You took destiny by the scruff of the neck..

I wasn’t old enough to remember the first one, and I’m thankful for it.

It was a blow delivered by wood to leather, but that’s just the material, physical description. It was a blow to our psyche, and we, as a nation, took years to recover. Miandad’s six, as every cricket tragic will tell you, sits top of the heap when it comes to things we’d rather forget. And we’re talking Indian cricket fans. That’s a very large heap.

It wasn’t so much the fact that we lost to Pakistan that hurt, because that had happened in the past, and it would happen plenty of times after that. It was the way of it that drove the dagger through the heart. One ball left, four to win and there’s no way we can lose from here – so of course we went and found a way. It was, in a way, emblematic of the way we played cricket at the time. Gallantly, valiantly, but in the end, as true blue romantics, futilely.

Let us hasten on to the second of those hits that cleared the boundary, for it is a happier, altogether more cheery memory. The second six was struck not in India, but abroad, in South Africa. The delivery was short and wide, there to be hit, but the way it was struck seemed to be a declaration in itself. It was a six, yes, but it was also a statement, and of the resounding variety.

That it was Pakistan at the receiving end made life come full circle for most of us. About fifteen years had passed, more or less, but a fitting reply had finally been given. That it was Sachin who repaid the debt, in full and with interest, was the icing on the cake. As it sailed over the boundary on that day in March, the ball carried a message to the rest of the world: we’re here to play.

But not to win.

For us to win, we have to move on to the third six. This six wasn’t about losing, and it wasn’t about replying. This six was about Arjuna’s eye, about an unwavering focus, about an irresistible force, about a time that was ours, and ours alone. Australia, our nemesis of the decade gone past, was swatted away in the quarters, Pakistan (oh, the deliciousness of it all) was decimated in the semis, and by the time the finals rolled around, you knew it just had to be.

That very instant in which the six was struck, and when Indians felt they had won the World Cup before they realized it, is best encapsulated by two things. One, by Shastri telling us that Dhoni finished it off in style. You can hear him say it as you read these words. Two, by Dhoni following the trajectory of the ball as it made its way over the ropes. A man who was out of form throughout the tournament, a man who pushed himself up the order for no reason other than his gut feel, a man who had single handedly decided that this was going to be it – Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the author of the third six that defines Indian cricket.

The first of the three sixes was resignation writ large. The second was a notice of intent. The one that completes the trinity was a strike of inevitability.

MS Dhoni took destiny by the scruff of the neck, and made it bend to his will.
You, sir, have our eternal gratitude. Well played.

*This column is about Pune, one way or the other. But the captain retired yesterday.

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish Kulkarni

Ashish is a confirmed Punekar, which guarantees eternal undying love for the city, but also mandates an incurable sense of cynicism about it.

He doesn't expect the paradox to be resolved in his lifetime
Ashish Kulkarni