Indian World Cup victory a sight for sore eyes

Crowds gathered in the street, gazing through shop windows to cheer on Team India. And they went wild at the win.

2 April 2011. Indian surporters cheer at a local tea shop as India bowls out a Sri Lankan batsman in the Cricket World Cup final match between India and Sri Lanka in Ras Al Khaimah city, Saturday, April 2nd 2011. Photo: Antonie Robertson
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RAS Al KHAIMAH //As Mohammed Shafee peered at the television screen through the windows of Al Qarat Electronics yesterday afternoon, he was grateful for the crowd massing outside the store. It provided camouflage as well as atmosphere.

Mr Shafee, an electrician from Kerala, had told his boss he was unwell and had a sick note from a clinic to prove it. But neither his boss nor his "headache" could stop him watching the match.

"If my boss comes, I'll hide," he said. "But he lives in Shamal, 5km away. He won't find me and I can't miss the final."

Nearby bakeries did a brisk trade in cardamom tea, but restaurants and businesses remained empty as the crowd on the street grew.

"Nobody is working today," said Abdulla Wahab, a driver from Kerala who plays cricket every Friday. "Businessmen and the poor are the same today."

While fans strained to hear the commentary through the windows, Mr Wahab, 29, gave a running commentary of his own, dwelling on Middle East and world affairs. He steered clear of Sri Lankan politics, however, saying only that the situation was "good" and "finished".

Cricket played a role in Indian politics, too, he said. "People have gone to pray at mosques, at churches, and to watch the cricket. All Indian people, Muslims, Christians, Hindus - we're all the same today.

"We have more than 200 languages in India, but today we speak one language."

He planned to celebrate India's victory with "biryani and sleep".

At the Indian Association in RAK, teenagers cheered for their batsman, Yuvraj Singh. Though fewer came than at the last World Cup, since more people have satellite television, many still came with Pepsi and face paint, ready to celebrate.

Tejinder Singh, 17, said his friends were united by two things: "cricket and movies". These two passions, he said, bound him to India, though he has never lived there.

"We can represent India. If there were no tournaments here, we would not be connected," he said, pledging to dance in the street, Punjabi-style, if India won.

Ajith Nair, 27, said an Indian victory would mark April 2 as one of the best days of his life. He was hard-pushed to say which he'd preferred, his wedding day or the time he won a tournament for his local team by hitting 18 runs in the final over.

Mr Nair played on the under-18 side for the Union Territory of Puducheery and would rise before daybreak to play at the Umm al Qaiwain oval. To survive the nail-biting nerves as the game wore on, Mr Nair would phone his wife in Abu Dhabi with regular, half-hourly match updates.

"People love cricket because there is a lot of hope," he said. "People in India consider these players to be heroes."

At one roadside cafe, the tension grew along with the crowd as the minutes ticked by. Wooden benches and baroque, torn couches trimmed with faded gold formed an arena for assembled taxi drivers, lorry drivers and security guards.

One crowd build a scarecrow dummy out of old clothing and steel bars to represent India. And when victory came, the cheers rang out.

"We are going to celebrate today," said Sooraj Surendran, 35, who was in RAK on holiday from India. "We were not tense for a moment."

The scarecrow was duly paraded through the streets. Men chanted, jumped and rejoiced until they were hoarse. Jyothish Kumar, a driver who donated his son's purple teddy bear to serve as the scarecrow's head, said he would shave his hair off in tribute to the team. "I had no doubt they would win," he said. "I am feeling on top of the world."