1996 India vs Sri Lanka semi-final: Day ended the way it started, in tears

  • Somshuvra Laha, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Feb 07, 2015 02:25 IST

It was 1996. Kolkata was Calcutta, Sourav Ganguly's debut was still three months away, cable television hadn't intruded middle-class homes and, most importantly, this was my first big cricket tournament. Morning school ensured memories of the 1992 World Cup were fuzzy. School ended at 1.10pm and it took exactly an hour for me to reach home, meaning I just missed the first two or three overs of every day-night match in 1996.

It was an exciting period. I carried around a small diary, jotting down the memorable events of each day, but not until the India vs Pakistan quarter-final in Bangalore did I understand what the game actually meant to us. That spat between Aamer Sohail and Venkatesh Prasad was my first and a lasting impression of the ties between the two nations.

I still remember vividly how my mother, who had locked herself in the adjacent room since she couldn't handle the pressure of watching the game, burst into the living room after our collective cheer at the fall of Sohail's wicket. That replay was the only time she watched the match on TV.

After the quarter-final, everybody said India were destined to win the World Cup. For me, it was a dream come true to have the World Cup semi-final in Calcutta and the perfect occasion to watch my first live cricket match at Eden Gardens.

I persuaded a relative to spare his membership ticket and was all set for my 'debut' till my father scuppered the efforts as the school final term exams were due to start next day.

I pleaded, threw myself at his feet and cried flailing my arms but he didn't move. I was still sulking when Javagal Srinath dismissed Romesh Kaluwitharana and Sanath Jayasuriya, then the most feared opening duo, in the same over. 252 seemed a big target in those days but the way Sachin Tendulkar had started it seemed he had taken it upon himself to guide India to victory.

I was cheering every four till Tendulkar tried going for a non-existent run, giving Kaluwitharana enough time to whip the bails off before he could turn and ground his bat. What happened after that is still a blur. Vinod Kambli's teary exit amid missiles raining on the pitch is an image many carry from that match. India had lost earlier too but for the first time I had realised it could be this bitter. It is an unforgettable day that ended the way it had started - crying my heart out.

(Views expressed by the writer are personal. If you want to share your thoughts on the game, mail your write-ups to perspectives@hindustantimes.com)

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