Chennai 1999: That day, those memories

For the last seven days, I have indulged in a strange ritual. Every night, before going to bed, I have watched the same eight minutes of A Bat & Ball War, a documentary on Pakistan’s tour to India in 1999. I wish there was a rational explanation for this behaviour but some magnetic force, a rather masochistic one, has made me watch, rewatch, scrutinise and re-scrutinise the part from 25:00 to 33:00.

This part of the documentary, which I have obsessed over in the last week, deals with the final two sessions of play in the Chennai Test of 1999 – yes that Test. I have paused the footage at various stages, tried to make sense of facial expressions, attempted hard to read players’ lips, observed fan reactions, captured screen grabs and zoomed in to Tendulkar’s, Akram’s and Miandad’s face to record some signs.

I have watched on mute. And I have experienced the documentary with my eyes closed, taking in only the narration, the music and the crowd noise.

I have drawn up umpteen alternate scenarios – what if Mongia had stayed sane? what if Tendulkar had tried to loft Saqlain inside-out? what if Joshi had struck another straight six? what if Srinath had lost his head and actually pulled off a mad hoick? – but also reflected on more weightier matters – would Tendulkar have changed his batting style into a more ruthless, error-free one had India won this match? would the innings be enshrined in legend as the greatest, his greatest? would we have ever had the million debates about his ability at the finish?

What would I have done? Where would I be now if India had won? I know this sounds ridiculous but the more I watch these eight minutes – the great-grandmother of all heartbreaks – the more I seem to treat this like a personal failure. Some absurd part of me thinks that the result of that Test match changed my life, as if it was that one clinching moment at the casino when I could have nailed the jackpot.

I’m glad this fine documentary shares with me the several others who experienced that gut-wrenching finish. I can’t get enough of all those who suffered through the final session: the faces of those men standing around a fruit cart and listening to a radio letting out Tamil commentary; the fan who clasps his hand in prayer as 17 are needed for an Indian win; Miandad, his eyebrows taut, the crows feet below his eyes exaggerated in a close-up shot; Anand Jain (Srinath’s neighbour who had made the trip from Mysore) pursing his lips in agony; a mustachioed man, his face haggard after an exhausting day, grinding his teeth after Tendulkar falls; a little boy’s face behind him turning glum.

Those harrowing minutes towards the end as wickets fell in a rush. Shoaib Akhtar (not playing that day) watching as if in state of confusion, Azhar looking positively doped, Miandad returning to his intense gaze, a little girl in the stands worried, pouting her lips, the lady in front of her shellshocked, her face sweaty, her eyes widening, as if reeling from the thought of a break-up.

And the abrupt end, Srinath playing on to the stumps, Moin’s ‘Ah yesss’ as he begins to rush towards the bowler before realising that this is the end of the game and his time to uproot a stump to add to his souvenir collection, volunteers on the boundary watching Miandad run onto the field yet regaining their senses to remember their job – forming a barricade to stop a crowd invasion – a red-shirted man, the setting sun amplifying the redness, dazed by it all.

This was the part of the documentary that I enjoyed the most, cameras trained on fans, showing me close-ups of their incredulity. I felt we shared a bond: me, close to a 200 miles away, standing numb in front of my TV screen and them, a few feet from the action, also standing numb, also unable to make sense of the most painful of defeats.

I leave you with a masterful piece of sportswriting. Sixty years ago, in another sport, in another country, when the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers engaged in a historic baseball game. Writing about it 1992, the great American novelist Don DeLillo captured the bond between fans as they watched a seminal event:

There’s a man in the upper deck leafing through a copy of the current issue of Life. There’s a man on 12th Street in Brooklyn who has attached a tape machine to his radio so that he can record the voice of Russ Hodges broadcasting the game. The man doesn’t know why he’s doing this. It is just an impulse, a fancy, it is like hearing the game twice, it is like being young and being old, and this will turn out to be the only known recording of Russ’ famous account of the final moments of the game.

The game and its extensions. The woman cooking cabbage. The man who wishes he could be done with drink. They are the game’s remoter soul. Connected by the pulsing voice on the radio, joined to the word-of-mouth that passes the score along the street and to the fans who call the special phone number and the crowd at the ballpark that becomes the picture on television, people the size of a minute rice, and the game as a rumor and conjecture and inner history.

There’s a sixteen-year old in the Bronx who takes his radio up to the roof of his building so he can listen alone, a Dodger fan slouched in the gloaming, and he hears the account of the misplayed bunt and the fly ball that scores the tying run and he looks out over the rooftops, the tar beaches with their clotheslines and pigeon coops and splattered condoms, and he gets the cold creeps. The game doesn’t change the way you sleep or wash your face or chew your food. It changes nothing but your life.

Twelve years later I can say the same about the Chennai Test of 1999. It didn’t change the way I slept or washed my face or chewed my food. It changed nothing but my life.

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100 Responses to Chennai 1999: That day, those memories

  1. Sidvee. I could feel that numbness again while I read this. And when I watched those 8 minutes, my eyes were moist. Ah how much I was upset 11 years ago.

  2. Rajan says:

    Nice one Bib. i was playing outside home because i couldn’t take the tension. And when i went to check the score, needless to say i was shocked. It took some time and i am sure if i watch the documentary, it will haunt for a while.

