Clash of two cricketing titans
The second quarter-final of the cricket world cup was a clash between two huge teams. India, the world’s no. 1 team with its power batting lineup. Australia, three-time world champions who have reigned supreme over the game for 12 years. Whoever won, it would be a huge story. Whoever lost, it would be a huge story.
We headed to the stadium at around 10am, well before the 2.30pm start. Traffic was backed up a long way. There was only one road leading to it and we weren’t sure if it was fans waving flags and blowing horns, buses and four wheel drives, scooters or the cops that were in charge. Fellow photographer Andrew Caballero-Reynolds got nervous because on his last 3 trips to stadiums, the vehicle he’s been in has blown a tire. Lucky we made it in one piece. There were thousands of fans queuing in the searing heat to get into the ground, watched over by the usual stick-wielding police in khaki suits.
I installed a remote camera high on a TV tower above the stands, hooked up by usb cable to a laptop, both powered by a 25m extension cord we rented for 150 rupees (about 4 dollars) from a local shop that usually rents them out for weddings. The remote would capture the action from a different angle and would fire whenever I wanted it to from my field side position. I had the laptop running on a data card so the pictures would automatically be downloaded and transmitted to our editing system live, so that we didn’t have to wait for the break inbetween innings to get the disk and edit pictures. It was going to provide some great pictures from the match.
As it got closer to the start of the match, fans packed the stadium and the familiar chants began – “Jeeta bhai jeetega!! Indiaaaaa jeetega!!!” (We’ll win brother, we’ll win, India will win!!!) I was torn, as someone who was born in India but has an Australian passport, I wasn’t sure who to support. I decided to support New Zealand, my other nationality, to evade having to choose.
Australia had a fairly tame start to the match. Captain Ricky Ponting scored a century as Australia posted a total of 260. Amit Dave, Andrew and myself were burnt to a crisp in the unforgiving Gujarat heat as we covered the innings. At least I had water on my side; they forgot to bring any for the photographers at Andrew and Amit’s positions.
India would need 261 to win, and as the Indian innings started, the atmosphere in the ground was electric. The crowd was roaring with Sachin Tendulkar batting, you could only hear one thing echoing from every stand: “Sachin, Saaachiiinnn!!!!” Sachin didn’t go onto score a century, but he did make 50 runs, and at the end of the day India overcame their old opponents in a stunning victory which broke 12 years of Australian domination at the world cup.
My favorite pictures from the match include Andrew’s Ponting’s century and Amit’s batting shot of India’s main man Yuvraj Singh.
A split-second picture of a run-out where I captured the precise moment David Hussey knocked the bails off the stumps (I do it by using the focus preset on my 500mm lens to whatever end of the pitch I’m not watching, that way when it does come to a run out I can use the focus ring to quickly lock onto the wickets and fire the shutter without thinking, even if I have less than a second to do it). I also had the same picture on my remote, as well as a nice moment of Zaheer Khan taking a catch off his own bowling.
Andrew captured Brett Lee with a gash to his head, telling the story of the beating the Australians took. I had Ponting walking off the field, seemingly into the darkness of a night of soul-searching.
By contrast, the Indians were ecstatic. The first picture we sent of the victory was actually off my remote, since it was live the picture hit the wire while we were still shooting the hugging and handshaking.
The field side pictures tell the story: India bursting with joy as they send Australia to the airport and advance to the next round. The whole stadium was in a roar as India advanced to a mouthwatering semi-final clash that will take place in Mohali.
The semi final to come: India v. Pakistan, the ultimate cricket match between two testy nuclear-armed neighbors with fiercely competitive cricket teams. It’s about a lot more than just cricket. It’s going to be absolutely electric. I can’t wait to shoot it.