As a very young kid, I walked into the TV room and saw my family getting excited over a match. I asked my elder brother- ‘How many goals have been scored?’ He laughed and said, ‘Stupid, it isn’t football (American : soccer), it is cricket! You don’t score goals; you score runs or take wickets. I would have probably forgotten the incident, but he makes it sure to remind me once in a while my naiveté about a game that defines a country, unites its diversity and rekindles passion in many a passive existence surrendered to the daily grind of day-to-dayness of life.
Over the years, my education on the game continued with my family participating actively in my grasping of new terms -onside/off-side, pacers/spinners, no ball/wide ball, lbw (leg before wickets) – I learned the nuances of the game as I got acquainted with basic cricket vocabulary.
Cricket means family and friends to me. Cricket means what almost every kid plays in the gullies of India, believes in the superiority of his skills and brags about it to his GF when he grows up. Cricket means seeing people get pissed off because the team you support is misfielding in a stadium, miles away from where you are watching the match. It means a new leash on life, a chance to forget mediocrity and bask in the excellence of a few. It is a reason to reach home early in the blaring traffic or to stay up all night. Cricket also means when a star player can sell you anything from shoes to cold drinks. But most of all – cricket means a religion – something you believe in, something that drives you- even if it is just for a few days.
My mother is one of the bigger cricket fanatics I know, who watches any match that is broadcasted, but her frenzy reaches its crescendo in World Cup every four years. I know, even today she will get back from work just in time to watch the final.
Here’s my recollection of some matches:
9 March, 1996
Bangalore, India. Quarter –finals. India vs Pakistan.
It was Dada’s birthday too. Dad made this awesome chili chicken, Mom made pulao and Ilish maach. My maternal uncles came over to watch the match. Feasting and festivities continued when India won by 39 runs. I don’t think I can ever forget that day or how yummy every dish tasted.
Strangely, I have no memory at all. Australia won by 77 runs in the super sixes by beating India.
23 March, 2003
Johannesburg, South Africa. Final. India vs Australia
I was in my undergrads hostel. The seniors had arranged for projectors in the basement of the cafeteria. Even the hostel administrator was asked not to bother the kids if they watched TV the whole night through. Australia won by 125 runs, but Sachin Tendulkar was made Man-of the series.
I had the chance to watch a cricket match during my Masters in Boston later. The Indian students arranged for a projector and live streaming in a classroom. A sense of déjà vu.
I was applying for my B-school admission. Mom had come over to visit me. We watched a couple of matches together. She lost interest after India lost to Sri Lanka on 23 March, 2007.
30 March, 2011
Mohali, India. Semi-final
Both SG and I are not crazy about cricket, but he got the subscription to watch the semi-final between India and Pakistan, arch-rivals of cricket, who were once brothers, now belligerent neighboring countries. It was refreshing to watch the game and hear no profanities for a change. I stayed up the whole night watching the match, calling my parents after every wicket dropped and tweeting insanely.
2 April , 2011
We are preparing for the night ahead. The match will commence at 2:30 pm IST (2:00 AM PST for us). Friends are coming over. I changed the décor of the wall, with mosaic posters of ‘Bleed Blue’ theme. The food and mocktails are waiting. India is a favorite to win the world cup this year. I am glad to have something to believe in again.
India won the World cup Final. What a moment !