  3. Suhas says:

    I cant say it changed my life, but surely this is one test match which i will never forget, things that are etched in my memory from that test
    Sachin’s slow walk back to pavilion
    Srinath being bowled through his legs
    Azhar’s emotionless talk after the match
    Saqlain’s jubilation after getting Sachin out
    Me unable to sleep properly over the next few days

    But have to say the pain was somewhat reduced when Jumbo showed his magic in the next test at kotla

  4. Suhas says:

    And ya thanks to your post and that link to documentary, for rubbing it in and haunting us for a while now… office wrk gone for a toss😛

  5. Sitanshu says:

    Superbly written piece. I totally agree about the fact that Sachin did change his batting to a more ruthless and error free style of play…and I guess that applies the much needed balm by the simple fact that post that match India along with the master grew into a better side, a side which had more insight into how to win matches…

    Sachin & Dravid…one can almost see the capability graph (of the team) rise with their own prowess and capabilities.

  6. maverick58 says:

    “Office work gone for a toss”….ditto and watching that documentary with headphones strapped to my head…some wounds never heal😦

  7. Aditya Sethuraman says:

    An iconic moment – the ultimate “what might have been” day in Indian cricket; truly this will forever remain etched as a scar in my mind; I would like to remind you that exactly 2 months later, Brian Charles Lara scored 153 not out in almost the same circumstances (playing an arch enemy at home with back-to-the-wall) and won the game – Sachin scored 136 and lost, Lara scored 153 and won, the difference of 17 between their individual scores is also equal to the number of runs India needed when Sachin got out; a symbolic difference if you will between the 2 greats – (a bit of a reach here) one might even say THIS is what people will complain about wrt SRT – that he could not score the 17 runs Lara did

    • sidvee says:

      Yep. And as it’s been pointed out here before, the Lara innings just added fuel to the ‘sachin is not a finisher’ line. Also – Lara was dropped by Healy with very few needed in Barbados.

      • Aditya Sethuraman says:

        Yes – let me also say for SRT that he was batting with a really bad back; I really feel for him: in many ways this test match and the fact he lost so tragically actually raises the esteem I have for him (if that makes sense – in fact I think this is what you mean about the “in a masochistic way….watching from 25:00 – 33:00 over and over again”; I think I would even go so far as to say I would rather watch this highlights package over Laxman’s 281); this was truly a great innings and I sincerely thank you for reminding us of a day we should all never really forget; Sport really is magnificent

      • Bharani says:

        yes.. but he was not lucky to have that catch dropped.. he would have been unlucky had that catch been taken.. it was such a difficult chance.. I would have said 9 out of 10 times, the keeper would drop those kind of chances.

  8. Arun Srinivasan says:

    Remember being at the stadium. That walk out of the stands to Bells road was the longest walk ever. It was so silent that I could here people breathe.

  9. Arvind says:

    damn you siddharth..for rekindling those memories. god, it was the worst loss ever.

  10. Prat says:

    “…Great-grandmother of all heartbreaks…” indeed.

    I was in hostel, watching this match on a 19 inch TV, placed in a corner of a tea-snacks shop, from 30 feet away, over 40 odd heads and shoulders and totally disheartened.

    Nice post sir.

  11. Deepak Rao says:

    I have also always thought about what if Sachin had gone inside out… But Saqlain in his prime was quite difficult to decipher the Doosra.. Wasim Akram, the underrated captian had placed himself midway between mid off and long off.. Also forever etched in memory is the now extinct backfoot cover drive of Waqar by Sachin late on Day 3.Also the change in stance by sachin to counter Akram’s swing by playing besides rather than behind…
    With Mongia, dint the new ball change his approach.. It was as if the new ball needed to go. Also remember that Ramaswamy and Steve Dunn had poor games.. Azhar clearly not out and Saurav caught first bounce with the cheeky bastard Moin apealing even thought it was clear to him

    • sidvee says:

      I think that Sourav dismissal had the ball bouncing twice! I do remember the way Sachin changed his stance – and the delicate way in which he steered many inswinging Wasim yorkers to third man. Mindblowing innings

    • Omarr says:

      Not just Ramaswamy had a poor game but Mr. Jay as well, gifted 4 wickets to Kumble. Coming back to The Great Chennai Test, I remember when Kumble was plumb in front off the bowling of Wasim and Mr. Ramaswamy didn’t give him out. Wasim on his way back nudged him, and the very next ball when Kumble was actually not that plumbed, the umpire gave him out!

      Being a Pakistani fan, that was one great victory!! Even the Asian Test championship match, those 2 were classics alongside the Karachi 2006 test.

  12. agni says:

    I had gotten over it Sid… Numb like you were …. i missed a few meals… felt like vomiting.. nauseous.. couldn’t really know whats was wrong with me back then.. but i had gotten over it…..
    Thanks for refreshing a old wound.. looking at the footage..i STILL get a lump in my throat… even a World Cup WIN cannot seem to compensate the sense of that loss……

  13. How did it change your life? In what way? Amazing a sporting game can cause a change in the course of a life!

    • sidvee says:

      No no. I didn’t mean it changed it in any way. I meant it in a more metaphorical sense – the amount of hours spent thinking about the game, debating it, arguing about it, suffering it.

