I love October.
One reason is the Major League Baseball season is coming to a climax. I don’t get to see as many games as I’d like to, but I did get to watch one of the last Giants games for the season, and look forward to following them in the playoffs.
And here, the weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and the cold, grey days of football give way to the crack of leather on willow. The domestic cricket season begins in October, and this year we have the bonus of Australia touring India before the home international season begins. India currently boast a batting line-up that would make any team quiver in their boots. Gambhir. Sehwag. Dravid. Tendulkar. Laxman. Dhoni.
And, well, the opening Test match of the series was a demonstration of just how good a game of cricket can be. It swung through many moods, with Australia in trouble, then recovering, then India dominating until they collapsed suddenly on the third day, ending up with a first innings deficit of 22 runs. Hardly a hair between these two teams. After three days of intense competition, there was basically nothing separating them. And we feared the game might meander to a dull draw.
But the fourth day saw action aplenty, with India surging into a strong position, but then falling away again when they began chasing the victory target. And then there was today. How can you give justice in words to a game which builds slowly in tension over five days, until on the last day you have a surging crowd of spectators in the stadium, accompanied by hundreds of millions of people glued to TVs and radios and the Internet, maintained hanging on the edge of their seats for over three hours?
This is a game where Ishant Sharma, India’s second-worst batsman, stayed out there for over an hour, making his career best score, and supporting VVS Laxman to approach an impossible winning goal still 70-odd runs away, with Australia breathing down their necks. And then Sharma got a bad umpiring decision and was ruled out, exposing the inexperienced and very poor batsman Pragyan Ojha as the last man in. Only he stood between Australia and victory. And for the last 20 minutes, as India edged excruciatingly closer to the target, one run at a time, all Australia needed was to get one man out. Laxman was batting with a runner, and requiring treatment on his sore back during the breaks in play, yet refused to give in.
And in the end India prevailed in a miracle victory, by the narrowest of possible margins, and a billion Indians went wild. Cricket can be a bit dull at times, but games like this are why it shows itself time and again to be such a marvellous sport.