| February 6, 2015 1:04:41 pm
England’s limited interest in the Cup has a lot to do with Gatting’s reverse sweep at Eden Gardens in the ‘87 final and Akram’s reverse swing in the title contest at MCG four years later.
If only Mike Gatting hadn’t played that doomed reverse-sweep. It was around noon in Wonersh, a tiny village town in Surrey, and I had just got back home. As I saw the catch being taken, all I thought of was, “Why couldn’t he have hit it to some dozen gaps that were available to him?” It was a seminal moment in English sporting history. We hadn’t won a football World Cup for more than 20 years. To boot hadn’t had a Wimbledon winner for some 50 years.
In my opinion, both those quests still remain incomplete but let’s focus on cricket here. We had won the Ashes earlier that year. And here was the crowning glory. That is till Gatting played a shot that was some 20 years beyond his time.
After the Gatting debacle, I thought that’s it for me and ODIs. Then England picked Ian Botham for the one in 1992. That changed everything. For someone like me who grew up in that era, Botham was our hero. And there was no way England would lose if he was part of a team. To his credit, despite looking more like an insurance salesman than a cricketer, he took England to the final. But they fell short again. There were others in that team who we looked up to, Allan Lamb, Graham Gooch and even Chris Lewis. Then there was Wasim Akram and his two magic balls. I had grown four years older, and had started working as a carpenter. So I had to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to catch the action from Australia and New Zealand and then go to work. It was tiring, but as they beat team after team, I stopped bothering about the sleep deprivation, even if Akram ruined it for me. That was also the last of Botham, and it was good to see him bow out in front of 100,000 people at the MCG.
That World Cup also played a significant role in my life. These days I live in Perth and run my own carpentry business. But it was after watching the action in 1992 that I decided to get a taste of Australia. I was always fascinated by the New Year’s Test in Sydney. And the next time, England were here I came across for that. The fireworks around Sydney Harbour Bridge were another temptation I couldn’t resist. I was totally taken in by the SCG. The aura of the place, it’s better than any other ground in the world.
I was part of an English contingent of fans who were making a lot of noise. There was no official Barmy Army then. There wasn’t all this gimmickry around. It was just a bunch of Poms who loved their beer as much as they did their cricket team, getting together and making a lot of noise. Oh, and we loved the fact that we could actually rile up the Aussies, both on and off the field.
That trip really opened up so many ventures for me, apart from igniting this wanderlust. I was not long after cheering for England in Antigua, which was again a totally different experience. Then came South Africa, and I must say that walking around Newlands was surreal.
Being a part of the Barmy Army means you are quenching your thirst constantly but also screaming your throat dry ever so often because of all the chanting and cheering. So it’s like a circle of life. Most of our chants are impromptu, and some of them are quite poor in terms of the fun quotient. But we still never stop. That’s why the team loves us too, and always acknowledges our indelible support. It’s tough when we lose, and we end up drinking a lot to forget our sorrows. It’s tougher the next day when we win because we end up drinking even more to make sure we don’t forget the sweet taste of victory.
The one worry I have about this World Cup is that it clashes with the business end of the English Premier League. Yes, the cricket will be more in the mornings for them but still I’m not sure whether it will generate the same kind of interest. It requires England to really win a couple comprehensively. That’s when generally the man in the pub gets into it.
Yes we can … maybe
For a change, I actually think this England team can go the distance. I will be stoked if they make the final. But I really want them to at least reach the semi-final. My key players are James Anderson, Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler. Far too often, we have opted for a safety-first option in 50-over cricket and paid for it. Like we saw with Buttler the other day, he’s all about not displaying his nerves, if he does have any, and batting the team through.
Ali is really a sensation, and I really haven’t been able to fathom how we can trouble Indian batsmen without him. But I must say that I have a personal opinion about expats from other countries lining up for England. I honestly don’t think they should be representing a country they don’t hail from.
Our captain, Eoin Morgan is from Ireland and it’s funny that he’s captaining England in a World Cup where his country of birth will also be playing. There are others in there like Ali, Ravi Bopara and yeah, somehow I haven’t really been a fan of that aspect. This England team was of another level when Kevin Pietersen was part of it but somehow it’s good that he’s not there too. Why can’t we produce enough home-grown talent from the 18 counties who play domestic cricket every season?
I will admit that I will have mixed feelings if my team somehow manages to win the Cup and its Morgan standing there with the trophy. Wait, maybe not. If England actually make it all the way, I will be as ecstatic as anyone.
I wouldn’t mind even if Morgan wins it for us. Yes, even if he hits the winning runs with a reverse-sweep.
This England loyalist has shifted beyond enemy lines, to Perth, after watching the ‘92 world cup on the telly.