  14. Vinodh says:

    I was a 9 year old. The 5th day of this match was the first time I had been to watch a cricket match live. My dad took me. I am still pretty damn sure, Sachin smiled at me during the drinks break!😀. There used to be fences separating stands back then. I vividly remember a girl my age on the other side of the fence praying with eyes closed while Srinath was batting. After the match, I tried my best not to cry there. I did not have dinner that day. Yes, life did change. Thanks a lot for writing about this. That day is very special for me. Also, good thing you didn’t mention ‘knowledgeable Chennai crowd’. Now, I’ll go watch that documentary. Thanks again. Brilliant!

  15. Sriram says:

    Great blog, Sidvee. It brought back some wonderful memories.

    I watched the final day at home with my uncle. Before the start of play, I was confident that India would win. Maybe it was the way Pakistan belted the Indian bowling before some brain-dead batting (nah, we wouldn’t do that, would we?), maybe it was SRTs batting on the third evening, but mostly I think it was the innocence of youth. Fourth day, fourth innings, India chasing, against Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain — I should have known better. Then, Wasim bowled that ball. So what? In walked my favourite batsman. People mocked me for this, saying that he was a fixer, but I was innocent you see. Then, I remember him shouldering arms to be given out lbw. Harsha Bhogle used the width of the crease, the height of the stumps and some help from Pythagoras to explain to Ramiz Raja that it was too far to say whether it would hit the stumps with any certainty. Ramiz didn’t buy it, but it gave me some solace. When Ganguly was given out to a truly atrocious decision, I thought India would lose.

    But there was nothing new in that and we could always get our fill of joy from watching sandstorm-man bat. And did he bat that day. I still think that is his best innings — chasing against a high class attack under huge pressure. He made Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain look impotent. Even when Mongia played that shot, I had no doubts that SRT would take us through.

    With about 30 runs to go, my uncle decided to ride back to his house, convinced that India would win. I watched the gory finish all alone. I remember the two fours (Harsha Bhogle– “if you play games with me, I am going straight down the ground”), the hoick, the rabbit-in-the-headlights batting and Azhar being booed when he collected the MoM award on SRT’s behalf.

    I turned the TV off and felt numb. I have felt powerless and afraid when my grandfather underwent a surgery, I have been dejected when some exam results were announced. But never did I feel this state of no feeling. Then, I realised that everybody else would feel so numb and not make fun of the fact that my favourite batsman had failed again. Strangely, that gave me some comfort.

  16. Ah this brings some bitter-sweet memories out… I still haven’t felt as sad at a cricketing result as on that day. And if there’s enough beers down and enough reminiscing done about that day, I’d likely still get a lump in the throat.
    The only time I felt anything like that was when I felt the polar opposite on April 2nd, 2011. Ghosts are not buried, but sometimes they get easier to live with.

  17. Anand says:

    Very good one! It was the only test match that I was at the stadium for all days. I was a volunteer and had to be present at 730 am to help with the arrangements in the stands for which 3 of us (two friends + myself) left home around 6am! Extremely fascinating game which had everything except the right result. I also remember the euphoria of the 3rd day when Prasad’s spell skittled out Pak after Afridi’s 100.

    Let us erase the time period from Nayan Mongia’s swipe to Srinath’s castling. Please!

    I think a win there would have really removed any doubts about SRT’s “finishing”skills. It was very fitting that he finished the test against England in the very same venue after 10 years.Some redemption.

  18. Sriram says:

    Miscellaneous thoughts:

    1. If Healy hadn’t given into a drinking culture and dropped a catch or if as you said, Joshi/Srinath/Kumble took us over the finish line, who would be the greater finisher? Life turns on such small details sometimes.

    2. In the mid 90s, Wasim Akram was like a mythical figure to me. I felt that if he played, India couldn’t win (mostly due to the games in Sharjah that we always lost). It is fascinating to see this great player during the tea break, throwing his head back, running his hand through his hair, staring into vacant spaces, looking every bit as crushed as most of us do when things go wrong. I found the documentary really insightful because it let me see players at distances I have never seen before.

  19. Amogh says:

    Depressing! My body reacted weirdly to reading this… though I tell myself I have long made peace with that day (and a few others, though perhaps none to the same degree) and that it doesn’t affect me!

  20. Kutty says:

    My first visit to the cricket stadium was to witness Saeed Anwar’s 194. And 2 years later, I saw this sitting in the stands and almost gave up on watching Indian matches in the stadiums to avoid jinxing the team. Thankfully there have been enough other positive memories from cricket stadiums to make me still want to make it to the stadium to watch a match.

    I remember as a 10 year old being hurriedly whisked away from the stadium by my dad, after the last wicket for fear of any angry retort by the crowd. I have regretted that for the past decade and a half as much as I have experience remorse at the loss.

  21. Suneel says:

    I was just plain lucky Sidvee. TV only had doordarshan. Read about it next day in the papers. Felt bad but no losing sleep. And Kumble’s tenner in next ensured fast recovery.

    • sidvee says:

      In one way, you were no doubt lucky but, as you would have realised from the comments, the pain carries a certain gravity and essence, an essence that’s difficult to find even in the most special victory

  22. Yogesh says:

    Thanks for making me feel the pain again:-)

    Those two innings (Lara’s & Tendulkar’s) within a span of few months kind of enshrined the eternal and unfair image of Lara being a better finisher than Tendulkar depsite the closeness of their overall 4th innings record.

