Earlier this August, in the very first over of the Lord’s Test, Jimmy Anderson bowled Murali Vijay out with a delivery that almost defied the Laws of Physics. You could see a little smile on Vijay’s face while he was walking back to the pavilion. The one that comes out when the batsman knows he had no chance of surviving unless of course, he was a Marvel Superhero. As a lover of the sport, there are few sights better than that.
My love for the game began at an early age. Like every other kid growing up in the nineties, gully cricket was a huge part of life for me. Watching the game and playing it were equally great those days. I would admit I wasn’t the best at playing and once I reached the greatest height , that of captaining the Mohalla team – there was little scope to go any further.
Watching it would continue to be in my routine though. Like most cricket lovers, there are many iconic moments etched in my memory. Tendulkar’s last over against South Africa in the Hero Cup 1995, Kambli’s tears in the World Cup in 1996, Klusener and Donald making a mess of it against the mighty Aussies in 1999 (to this day I haven’t seen a better One Day match), India’s World Cup wins in 2007 and 2011, Dada’s shirt waving at the Lord’s balcony in 2002, Tendulkar’s six over point to Akhtar in 2003, a young Ishant forcing Ponting to dance to his tunes in Perth 2007, South Africa’s ultimate resistance against India at Kotla in 2015 where they battled for 143 overs to make 143 runs… the list could go on.
To this day my biggest regret as a spectator is not being able to watch the Laxman-Dravid runathon in 2001. Not due to lack of will, but for some reason the cable guy didn’t think people would want to watch Test matches in our small town. Even if it was somehow available, having uninterrupted power supply in a small town in the state of Madhya Pradesh those days was equivalent to having proof of God’s existence. I remember listening to the radio commentary though.
I would admit it became difficult with time. With a job that is necessary to pay the rent in a big city, a family to take care of, and a wife who hates the fact that in certain ways, I like AB de Villiers more than I like her; it is not easy to watch the game as much as I used to.
But this is not the entire truth. I don’t claim to be brought up only on Test matches but there is a purist in me who loves the ebbs and flows of the longest format. Where skills and temperament hold a much greater value than, say brute power. And then there is a romantic who feels as long as it is a contest between bat and ball – and not between bat and bat – the format doesn’t matter. With the advent of twenty – twenty, the latter is unfortunately the case more often than not. Those are the days when the purist in me wants to run away to find joy somewhere else – perhaps in the elegance of a certain tennis God that keeps defying all sporting logic even at the age of 37!
But then the romantic tells me to come back – even to the IPL – for it may be the last time you get to see the greatest captain Australia never had on the field. Where else would you see the two best batsmen of this generation batting together?
And so the love continues. And like an old marriage, the initial excitement has made way for a more lasting and fulfilling journey together called life.