Bangalore: Nervous nineties. Even in isolation, there is a certain charm attached to those two words. Taken in conjunction, they send a mild shiver of anticipation - and perhaps impending doom - up the spine.
As a batsman approaches his hundred, especially in an international game, there is a distinct buzz around the ground. Conversations are hushed even as the air crackles with electricity. Without thought or awareness, fans sidle to the edge of their seats; depending on whether the batsman belongs to the home team or the visiting side, there is either a battle between the teeth and the nails, or an affected sense of indifference that doesn't fool even the affected.
Batsman after batsman, indeed cricketer after cricketer, will vehemently deny nerves or eagerness as he moves into the nineties. He will talk of not looking at the scoreboard, of how the team's cause is more important than his own landmark, of how a hundred in a losing cause has no value and how he would swap his century for a victory. Any day. Don't always believe him.