Two memories from this cricket World Cup.
The first was in the Delhi Metro, the day India crumbled against South Africa. I was waiting for a train at some station or the other, with no real idea of the score -- the last I heard, India was cruising.
But something catastrophic had evidently occured, because a tubby gent stalked up to me and barked in my face, "It's all fixed! Dawood's put 2500 crore into this match! Each of those *$!@#! Indian players has been paid 100 crore to lose!"
I tried remonstrating, not least because I didn't know this guy from Adam and wasn't thrilled that he was barking at me. But it was futile. He was serious and angry and would not be deterred, carrying on almost as if he thought I was responsible. "How else can you explain six wickets gone for 25 runs? Can you? Hmm?"
Inside the train minutes later, everyone in the packed car, and I mean everyone, was going on in much the same vein. I found a seat and listened, astonished at the inventiveness that was being passed off as cricketing wisdom. Some snatches: "Dawood … 100 crore … Sachin never wins the match … what do you mean, how can you blame Sachin? … I'm just saying, he scores centuries, but how often do we win the match? … fixing is easy, just show these !*!@#* cricketers some money … they'll never win anything."
Weeks later, I have no way of finding out, but I'd love to hear what those same men have to say today. Today, after India has won the Cup.
The second memory is from a petrol station in Panvel. During the afternoon yesterday, we drove out of Bombay to where I'm writing this from, on the coast several hours south, for a long-postponed family moment.
Our first stop yesterday was for petrol in Panvel, and the match commentary was blaring through large loudspeakers. The man who filled my tank told me the score -- Lanka was then at something like 73 for 3, I think -- adding: "It's a good score for India!"
As I was paying just minutes later, I heard a cheer and a round of applause from the attendants at the station. I hadn't been paying attention to the commentary, so I asked one of them, what happened?
"Four by Sri Lanka!" he said, smiling.
And I smiled too, and thought to myself: cricket as it was meant to be.