It’s 3:15 am… Neymar has just chipped a long ball to Sergio Roberto and his deft touch has just capped the biggest comeback of the generation at the Nou Camp. Five goals needed when the match started, three needed after the 87th minute, and the Catalans still win. Impossible is nothing! So as I listen to one of my favourite Floyd songs, the topic for my first blog takes shape- the glorious world of comebacks. Those moments we always remember like “Where was I when……?”
So, which do you consider the most glorious comeback in sports history?
There have been a few off late….My friends in the US tell me that it’s the NFL finals this year when Brady master minded a win for the Patriots from a 25 point deficit. And RF devotees claim that No 18 takes the cherry- when Fedex triumphed coming back from an injury lay-off when no one gave him a chance for #18 at Melbourne.
The Red Devils (Oh how I hate them!) tell me it’s Fergie’s army in the ’99 Champions League final when two super-subs scripted history vs Bayern. But their arch rivals (the Kops) remind them that 0-3 is more difficult to start from and they point to the amazing turnaround vs Milan at #Istanbul2005.
There were a few from another generation too… Kapil single handedly winning India the match from 17/5 vs Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells- to stopping Viv and his team’s swagger when no one gave them a chance after scoring 183 in the ’83 final. The ‘Black Panther’ Eusebio- rallying the Portuguese from 0-3 down with four goals, to finally triumph over the upstart North Koreans in the 1966 World Cup. The dogged Germans in 1954- losing 3-8 to the Golden Team from Hungary in the groups and trailing 0-2 in the finals before overcoming Puskas & co. with the well-known German grit. And then there was the peerless Ali outpunching Foreman against all odds in the famous ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa.
But my mind goes back to one balmy morning in March 2001. It’s the start of the 4th day’s play at Eden Gardens vs the all-conquering Aussies- they are on a 16 match winning run. The current Indians are struggling to sew up the series vs Smith & co. The Aussie team in 2001 had 11 Smith’s- and better. They were ‘Team invincible’- India being considered the final frontier for the ‘Alexanderesque’ Steveda. Gilchrist had not drawn, let aside lost a match since making his test debut. This promised to be another jog in the park.
India still trail by 20 runs with just six wickets remaining. Plans have already been made for a Park Street lunch with friends assuming that it will be an early finish. But we start fighting. The new ball is blunted. Scores level! And then Laxman starts flicking Warne against the spin to mid-wicket. Steve Waugh is getting flustered. Lead crosses 50,….75. He brings on Ponting’s part time medium pace before lunch to see if he benefit from the batsmen’s overconfidence. There’s a close LBW shout- pin drop silence among the crowd and then a huge sigh of relief. We reach lunch around 100 runs ahead. Meanwhile, the superstitious Bong crowd is at their best- they don’t let anyone leave their seats as staying put will mean Lax and Dravid also staying!
Lax starts the second session with a ‘silk smooth’ boundary and the belief is growing. Laxman has replaced Azhar as the God of Eden- not just with his wristy flicks and cover drives but also thanks to his demonic record at the Mecca of cricket. And Jammy plays along- the two create sweet symphony as they go on and on. Aussies are playing with 11, but India batting with one lakh and two players in the middle and the crowd egg the batsmen on. Every break is greeted by a four of the first ball of the new session. Laxman is doing a Mozart- you don’t know what’s happening and very soon the Aussies also start appreciating his strokes. And Dravid, gritty as always, plays the perfect second fiddle. Lead mounts 150, 200. It’s all a blur now. And nothing can separate the two. Not even cramps, dehydration. Lax and Dravid go on, and on, and end the day unbeaten, with India 315 ahead. Who would have thought at the start of the day? The Park Street lunch has to wait… And we go on to complete the most famous comeback wins with seven wickets in the last session on Day 5.
It happened 16 years back, but seems like just the other day. At the Garden of Eden, cheering on Dada’s Army, to the best comeback win of all times. So all you nouveau sports lovers- you saw a few good sporting comebacks. But nay, this is nothing compared to that balmy day in 2001.
So the impossible becomes ‘I’m possible’. And Floyd’s ‘Coming Back to Life’ draws to a close too… Hang on for the next song in the playlist.