Original draft of article published in Sports Illustrated India, January 2010 issue
A disarming, open, friendly and you could even say innocent expression has accompanied some of the most incredulous and succinct responses from the man. “I just tried to hit the bad balls” he said to the interviewer, in that polite and charming manner he has always had, when queried about his exploits on the day. And the smiles burst out on the tired faces of millions who had watched in slack-jawed awe as Virender Sehwag pulverized the Sri Lankan bowling on December 3, 2009, smashing an incredible 284 runs in a single day at the intimate confines of the Brabourne (CCI) Stadium, Mumbai. Friendly and innocent were certainly not the words on the minds of the Sri Lankan bowlers that day: offensive and devious would have been apt from their viewpoint, as they trudged off to the ice-baths, pondering the very meaning of their existence as cricketers on that fateful day.
Original draft of article published in Sports Illustrated India, December 2009 issue
One of the earliest stories about cricket that I remember lapping up wide-eyed is one who’s telling I can recall vividly to this day. New Year’s Day, Calcutta, 1967 and the second Test of the series against the West Indies was underway. Eden Gardens had been bursting at the seams, but in an ominous way. Fuelled by the greed of authorities who had oversold tickets to the tune of 20,000, it was a cauldron of spectator discomfort, distress and danger. And on the second day of the Test, it gave. A full scale riot ensued, with ill-tempered crowds rampaging onto the playing field, battling it out with the police. The terrified West Indian players fled amidst the tear gas in all directions, with some of them making it out of the stadium and running for their lives down the side-streets of Calcutta. But what one player did amidst all this mayhem was remarkable. Conrad Hunte, the classy West Indian opening batsman did not straight line it to the safety of the dressing room or the streets. Risking potential physical harm from the rampaging mob, he had the gumption to run over to the flag poles, shinny up and retrieve the two national flags flapping in the breeze.
Published as “Symphony of Destruction” in Sports Illustrated India, Nov 2009 issue
That over is indelible from the memories of Indian and Pakistani cricket fans. Indelibly exhilarating to the Indians and horrifyingly so to the Pakistanis. A doppelganger of the fateful last over in Sharjah, 1986. In the breathless span of those three deliveries, aggression, intent and artistry were so emphatically communicated, that in hindsight, the eventual result had an aura of inevitability about it.