An eye witness account of NatWest final!
On a wet evening during the 2002 NatWest Series, Sourav Ganguly revealed to me in his hotel room at Edgbaston that the image of Andrew Flintoff waving his shirt in celebration after victory in the Mumbai ODI earlier in the year was occupying his mind no end
It almost seemed as if his one-point agenda during the NatWest campaign was to earn the honours back from England. But little did I know that a week later, Ganguly would be performing a similar act from the Lord’s balcony after winning the series.
The captain played a role in that win — 60 off 43 balls before two spirited young men got together and lived their dreams. Ganguly’s slog to Alex Tudor was a poor shot though.
At the vast media centre at Lord’s I was trying to meet a tough deadline. I was coasting along as India lost wickets at regular intervals. When Sachin Tendulkar departed — bowled Ashley Giles for 14 — a lot of us had given up on even considering a fightback. The one-day finals hoodoo was set to continue. After all, India had lost nine consecutive finals.
The English fielders saw all corners of the headquarters of cricket thanks to Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif. Their century stand for the sixth wicket was entertaining, but it was not enough still to entertain thoughts of victory considering the 326-run target. I looked up at Ravi Shastri who was taking a break from commentary and gave him that ‘yet-another-loss’ look. His smile wasn’t a ‘just wait and watch’ one. In his next session in the box, he was describing a thriller.
An English journalist kept on saying India will win. Some supporter I thought he was. Jotting down the bare statistical necessities, I continued to bang the keyboard of my laptop in the knowledge that it would be an England victory. When Yuvraj departed, Harbhajan took over. Bang… a six by Bhajji off Paul Collingwood turned on the hope level, but Harbhajan and Kumble fell at the same score (314). Zaheer scored four of the required 12, but those four were worth its weight in gold. What can one say about Kaif’s unbeaten 87? The marriage of commonsense and brilliance gave birth to that innings. As soon as Ganguly saw Kaif making his ground for victory, he took off his shirt and twirled it around. His shirt went dizzy and so did everyone else in the Indian camp.
The Long Room at Lord’s must have sounded like a room of galloping horses. But no one was complaining.
Out on the streets, long after the team had returned to their hotel at Buckingham Gate, Indian cricket fans zoomed and yelled on the streets of London as if their team had won the World Cup again. July 13, 2002… you beauty!