The firecrackers started going off at 9.58pm. That was when Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi hoicked a full toss from Harbhajan Singh, and Virender Sehwag — keen not to drop the World Cup — took the catch with cautious glee.
Our nine-year-old daughter, coiling and uncoiling herself in front
of the TV, asked, in a small voice (inside which was trapped a roar): "Is it okay now? India will win now, won't they?"
Scribbling in my spiral notebook as the advertisements disfigured the TV screen, I nodded.
By the time I had looked up from my notes, Oishi was doing the jig that is her current favourite: a curious hybrid of several kinds of dance, not one of which I can identify — or care to, really.
And so it went. Till the last wicket, till Ashis Nehra got Umar Gul, and fireworks made the night sky incandescent and the TV showed how the spectators at the ground had been swept away by a tidal wave of euphoria and the players made a run for the stumps they wanted as souvenirs.
Oishi went to bed, late, a contented girl. The next day, when my wife reached Oishi to school, all she heard the children talking about when they entered was the game from the night before. In school, our daughter later told us, there was such commotion and fist pumping and untrammeled expressions of joy that they could barely get the class started.
As I have written in this column, our daughter is not even remotely a cricket fan. Football is the sport she loves to follow, with tennis being a close second.
But as the World Cup progressed, as more and more conversations were usurped by cricket, as the newspapers began to fill up with not much else but the cricket (okay, mea culpa, but no regrets at all), as her classmates pleaded with their teacher to not have their maths assessment paper on the day of the India v Pakistan semi final, she began to watch and take note.
And when the final came around on April 2, she came with me to our office to watch the game on the big screen that had been set up. She went home suitably late and thrilled.
All this could be because she didn't want to be left out of conversations. It could be because she wanted to see what the fuss was about. It could be because a faint spark of interest had been ignited.
This is what a triumph in a World Cup does: it creates new fans. The win in 1983 made a whole generation of young Indians fall in love with one-day cricket. We discovered that we didn't previously enjoy it not because we were purists but because we were terrible at it.
The triumph in the World Twenty20 championship in South Africa in 2007 made hundreds of thousands of children embrace the game like nothing before.
I doubt that our girl will be a new evangelist. Her interest in the tournament remained too fickle, too transient, for the birth of that lasting ardour. But it won't be like that for thousands of other children.
Perhaps this was the tournament in which your child became a cricket fan. A proper one. Did she?
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