The World Cup fever is in the air and passions in the subcontinent will peak prior to and during the India and Pakistan clash scheduled a day after Valentine's Day.
There is no love lost between the arch-rivals and feverish passions of the sporting kind will accompany the titanic clash, easily beating the ardour of the other kind from the preceding day.
The cricket frenzy gripping the subcontinent now was hardly conspicuous when my vault of World Cup memories started getting the first inputs. My first memories of the event go back to 1979. I was 10.
I have faint memories of following it on BBC radio. The final belonged to a swashbuckling Vivian Richards who handed the then mighty West Indies their second World Cup in a row.
India's dismal performance and humiliation was complete after the loss to Sri Lanka, not a Test playing nation then.
India went to 1983 World Cup as a 40-1 (60-1 by some bookmakers) outsider with hardly any past performance worthy of note. India's only win up to that point had been against East Africa in the inaugural 1975 edition.
Under the leadership of Kapil Dev, however, India had come a long way, earning a rare sobriquet from Kim Hughes. The Aussie captain had termed India the "dark horse" of the tournament.
Team India went on to win the Cup, defeating the much-fancied West Indies in the final at the Mecca of cricket, Lord's. It was the first cricket World Cup to be telecast live in India (only the semi-finals and the final).
Some said India's victory was fluke. I say, India deserved it. It was the harbinger of a new age, an era when cricket catapulted itself from a game to a religion.
The Indian victory was perhaps a major factor in the ICC's decision to shift the next World Cup in 1987 to outside of the country of its origin, to the Indian subcontinent.
It was the first tournament where the mighty Windies no longer looked invincible. They failed to reach the semi-finals.
India had arguably the best team in years, but were swept off by Graham Gooch at the Wankhede Stadium in the 2nd semi-final. The most awaited India-Pakistan final was not to be because the not-so-fancied Australians led by Allan Border had beaten our neighbours in the first semi-final. Australia lifted the Cup.
The World Cup moved Down Under in 1992. The Australians were the clear favourites. The Indian side looked wobbly.
Pakistan did little of note initially and were dismissed for a paltry 74 against England. Rain saved them. Pakistan lost their next matches against India and South Africa and were on the verge of elimination. However, they turned it around and won five matches in a row to lift the trophy.
Skipper Imran Khan's reported "cornered tigers" comment (it is the subject of a debate that still goes on, though there is some unanimity on him having a tiger T-shirt in his kitbag) added to the high. It was the icing on cake for the then 39-year-old Pakistani warhorse.
Four years later, the tournament was back in the subcontinent and the Sri Lankans triumphed. They deserved it. Sanath Jayasuriya hit rival bowlers mercilessly in partnership with Romesh Kaluwitharana. At the business end of the tournament, Aravinda de Silva started flowing.
This tournament, however, was marred by the unruly crowd behaviour at Eden Gardens when India were being ousted by the Lankans in the semi-final. It vindicated that cricket was no more just a game. Its transformation into a religion in the subcontinent was complete. We had the solace of beating Pakistan in the quarters.
In 1999, the World Cup was back in England again. By this time, however, the epicentre of the game had shifted to the Indian subcontinent.
For the first time four nations from the subcontinent were in the World Cup. When unfancied Bangladesh beat Pakistan, rumours of match fixing flew. This taint had already started to dog the "gentleman's game". Australia won the final, decimating Pakistan.
World Cup 2003 - it was time for South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya to play hosts. After starting trouble, a resurgent Indian team, ably led by Sourav Ganguly, made it to the title clash.
However, it was not be. India met their Waterloo in the finals against the Aussies, who were the deserving winners.
South Africa did little to shake off their chokers tag, but the Kenyans surprised many with their run to the semis.
The 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean saw the Australian team carry the sort of aura that the Windies did during their heyday. The tournament attracted some criticism for being scheduled way too long. India getting knocked off early took the mojo out. Australians won all their games handily to make it a hat-trick of Cups.
India's 2011 World Cup win is fresh in memory. It was a perfect gift to the legend Sachin Tendulkar from our team led by captain cool MS Dhoni.
Nothing ever has united India and brought out patriotism more than this game called cricket. We don't see ourselves as Punjabi, Marathi, Tamil, Odia or anything else when the Indian team wins. We rejoice as Indians. Such is the passion for the game.It's either flowers or brickbats for our team as far as many fans go. Dhoni has the opportunity to create history with back-to-back World Cup wins. Go Team India, get it.
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