Not one person in the vicinity is sitting. We can sense the moment coming. Kulasekara runs in, the crowd’s “Dhoni, Dhoni” chant lowers in volume as the Sri Lankan pacer gets closer and closer to the crease. And then madness. Dev and I, amongst 33,000 other fans in the stadium, see the ball sailing in the air. Hugs everywhere. I find myself hugging 4 people at once. I look at the guy who tried to take one of our seats earlier in the day and we laugh together in joy. I look towards the ground and I see Bhajji running on to the field, waving an Indian flag as he meets his crying team-mates mid-pitch. More massive hugs. I turn back towards the ground again and I see Sachin. The big screen captures his jog towards his team-mates, his child-like smile lighting up his face and ours as fireworks light up the sky.
Virat Kohli utters the quote of the decade, a quote that easily overshadows his crucial 35. The crowd roars its approval.
Dev mentions that the man is our age. Everything is surreal at this point.
We walk out of the stadium at around 1am. The cops and army personnel slowly allow themselves to entertain high five requests from fans. There is an outpouring of gratitude towards the security team, the unsung heroes of the night.
The streets outside Wankhede are a sea of blue. I am confused, unsure how to celebrate. Some chant, “Jeet gaya bhai jeet gaya, India jeet gaya!”, others congratulate each other. Some take pictures to show off to their friends, others dance to the honking tune of car horns. I, well, I do all of these. And then I run around waving my Indian flag until I see a guy with “Shekhar” on the back of his jersey. Picture is taken.
We’re starving. During the India-Australia quarterfinal, we didn’t eat during the second innings and India won. So.
I see Tamil actress Namitha sitting in Shiv Sagar, lucky enough to get a seat in the packed restaurant. Dev grabs a bottle of water and we continue on our quest for food.
A kind restaurant owner helps us get a table faster than expected and we share it with a couple of guys who’ve flown in from Dubai to watch the game. Over food, we discuss the match, our lives outside cricket, the greatness of Sachin, the boldness of Dhoni, joining in for a couple of India chants before bidding each other good bye, congratulating ourselves on the victory.
Marine Drive is packed with people. Songs are being belted out from car stereo systems while fire crackers are burst at an amazing frequency. I chat with some fans who couldn’t get tickets to the stadium but had come over to Marine Drive to revel in the post-match celebrations.
I stand facing the sea, taking it all in. I see the Queen’s Necklace shimmering.
Life is beautiful.
We take a cab back to Dev’s at 4 in the morning. I fall asleep in the cab, exhausted.
But this time, I don’t have to dream.