    The back pain ensured SRT cut down his down the track shots and the mental pain made him a more cautious batsman. Both took something out of the SRT. Something in him changed that day.

  23. Siva says:

    Great Blog!
    I was in the stands, watching this game as a 13 year old with my dad and some of my friends with whom i am not in touch now. But i was able to visualize everyone’s face and their reactions while i was reading through this piece and watching the video.

    Walking back to Wallajah Road to get my dad’s bike, i fell into tears. Remember my dad taking me to Pavilion sports to buy a cricket bat with Sachin’s signature. Nostalgic!!

    Being true superstitious cricket fan, i told him we should have watched the game from Royal Sundaram stand, from where we saw the magnificent counter attacking 155 against the Australians an year ago. I put the blame on where we were actually sitting to watch the game and took a sense of relief from that. We actually saw the game from Essar stand now Cognizant, from then on i have never entered that stands, or even bothered to check the tickets at that place. Maybe still superstitious. Thanks anyways, you made my day sad. So i will see that 155 knock again to cheer me up again.


  24. Kiran says:

    The tears of this test match will never go dry.

    Someday, when Sachin retires from the game and decides to write a autobiography/biography, I wish one of you/prem panicker/rohit brijnath sit with him and dedicate a chapter to this test match. The nuances, the thought process, bad umpiring, the ball, his battles with the opposition and within himself, the pain of the collapse and how it changed his approach after that match – it would make for a emphatic, yet supremely masochistic chapter. Given Sachin’s elephantine memory, I am dead sure this chapter alone will sell an extra million.

  25. Sathish says:

    Great Writing. And this will certainly be yet another tribute to the Master for one of his finest knocks. During that time some of the criticisms that we constantly faced were: India is totally dependent on Sachin, If Sachin Fails India Fails, India = Sachin, etc. Looking at the reactions of Pakistan team members after he got out, it looked as if they all believed that only Sachin can win it for India. After we lost all those wickets in the end, I couldn’t face the Sachin-bashers and India-bashers for some time. Now I need to watch the twin-centuries in Sharjah as a consolation.

  26. Sankara Raman says:

    Like Suneel, I too am plain lucky in not having been able to watch this match live. Feeling sad though, that I am not able to relive the sadness of those moments here. Thanks Sid, for bringing it alive with your wonderful articulation.

    I guess from an individual contribution perspective, this would be the climax on the hearbreak front. But, thanks to our team, we have had enough of such moments, but probably none scaling this. Bangalore test of 1987 would come close though – we lost by 16 runs to Pakistan with Gavaskar scoring 97 – many classify this innings as his best ever on a turning track. Personally, Sydney of 2008-09 ranks even worse – for we were collectively a better team than the one in Chennai against Pakistan and I for one rank Australian bowling nowhere near Pakistan’s. I have read Rahul Dravid talk about the 120 chase in Barbados that we botched up as the heartbreak moment.

    As an aside, the first ball I watched live in any form of international cricket was Tendulkar’s wicket – spooning a catch to Kasprowicz in Bangalore in 1998! We lost that test on the 4th day itself!😦

    • sidvee says:

      I’m not sure if you are ‘lucky’, Sankara. I think such moments have their own special value. Gavaskar’s 97 must have surely rankled too (especially because it was his final innings) but I was too young to feel the pain. And yes, I was at that Test match in 1998 and remember that caught-and-bowled well. And Kasper later bowled a superb ball to castle Azhar. Fine century by Mark Waugh and fantastic first wicket in Tests for Harbhajan (floater to get Blewett).

  27. Brought back a lot of painful memories Sidvee….Where do I begin. I am not the religious type – but I do remember spending the entire 4th day with a prayer on my lip…..That test match itself was so special, so different – first one with Pakistan since I started watching – coming home from school on Day 1 to see Kumble getting them out cheaply – the match played out like a dream……till the nightmare of an ending. I have cried very few times in my life…and that was one of them……Disappointing, depressing, but we did fight to the bitter end…..
    SRT played one of his finest – unforgettable innings…
    Having said that – all the success that we have had over the years – especially going to win in Pakistan – has helped in healing the wounds of Chennai, 99 – but still somewhere the pain remains. And we carry that as a badge of honour…
    Great stuff – Thank You.

  28. venkat says:

    I have a simple coping mechanism for such losses. I just switch the TV off. And when the footage comes on anywhere anytime, I look the other way. Like most here, I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I was numb. The worst part about that Sachin dismissal is that he was actually picking the doosra right till the end. And word is that, before he started opening up, he went and told Nayan Mongia “that this has been going on for too long”. And what do I say about V K Ramaswamy. My friend was in the stands that day and tells me some of the stuff that was being said (yes by us, the great sporting Chennai crowd) when word got around that Ganguly was given out of a double pitch. Strangely enough, there is another test match which I can’t bear to watch. The Cape Town test match of early 07. If we had won that test match (and consequently the series) Dravid’s name would have been sealed as India’s greatest test match captain in my book. And to his great credit he went for the win on day four. Opened with Sehwag (in a bid to go for the runs), and for a long while we batted positvely before Paul Harris was made to look like Shane Warne. And then there was day five when at 132/5, Kallis was given not out. If only. If only. I am often reminded of that test match when someone mentions Chennai. They evoke the exact same feeling of numbness

  29. venkat says:

    Since there is some discussion on Sachin’s mastery over technique I actually feel compelled to write about another one of his gems. His 160 odd last year at Cape town. The way he played and missed Dale Steyn was a thing to watch. He had a simple technique. Just play the line. Consequently he played and missed quite a lot. It was deliberate. In the earlier games he had gone trying to cover the swing (without his feet getting across enough). He just played the line and missed every ball. It was a masterclass on how to play swing bowling.

