This is a guest post by Sohan Maheshwar.
India’s Ultimate national teams first time competed at WCBU (World Championship Beach Ultimate) 2011 in Italy. In one of their group games, they were trounced by a strong German team 13–0.
Fast forward four years later. It is 2015 and India has teams playing in 3 divisions at WCBU 2015 in Dubai: Open, Mixed and Open Masters. The Open team is young, talented and full of self-belief. Their only televised game is against Germany and the Indian Ultimate community back home is keenly following it.
***The Indian team seems relaxed as the match is about to start. Never mind the fact that four of their players got lost on the way to the venue and arrived just in time for the game. The Germans look quietly confident before the first pull. After all, they are seeded 7, three ranks above the Indians. The German line-up on the first point is not their strongest, clearly they don’t expect much competition from their opponents.
Six frenzied minutes later, the Germans find themselves 4–0 down. They do not know what hit them. The points are quick as India throws and catches with surgeon-like precision. The German team is out-hustled and calls for a timeout. Clearly, they have underestimated their opponents.
The timeout works and the Germans regroup: They slow the game down, using their experience to counter India’s speed. 4–0 becomes 6–4 as the Germans claw their way back into the game, and by minute 42, its 8–7 to India after a bruising, turnover-filled, 8 minute point. The seemingly unsurmountable 4 point lead has almost been shaved off. The Indian sideline paces along the length of the field nervously.
***In their previous game, the Indian Open team went from 5–5 against a tough Philippines side to lose 6-13. With this loss fresh on their mind, they also have to contend with the swirling wind at the JBR beach in Dubai that almost blows the Skyd Magazine commentary tent off the ground. Throwing the disc has gotten that much harder and the Indian team begins to feel the heat. The self-doubt begins to creep in.
The two teams hold serve as India leads 9-8 when soft-cap is blown. First to 11 wins the game. India is to receive the disc in the heavy wind, knowing fully well that the tiniest mistake can cost the match.
The Germans pull, Ganesh picks up the disc and passes it to Siva who passes it to Vishnu. The Indians have not advanced the disc more than five metres. India is playing it safe. Germany is bearing down on defence. “If India can manoeuvre through this wind in this point, they’ll be in great shape”, goes the commentator. India works the disc up patiently until Siva has the disc about 20 metres from the end zone.
***A hammer is a throw in Ultimate, which when thrown (by a right-handed thrower), will arc up and to the left as it moves away from the thrower, and will bank towards the right in flight. The banking effect will be more pronounced if the disc is thrown higher and spends more flight time near a 45-degree angle. Under normal circumstances, placing a hammer is not an easy feat. Add an albatross-spanned, 6-foot German defender as the mark and things start getting difficult. Considering the 60 kph wind, a perfect hammer throw is nearly impossible in this situation.
***Siva has the disc. He has 4 German players around him though. The 5th German player is in the end zone, right between Hari Jagan on his right and Vijay Rao on his left. Siva has two options: logic would dictate a curvy forehand to Vijay but the wind might give the German defender a chance to get the D. His other option is riskier. He has to hammer the disk over his mark and thread the needle to the safe hands of his childhood buddy, Hari Jagan.
20 year old Siva’s pinpoint hammer to Hari will go down as one of the finest moments in Indian Ultimate history. India went 10-8 up and won the match 11-9 upsetting the higher-ranked German team. That little nod before the throw, the calm, self-assured nod showed that the Indian team had the guts perform on the big stage. Siva’s slight nod, intended perhaps to the receiver Hari, or his teammates, or perhaps even himself, preceded the finest moment yet in India’s short Ultimate history.
***In their next game India was down 4-6 to the lightning quick Japanese team but they reeled off three straight points to win 7-6. The close partnership of Siva’s throws to Hari brought the win on Universal Point. The game was not televised, but one knows that in the instant before he made the throw, he nodded as he saw the disc land in the safe hands of his receiver.
For the full India-Germany Open game from WCBU 2015, click here.