Go back in time, remember your emotions over the 1987 and 1996 defeats. There was frustration, there was no rage when you wanted to throw the remote at the wall or smash the TV. In 2007, after the defeat to Sri Lanka in the West Indies, violence did come to mind.
Let’s go back to Maninder, who was the highest scoring Indian player in 1987 with 14 fints. He was just 22 then, now 58. Life after retirement has not turned out the way he would have liked. Maninder has spoken extensively about his depression, alcoholism and rumors of his drug use. Now the darkness has dissipated, he has found solace in religion and spirituality.
Question again: Does the 1987 World Cup semifinal defeat bother you?
A lot of things have happened in my life to make me worry about it… If I was worried, I’d be dead by now, he says. That is, if he has seen much worse days, the memory of the World Cup defeat doesn’t bother himт? Maninder is quick to correct. No, no, it still stings. It doesn’t bother me, it hurts. We had a good, balanced team. We were a unit, we had a feeling we were going to win. But the tees keep popping up, he said.
Tees in Urdu means a piercing pain from deep within that pops up periodically. Tees is a simple tension, an everyday headache that can be taken away with aspirin. Tees is a pain for which medicine has not yet found a prescription. Maninder mentions death again, this time philosophically. Yeh tees nahi jayega, woh jaegi jab sharir ko aag lagai jayegi. (This tees will not go away, it will be there till death), he says.
Though the defeat at Wankhede in 1987 crushed the nation, it has not been imprinted on the minds of the game’s followers. The famous Mumbai pitch is not associated with Gooch’s swing, but with Ravi Shastri’s iconic phrase – Dhoni finished in style. Magnificent punch into the crowd! India win the World Cup after 28 wins of the years!
The next time India hosted the World Cup was in 1996. Another tight contest ended miserably. Eden stood stunned. The fans didn’t seem to agree with the team, they just went all out.
In 2007, they were angry. India couldn’t get further than the first league. The team under Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell looked disjointed. Disagreements in the locker room spilled onto the field. The team did not put up their best effort.
As India prepared for an early departure from the West Indies, the news from home was not happy. Players’ homes were under attack. Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly’s restaurants were attacked, Zaheer Khan’s house was stoned and MS Dhoni’s residence was also broken into by intruders.
In 1987, the fans were not so hostile. Maninder remembers encountering those who praised the team’s efforts. They would come up to us and say: Well done, guys, you are a choirThey played well, they gave it their all. Man thodip ko tasalli hoti hai (It really calms the mind), he said.
The World Cup taught Maninder a few life lessons. In the first game against Australia, the spinner found himself in a tight spot. India needed six points in the last over and he was squatting. He scored a couple of doubles and now India needed 2 runs to win. It was déjà vu all over again. Same opponent, same situation, same place. Just a year ago, in 1986, Maninder was the last man out when Australia drew the game. There, he defended the ball and was run out. After that, everyone told him he should have swung the bat. In 1987, he did just that. Maninder was out again, and again he failed to pull out a win in a tight game.
Years later, he sees the bright side. Woh kiya toh woh bhi galat, yeh bhi kiya yeh bhi galat. (The defense also proved to be a bad decision, as did the offense), he says. He addsI think I’ve become much wiser about life: Everything is out of your hands. If you worry, you get sick. You can only control the things you can control. I’m a firm believer in fate, he says. What is written in heaven happens on earth. That’s a thought fans should stick to in the coming turbulent days of frenzied hype.
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