  30. Anup says:

    Wrong to comment this as Sachin’s failure.. Pakistan was better in the last half an hour.

  31. Rajat Bopaiah says:

    Siddhartha, amazing article, its hard to imagine that even when u know how the events are going to unfold, the heartache cannot be avoided.
    NO ONE has been able to capture the Indian cricket fan’s emotions especially vis-a-vis the legends of our times SRT, RSD, SCG, VVS and AK as you have through your writings.. Fantastic!!

  32. Abhishek says:

    I was there that day, and can remember each minute. Was there again when Anwar Scored 194 as well. It is a special special ground. Thanks for rekindling this, makes my eyes moist.

  33. GVK says:

    I still wonder if HE was actually letting those balls from Akram go through or someone moved those stumps everytime the ball passed him; if there was anything else RD could have covered; if Akram was the bravest man alive to be under that catch and to actually take it.
    AND I am still waiting for an explanation on that shot of Mongia’s ! I guess there will be none. Thats life !

  34. Hari S says:

    my favourite moment of the match happened afterwards. Inspite of the heartbreak and tears, the chennai crowd giving a standing ovation to pakistani team on the victory lap. Those are the moments you realise that sports can transcend man-built barriers

  35. J Girish says:

    First match i watched at a stadium. Was in 2nd std. Didnt kno much about it at that time but vividly remember srinath’s dismissal. Of course, tears flowed after sachin got out. Also i remember people afterward sayin the crowd response was exceptional, given the relations between pak – india at that time. And a standing ovation for the pak team as they did a lap of honour.

  36. Was in class 9. It was a Sunday. Had an exam the next day. Was there. In the middle of all the action. Was there. Cheering Mongia, cheering Joshi, begging Srinath, worshiping Tendulkar. Was there. Booed Ijaz Ahmed after Ganguly’s dismissal. Booed Azhar after his unforgivable 7. In the end, it stung like nothing had ever stung me before. We stood up and applauded our opponents, I still don’t understand why we did that. Tendulkar did not come out to receive the Man of the Match, I cried, my father was silent. He was stunned into silence. It was a long walk back to the gates. No one spoke.

  37. fiaz110 says:

    It is unfair to not mention the clean bowled of Dravid by Akram. What an amazing ball it was, still when I see this ball in youtube the magic of the akram captures me.

  38. Shahnawaz says:

    wow reading this article and the comments i will have to thank God that I was born Pakistani and didn’t have experience this particular heartbreak, I saw the other side of the coin, jubilation and elation, satisfaction at a job well done and verification of the belief that we were the superior team. The closest thing i experienced to this was when the same Sachin blew us away in WC 03.

  39. Toney says:

    I was nearly 21. I cried. My friend called me after the game. He didn’t speak but in those days with no caller ID, I knew it was him. I realized that Tendulkar was a magnificent batsman and that Indians will never be satisfied with what he does.

    • sidvee says:

      Yes. It was an innings (final day, Ind-Pak, awesome bowling line-up) comparable with Lara’s 153 a few months later. It’s amazing how the result dictates how these innings are eventually remembered. And I also sometimes wonder how things would have panned out had Healy caught Lara or Akram dropped Sachin (though the latter was, when the ball was in the air, never going to happen):)

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  41. Mansoor says:

    The memory of that last day is as bright in my mind as the sunshine on that lovely winter day. I was in 12th grade and in the last year of my boarding school. We had arranged a tape-ball match with another “house” thinking the test was in the bag. We were constantly getting updates at the ground and increasingly getting worried. We finished the match, came running back to the common room and caught the last half an hour on TV. I can still hear the roar of 50 teenagers in that room when Srinath was bowled. To this day, I still do not know how he was bowled. We did not care!

    Cheer up Sidvee, your “great-grandmother of all heartbreaks” is someone else’s baptism into life long cricket fanaticism. A strange bond was forged between us on that day .

  42. Ravi says:

    I was scheduled to fly back to the US that day and remember the ups (Sachin pulling us towards victory by sheer will on the back of enormous talent) and downs of the day (the pathetic collapse after he fell during the day) vividly to this day. I remember sitting in Mumbai airport that night waiting for a 4:30 am Cathay flight and the picture of Sachin with his towel in Times of India around 4 am (papers are indeed delivered that early!!) and Gavaskar’s pitiless comment that Sachin should have stayed till the end. I personally believe that Sachin must have changed that day and somewhere doubt must have crept in that he was not destined for heroic (read Laxman like) victories. I dont know how many deaths he died that day and how much he hardened himself to take failures more stoically. I dont think the 98 in WC’03 made up for the grief he felt in Chennai. As a Sachin fan, I wish we could take time back and give him this victory. I am convinced it would mean more than a Bharat Ratna to him.

