It was the night India beat Pakistan to win the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa. After wrapping up my ball-by-ball duties I headed out with a friend to pick up something to drink on the way to a colleague’s house.
It was getting close to 10.30 and we were worried the liquor shops would be shutting. We found a place on some seedy back lane and stopped the office car. My friend goes up to the hole in the wall and quickly places the order. There were a few chaps standing around the counter and I stood on the pavement.
Suddenly an old man stumbled out and faced me. Oh great, I thought. He sizes me up and stepped forward.
“India is great!” he cheers, reeking of the good stuff. "India won match!"
I have no option but to agree with him, but his next line is classic, after looking at me somewhat pitifully and extending his hand to shake mine.
“America … America also good ... but India is great!”
My friend hears this and turns around and grins goofily. He’s seen me confronted by legends before, curious to know where I’m from.
“India is great,” I say. “Fantastic victory tonight.”
The man comes closer, stooping over, and raises a crooked finger in my face.
“India ... very good win … World Cup … twenty year … last time India won match … Kapil Dev captain … now Dhoni … best … India is best …”
I try my best not to disrespect what he’s saying but my friend has completely lost it behind the old drunk.
“Yes, Dhoni is great,” I offer.
My friend gets his change and signals that we get out of here as a gang of motorcyclists, waving the Indian flag and honking their horns, screech past us on the almost deserted street. But the old man won’t let me go. I finally turn my back and force myself into the office car even as the old man tries jogging behind it.
“India is great!” he cries out as we pull off.
Yes, India really is great.