Following Indian cricket team in the 90s was a heart-breaking experience. Nothing used to happen and nothing used to look like happening either. Of course, it is easy to be so blunt about it now looking back, but back then we always lived in the hope or belief that next time around we will win. But, no it never really used to happen. I think cricket first caught my attention around the time India went to Australia in '91 and I was hooked to it since then. I wanted India to win, if not every time it played, at least one in a while. Not just in home, but also abroad. In big matches, when the pressure is on.
But no it didn't used to happen. No matter how badly I wanted it, it didn't used to happen. I was a mess when India crumbled against Sri Lanka in Eden Gardens. Was shocked when they collapsed in Barbados on the verge of the elusive away win. Was totally crestfallen, when Pakistan defeated us in Chennai in spite of a masterful knock by Sachin who really was a demi-God to me. It took me days to recover from it (to be honest only now it doesn't rankle me anymore). I even remember a final in Colombo when a 'new' India couldn't manage it once again. That too was very painful to take. It was miserable. Following our team when we were kids, really was miserable. I wanted us to be the World Champions, be the best in the world. But no, it didn't happen. Not even later in '03 when we reached the final and when cricket still meant a lot to me.
I knew the game's history, I knew that there were various periods for almost every other team when they were the best in the world. Some people wrote that India were the world's best in '71 when they defeated West Indies and England away from home. But were they really the best team in the world, I doubt it. Some may say that we were the best in '83 and '85. But nope, we were still not the best. West Indies were the best team in the world and we were losing in tests anyway. I wanted us to be the best team in the world, the undisputed best.
And one day almost a year and a half back, it happened. Against Sri Lanka, we reached the summit in Test Rankings. I was elated. For that is what I had longed for in all my years as an impassioned follower of the Indian team. It was not something ephemeral or freakish, the rankings intelligently took into account the performance over a prolonged period of time. It was what it depicted.
And today, it happened again. In a more blatant way. India has won the World Cup, we are the world champions. The World Cup!! This is truly what we all have wanted, since we were kids. One of my friends posted today that he was crying even long after the winning shot by Dhoni. And knowing him, I know that he really would have been. I wasn't anywhere near to crying and to be honest, somewhere I envied my friend for still having that unbridled fanaticism for our team. But hey, we have won. Think of a million true smilies and they will still not portray how we feel. Today is a day, we have all waited for. All our lives.
P.S. - I may well lose my interest in watching or following Indian cricket now. For over the last decade or so this team has given me almost everything that I dreamt of. And now, I am drained. I am high and I am relieved. Thank you Team India. You truly have done us proud today.