  43. Ram says:

    Though the standing ovation given to Pakistan was genuine, I still feel it was a message to Sachin, for not coming out..It was as if people were saying in one clear voice “if we can do this to Pakistan, then imagine what we would have done to if you had come out”…Had my physics practical exams the next day, one hand in between the books and the other hand with the remote on a bad(illegal) cable connection with very poor picture quality…the pain still lingers!!

  44. FatBong says:

    I remember, thinking that day that I would worship Tendulkar henceforth, he would be the “God” of all Gods, well so much for that… although he was in less explicit a way.

    After that inning, I think SRT somehow always got tagged as the tragic hero, i used to get a bad feeling everytime it was close with SRT on a big score. He found redemption at the very same ground against England, but i guess the stamp never went.

    I recall fearing the worst, and the fears coming true against Aus in Hyderabad, a onedayer where he scores 175. Got out and we lost a close game chasing 350+

  45. FatBong says:

    Actually – for a cricket fan in his late twenties, early thrities there are such a plethora of losses.

    The one that really hurts me more than this, was the loss to Aus in World Cup ’92. Srinath’s shot, thinking it would be 6, thinking Steve Waugh had caught it, him dropping it, firing the ball back, big David Boon running Venkatpathy Raju out… aah trauma.

    I remember shaking that day, positively shaking. Still cant forgive Raju for jumping instead of putting his head down and running. Aah… Trauma.

    The Chennai test was really bad as well, but somehow i’d rate this one higher (personally speaking…only just!).

  46. a passionate pakistani says:

    i had no access to a channel that would broadcast the match nor access to cricinfo. I was teen and my dad and I were hunched over a transister radio catching Radio lPakistan live commentary in Urdu. the last day started in stress, and i despaired as the day went on. My dad was glued to the radio listening intently for the commentary to announce the departure of Sachin. he kept on repeating, once this guy goes, we will wrap it all up. as the day progressed I challenged him to explain how would it possible, even with Sachin gone, with 50 odd runs to get. How could India lose with 40 odd remaining. then how could they lose even without sachin when they had 30 to get? and wickets in hand. he said, beta we just don’t give up, and you watch this saqi is going to turn it around even if its 10 odd left! highly optimistic of him and i didn’t take him seriously. there was a magic about the Pakistan team that day as if destiny was conspiring in their favour. I was a teen and saqi and wasim were heroes. Sachin was stubbornly denying something that was Pakistan’s to claim. it become hopeless with sachin batting at 140 but then a passion and fervour took over as the team went to work and at the slightest whiff of a chance, wasim marshalled Pakistan around saqi to go for the kill.

    I will never ever forget saqi’s passion when he raised his arms to the sky …….

    • sidvee says:

      I’m sure many Indians were thinking exactly what your dad was thinking. Something told us that if Sachin was out, India would lose. And the moment he was dismissed, I was dead certain that we would lose that match. That’s how frail our tailenders were then.

  47. Ahsan says:

    Wonderfully written, Sidvee. A Bangladeshi fan here. Watched that match and lived every ball of it. Bangladesh didn’t get the test status yet, but the cricket lovers here were always supporting either India and Pakistan. Our passion was no less than an Indian or a Pakistani. I used to be a die-hard Wasim Akram fan then.

    Still remember the cameraman taking close-up shot of an ecstatic Indian supporter, who was moving his head forward and backward in a dancing mode, making his appearance zooming in and out. India needed only a few runs at that moment. The same supporter’s face was shown again when India lost the match. Cannot forget his puzzled, dejected look.

    And yeah, I prayed a lot, specially after Sachin’s wicket. I promised to God I would give 50 Taka to charity if Pakistan wins, It was so tense. After a few balls the amount doubled. Eventually we (God and me) settled with 200 Taka. I was in my 10th grade.

    In the next couple of years I became a Sachin fan. I believe if Sachin is ever asked to change one single thing in his life, it would be the outcome of that match.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for the comment, Ahsan. Interesting perspective from a neutral. And yes, I think this was the first time he had cried after a match (the other being after the 2007 WC ouster against SL). So I think it meant a hell of a lot to him.

  48. Vikram says:

    I am not too sure about these Lara comparisons. Lara was great because he had a natural attacking style, full of flair and he scored tons of runs till the end by playing the same way. Match results do not necessarily come into picture here but match situations do.

    Sachin has his own attacking style, but for some reason he has not been able to stick with it during the second half of his career (particularly in test matches). Maybe there have been one or two instances when he did that but he has been primarily a technically correct accumulator of runs. As an example every now and then,throughout his career, Lara would smash an innings of breathtaking brilliance in test matches (double hundred in south Africa with 28 runs in an over, the carnage in pakistan against Kaneria etc.)

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  50. Akshay Chowdhry says:

    Sid, a beautiful article. Sachin’s innings versus Pakistan in the 2003 WC was not enough to permanently banish the deep sense of emptiness following this loss. Even the WC win in 2011 wasn’t enough. Maybe it is because Sachin did not play a match winning innings in the final. But perhaps there is a sense that the innings against Pakistan was an infexion point in Sachin’s career. The innngs after which he became the great run Accumulator rather than the Destroyer. Also, Sachin never got the opportunity to make up for that gut wrenching loss vs the arch rivals. The opportunity to win a test match against Pakistan from a tight corner. He almost did one test later in the Asian Test Championship match at Kolkata where his second innngs run out thanks to a flukish throw from the deep (by that then oh-so-irritating-come-on-Saqi Moin Khan’s brother) put paid to Sachin’s chance at redemption. I reckon this was the seminal moment. Greater than Saqlain’s dismissal of Sachin in the second innings of the first test. The injustice of it all, and the opportunity to take India to a 2-1 score versus Pakistan being grabbed away fom Sachin, by what many of us still decry as an umpiring error; that is what truly knocked the stuffing of us, and never allowed us to banish the sense of emptiness whenever we are reminded of that Chennai test match. It never allowed us to banish the nay sayers who said Sachin couldn’t finish a match. (As you pointed out, Brian Lara was dropped by Ian Healy towards the end of his 153). It never allowed us to have that clincher in favour of Sachin. And more importantly perhaps, a couple of innings apart, it prevented Sachin from giving us a few more sandstorm innings.

