The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), for me, is a sacred place. It's my boyhood cricketing dream. A solemn shrine for those smitten by a cricketing romance. The Colosseum of modern-day cricket.
Australia is my adopted home now, and has been since I migrated to Melbourne from India in 1999. I did not move to Melbourne by design but for a cricket lover like me, destiny could not have dealt me a better hand. After 16 years of living in Melbourne, every time I catch a train into town, I still latch on to the train window and relish a good view of the MCG as I go past.
Each year on Boxing Day, there is only one place in the world where I can be found. Somewhere in the towering stands of the MCG, helping out the Mexican Wave on its way around the "G", along with 90,000 other cricket fans. It's my annual cricketing pilgrimage. As the scorching December sun beats down on this mecca of cricket, there is not a better venue in the world to watch a Boxing Day Test match.
"[I] dreamt of witnessing a World Cup cricketing contest at the MCG one day. It was an improbable, distant dream at that time."
It all started for me in 1992. This love affair with the MCG. I was in high school in India at that time. The Cricket World Cup that year was being played out in Australia and New Zealand. The north Indian winter was on its way out and dad and I would wake up in the early hours of those chilly mornings to watch the World Cup games on television. Rugged up in our quilts. Sipping on cups of tea.
The final of the World Cup that year was played out at the MCG. It is my first vivid memory of the MCG that I am able to recollect. As Pakistan lifted the trophy in that final, the boy in me dreamt of witnessing a World Cup cricketing contest at the MCG one day. It was an improbable, distant dream at that time. People and life around me went back to their usual routines once that tournament ended. However, that longing to watch a Cricket World Cup game at the MCG simmered on within me.
As life would have it, the 2015 ICC ODI World Cup in Australia and New Zealand was my moment to realise this random dream etched 23 odd years ago by a school kid sitting in a tiny little town in India. From the 3rd tier of the MCC Pavilion at the MCG, I cheered on the Indian Cricket Team as they overpowered the South Africans on 22 February 2015. Just like the 1992 World Cup, I had my dad sitting right next to me. Along with 80,000 fellow Indian supporters.
It was a spectacle to behold. The cricketing contest in the middle was unfolding at a rapid pace. The stands were brimming with noise from a roaring crowd. And as the steamy Melbourne evening transcended into a warm summer night, the MCG sparkled in the milky brightness from the light towers around it.
And for a split second, sitting next to my dad in the noisy MCG stands that evening, I wondered if somewhere, thousands of miles away in a place like India, there was another school kid who in this very moment was being seduced by a lit-up MCG in the middle of a cricketing encounter. And if in that kid, too, was arising a precious dream to grow up with. Just like me. A dream to one day come and witness greatness unfold within the premises of the MCG. Just like it did for me that evening on the 22nd of February, 2015.
After all, as they said all through the 2015 ICC ODI World Cup, "greatness is contagious..."
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