one by one. However late, they ensured that they lose and which they did by one run, and kept the Indian tradition of Bazigaari (one who wins even after losing) intact.
Thus the match despite its significance was lost by both sides. Both teams tried hard to abide by the Gandhian principle but sadly lost. Perhaps, the Gandhi’s message was somewhere lost in translation. And while people feverishly debate over the relevance of Gandhi in today’s society, I sit back and wonder if indeed this was how Gandhi would have played his Cricket.