    • sidvee says:

      An inflexion point, no doubt. The back, especially, had a big say in some of his post-136 innings. And the flat-batted shots + charge against the spinners were not as common as earlier.

  51. Shailesh says:

    Nice post. Not sure if I should call myself ‘lucky’ to miss watching this amazing test match live. But in terms of heart breaks if this is the great-grandmother, I was ‘lucky’ to meet the grand mother live on TV some 13 years ago when Javed Miandad hit the last ball six in Sharjah and broke countless hearts in India.
    I was still in school but remember not being worried about India losing that match as Pakistan were losing wickets regularly. Then came the climax and it was all over in a second..Chetan Sharma running to bowl the last ball..Javed swinging..him and Taufeeq running wildly towards the pavilion arms in the air..oh who can ever forget that run? I remember having that lost feeling mentioned in posts above when I walked out of the house and the quiet on the some major tragedy just took place..may be it did.
    Back to this match, I sometime wonder if such experiences can scar the viewers so much what must have happened to the players? Especially the one champion who was right in the middle with victory in sight. Just like we relive such moments and the agony, is it possible that he relived it too over the years? At times right in the middle with another victory in sight?

  52. I was at this game – in those very stands as a 15 year old. Watching the documentary that you had linked to returned me to the moment. The game itself seared into my mind. I remember every wicket of India’s second innings falling – cursing the moment Mongia got out. Telling my friends that as usual we’d left it all to Sachin. I also remember applauding the Pakistani’s – we were pretty much in tears at that point.

    Thank you for writing this piece. I think back to your piece about the retirement of our generation’s ‘greatest generation’ and every time I read something by you I am reminded of how much all of this meant to me and continues to mean to me. It changed my life too.

  53. AnIndianinLondon says:

    The real winner was Cricket. That great leveller! And the true winners were the Genuine Chennai Cricket fans who sportingly had the sense to acknowledge the visitors, myself included! Yes it was a dark day, but then the magnanimity shown after the acerbic relations was truly astounding. To a responder here- Why is it wrong to call the crowd at Chepauk, knowledgeable? Is it restricted to the elitist audience at Lord’s or the vocal taunters at Melbourne and Wanderer’s? Or must i add (ashamed to, but still) the rioters at Eden Gardens?

    The Game is what it is. And a truly knowledgeable fan will applaud the team that played better. In this case Pakistan.

  54. kunal says:

    oh boy still hurts till date that day i was a school going boy those days now in corporate world

  55. Ali Shah says:

    Absolutely wonderfully well written article. Had me hooked to my seat in the office here in Pakistan not caring what the the other office folk think. I remember that day well too and I remember Sachin walking down the pitch to smash Saqlain out of the park only to miss the ball and Moin fumbling up the stumping. India were way behind at that time. I was confident that since Mongia and Tendulkar were there and while Moin has missed the stumping there are still so many runs required that Pakistan would just easily take the remainder 5 wickets. Now there we sat in Pakistan in front of the TV sets and watching Tendulkar score and score and score. The singles and doubles and then the boundaries beginning to flow. After that stumping chance Tendulkar didn’t give many chances and he just started batting like a machine despite having a bad back and being treated for it every now and then (the memories are a bit hazy though). And then only 17 runs are required and I can’t believe that the match has been taken away from us. That Wasim, Waqar, and Saqlain couldn’t get any wicket. And then suddenly Tendulkar has a rush of blood, the ball is skied, and I fear that the Pakistani fielding would drop this skier. Then under it is standing captain Wasim Akram and he pouches it. The rest of the indian line up fold to reverse swing and saqlain’s guile. I do remember feeling that had Pakistan lost that match Moin would have never forgiven himself. I also remember looking at the crowd and their appreciation of the Pakistan team and feeling what an awesome and gracious crowd it was. Quite unlike a sub continental crowd. One of the all time classics for sure and arguably the greatest ever innings played in a losing cause.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for this comment. Great to get a view from the other side (so to speak). Always thought that the Pakistan team were convinced they would win the game if Sachin got out. Even if it meant there were only 5 or 6 runs left to get. That’s how deep the Sachin-gets-out-and-India-lose theme had been imprinting in our psyches:)

  56. Sumit says:

    Brilliant writing! Captured so brilliantly what I had felt after the match! And yes so easily would have been the best innings ever and silenced those questions on Sachin’s ability!

