After the Mets lost to the Royals in the season finale, Citifield came alive again on Saturday. But this time it was not the baseball fans from the city thronging the stands to cheer for their team. This time, it was a crowd of cricket enthusiasts looking to time-travel back a decade or two and re-live the golden era of cricket legends.
The cricket all-stars, an exhibition Twenty20 cricket series, featuring the clash between line-ups of renowned retired cricket players from around the world, organised their first match in the New York City. Sachin’s Blasters and Warne’s Warriors, as the two line-ups are named, faced each other.
The final result, for readers who might be wondering: Warne’s Warriors beat Sachin’s Blasters by six wickets. It was a small stadium, the baseball ground far from being even close enough to a cricket field. Most of the fast bowlers were only just shadows of their fearsome past. Batsmen struggled as they worked their way through the slow outfield.
However, these were not enough to dampen the excitement at the stands. In fact no one in the crowd went there expecting a competitive game of cricket.
People thronged in with flags and jerseys of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Some others in the crowd were Australian and English expatriates. There were some who had flown in from Jamaica and Trinidad to watch the All-stars match.
For those few hours Citifield was immersed in nostalgia. For most, it was like reliving their childhood, watching players who they had idolized and imitated in their backyards. The entire stadium was in a frenzy as the legends walked into the field in ones and twos; the team announcement before the game was met with a decibel-delirium.
As the game began, it was a shower of memories. Sachin and Sehwag walked in to open the batting, Sachin taking a quick glance turning back at the dressing room as he walked in. Wasim Akram ran in to bowl running his hands through his hair. Warne setting up the field before he walked in to bowl to Sachin. Sehwag clearing the boundaries right and left. VVS Laxman carelessly trying to play Warne across the line into midwicket. It was like someone had filmed your very childhood secretly and suddenly started playing it like a movie in front of you.
That was not all. When Lara walked in to bat, the stadium sounded like the stands were going to burst. Our minds wandered back to the sheer brilliance that we once witnessed, the 375, the 400 and many more. Muralitharan, his eyes glowing, wide grin on his face, appealing by wiggling his index-finger at the umpire, brought back many memories. Shoaib paced it up, getting Hayden and Sangakkara with short ones and also shocking a 46-year-old Jonty Rhodes with a sharp bouncer.
For most, the result of the match did not matter. It were the moments that they took back as they trudged their way out of the stadium after the match. Memories of the little-master ransacking a confused Shane Warne at Sharjah, memories of a lion-heart attempting to clear the boundary at 295, memories of a glorious 281 under the pressure of a follow-on, everything shot up in those few hours. Moments that were once much more important that examination scores; moments that helped past numerous failures; moments, all-pervading in their own rights, that made each of us feel like a winner, irrespective of whatever battles life threw at us, came back one by one; – the only battle that remained was to stop that one tear-drop of gratitude trickling from the pool of memories. For most in the stands that wasn’t even a battle worth fighting.
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