Australia vs West Indies
One Day international, Feb 1, 2013
Copyright by Sanjit Misra, all rights reserved.
There couldn’t have been a better contest than between the kangaroos and the calypso kings on arguably the fastest wicket in the world. A one-day international at WACA in Perth was where my odyssey in the land of earthly riches, sun, sand and ale had its inception. In the days gone by, one had to be awake much before the break of dawn to watch cricket matches in Australia. The scenes of bouncy wickets, long boundaries, massive stadia and the holiday atmosphere in the stands beckoned as I made my way through the myriad streets of Perth towards the WACA.
The atmosphere at the ground was relaxed and the people were enjoying a day out in the sun. The bar was already the cynosure of the esteemed gathering of cricket lovers.
West Indies won the toss and elected to bat. As Chris Gayle and Keiran Powell took guard, we braced ourselves to witness what would be a comprehensive victory of the ball over its perpetual foe, the cricket bat. The Aussie pacers extracted maximum bounce and the ball was flying past the hesitant blades of the Windies batsmen. The ball was swinging in the air and also seaming off the pitch. Chris Gayle was the first to go, edging Clint Mckay into the eager hands of the Finch in the slips. It was disappointing for me as I wanted to watch the ball fly from the blade of the “Gayle Force”. Alas it was not ordained today and my wait would stretch longer than I could fathom.
Mitchell Starc then orchestrated the act of the summer. His swinging outswinger had Powell nicking to the slips. Ramnaresh Sarwan playing in probably his swansong was late on a vicious inswinger from Starc and bore witness to his stumps lying spread eagled on the grass. A plaintive finale for a good player of the past.
Mitchell Starc displayed his mastery of swing bowling on a wicket that is widely regarded as the most suitable for pace bowling. A vicious inswinger saw the elder Bravo push one to Hughes at forward short leg. Pollard was beaten by the sheer pace of a delivery from Starc and saw his castle being breached.
As we looked at the historic score board at the ground, it read a seemingly apocryphal 19 for 5 against the West Indies. The back of the batting line up and much of their pride was destroyed by the fury and the swing of the smiling assassin Mitchell Starc. The later middle order tried to weave together a tale of respectability from among the smoldering embers of an innings that lay around them. The Windies dragged the score to 70 before being bowled out in just 23 overs. They were stunned and this was in stark contrast to the mood of the crowd gathered there. They were ecstatic and couldn’t believe the scene before their eyes.
The innings break came much before the scheduled time and it was a welcome break for the spectators from the searing heat of 38 degrees Celsius. I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman sitting behind me. He said that he is a regular at all the matches and has come to watch the match with his son. He then introduced me to his son sitting next to him, who he said was all of 52 years old. The son introduced me to his sons who were teenagers. Three generations of the family were watching the match together. The eyes of this family had been witnessing the matches right since international cricket was played first at the WACA in 1972. The tradition looked to continue in the days to come.
Michael Clarke pulled the rabbit out of the hat by sending Glenn Maxwell to bat with Aaron Finch; Maxwell with the air of unorthodoxy flayed the Windies attack. The pace bowlers were dispatched to the fence with imperious disdain. Glen Maxwell reverse swept Sunil Narine to the boundary much to the Windies chagrin. Though Finch fell early, the Aussie still attained the target in 9 overs.
The match ended in three hours, which would probably give it the honour of being the shortest one day international in history. It was complete annihilation of the West Indies by the fearsome Aussie team. The Windies were swept away by pace and swing, the very weapons that they had used to bamboozle batsmen in the seventies and eighties.
As I left the ground and looked back one last time I wondered if this is just the beginning of my cricketing journey south of the equator.