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  58. I somehow had slightly different emotions while watching. When Sachin got out , and we started collapsing, I was, in a bizarrely sadistic manner, hoping that the remaining wickets fall and the match get over in day 4 itself. Don’t know why, I had a similar feeling when we started collapsing against Zimbabwe in the World Cup later that year (remember Olonga taking 3 wickets in an over?SRT missed that match)

    The result that left the biggest scar was the WC’99 semis finals between Australia and South Africa . Every time I watch the highlights, I still hope Klusener waits one more ball and smashes the ne t ball to win it for South Africa. Somewhere back in my mind, I am still convinced that had Australia not tied and won the wc, they might not have gone onto dominate world. Rocket for the next 7-8 years.

  59. Salman Ali Rai says:

    I am a year and a half late replying to this unbelievable article and have no clue how to put my thoughts to words. I was in grade 5 at that time and the sole cricket follower in the family (yea that’s strange for a Pakistani family), things have changed though now. Since this article is focused on that final session of the game so I won’t go much into the first four and a half days which itself were unforgettable. I was asked to study for some school test but I still remember the agony which I felt of not being able to watch every ball of that last session. Still remember silently opening up the tv so that parents won’t find out and watched the final moments of the game. That feeling when Srinath lobbed the ball back on to his offstump can never be expressed. That ecstasy, that rush of blood to see nailing arch rivals at their home was too much to handle at that time. I didn’t get a chance to watch the presentation at that time. I quietly came back to my room, opened my book but I had never felt more happier in my life. Even still reflecting to that time leaves behind a satisfied feeling. Thanks for sharing the emotions on the other side of the border! I was in the same boots as you are with this match when Misbah played that paddle scoop. I know the comparison is baseless but we Pakistanis somehow got a glimpse of what you might have been through after the final ball in Chennai 99. I guess the bottom line is that Cricket is just perfect! It rises above everything…

  60. Manish Das says:

    I was few days short of my 15th birthday when this happened, was in a boarding school where we used to sneak out to the staff quarters ( who were generous than others & allow us to watch the matches).If we get to watch 10 overs of a match, it was a luxury.On this occasion, there was no place to go & watch the game, so me along with the other cricket crazy guys from our hostel huddled around a radio & this game left a permanent scar on me. No one spoke a word after the game ended; of course the 10 for by Kumble helped after a few days.But growing up in the 90’s following cricket has it’s own side effects

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  62. tarunvignesh says:

    @sidvee After 14 years this still brings a lump in the throat and a tear or two in the eye.
    I still remember the unbearable tension back then when I was a 17 year old Chennaite with a rough understanding of cricket. This game was a neutral-fan’s dream!

    I believe that the match was lost when India let Afridi get away with a big hundred in the second innings. Sachin’s innings was IMO the greatest test innings played given the pressure, conditions & quality of bowling- such was his mastery. I suspect he didn’t turn up for the presentation out of sheer disgust rather than back spasms.

  63. Mukund says:

    Had to read this after I watched the documentary for the nth time again yesterday. As a cricket aficionado having watched many matches at the ground and most of India’s matches on TV in the 90s, this stands out in terms of the emotional ride we had to endure. I cannot remember another test where the tables turned almost after every session during the 5 days. I am sure it would have been easier for the players than us fans who felt helpless for the most part watching it but suddenly almost felt empowered and making a contribution” ourselves” when SRT batted. On SRT’s batting itself, the way he adjusted his technique to open up to Wasim and play very late covering for the inswing and nudge away to the off for the outswing was amazing. Also some of the pulls and fine sweeps off Saqlain were outstanding along with that straight drive off Waqar. When he was batting you almost felt an unreal high, no fear of winning or losing or him getting out, just the euphoria of watching him bat took over the moment. This was the innings of all SRT’s innings, even his unreal teenage exploits included. And then that happened, the painful inability to reach out to the pitch of the ball, the hope that Wasim will drop the skier, and then the silence, the heart felt a thud. I remember watching this game at home along with a friend and we just went quiet after that till the end of the game, didn’t have the guts to look each other in the eye. Then the applause by the home fans at the end, after that the odd tear could not be stopped. Ohh and there was the little matter of a 12th board exam paper a few days later, and this match is the only memory I have of the infamous Indian 12th “year”.
    Thanks for reminding us again of those 5 days Sid. If you had to define a bittersweet experience for a cricket fan who grew up in the 90s, this is it.

    • sidvee says:

      Thanks for writing in. The feeling and emptiness came through. And you are right about SRT’s innings. There was a brief phase when the whole context of that game stopped mattering because of how well he was batting. As if surrounded by silence. I too had an exam the next day. Sigh.

  64. Moazzam Shafique says:

    I was 15 then but I don’t remember watching this match live. I just watched a show today on some channel where Waseem Akram and VVS were guests and VVS was being very emotional talking about this particular test match. So, I did a bit of googling and watched a few YouTube videos and then I read this well written article. Videos were, of course, good but the comments people have posted in response to this blog really made me emotional and a few tears of joy rolled over my cheeks. That’s the power of the game!

    I think very high of the test cricket and would love to see India and Pakistan play more games. I don’t know why cricket has been politicized. But, I guarantee that India-Pakistan test series will fetch more money, crowd and fans around the world than the ashes.

    I have met Saqlain Mushtaq a few times and, likely is, that I’ll see him again someday as he lives in an area where I own a shop. In fact, he’s been to my outlet a couple of times. If I bump into him again, I sure will ask him about this test match and share his thoughts with you all. That’d be great, I guess.

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