Falling for cricket: Can love happen twice?
Rooting for my dad, who was batting, from the fence, is my very first memory of the game. He played at club level – rubbed shoulders with the likes of Gopal Sharma and Rahul Sapru, some big names in UP cricket. That’s where the game entered my blood.
I vaguely remember Ravi Shastri driving around his Audi in Melbourne, 1985. I clearly remember Miandad’s last ball six in Sharjah. “Sardarji hits only sixes”, my uncle had told me, about Navjot Singh Sidhu’s heroics in the 1987 World Cup. I watched Sunil Gavaskar’s first hundred in ODIs, followed by him getting bowled in the semifinal. I was interested in the game but wasn’t smitten by it yet.
It was Sachin’s debut series in 1989 that got me hooked to the game. Seeing a kid refusing to go off the ground when his tiny nose was bleeding made me wonder – how brave he must be. I was entering an age group which believes it cannot die. Anything heroic leaves this age group in awe and they want to do it. They love heroes. They want to become like them.
I wanted to be a hero. Cricket became a way.
I picked up batting as I couldn’t roll my arm over. I still cannot bowl with a straight elbow.
I realized what makes batsmen go on and on. It is the sound when you time the ball well – “Tuk”. The sound is really pleasing to the ears. No matter how noisy the surroundings are, it still echoes – instantly to the outside world, and for the rest of your life in your mind. You wonder the speed at which the ball has gone because for your hands and wrists, it feels as light as a red hot knife slicing the butter. It’s a feeling which doesn’t last for more than a minute but lives on forever in your mind. Now I understand why batsmen, you-know-who is the biggest example, do not want to give up the game. It’s the addiction to that feeling. It’s orgasmic or frankly speaking, better than that. It’s that sound – “Tuk”.
I remember playing with a cork and/or leather ball with just a bat in my hands – pads, gloves, other protective equipment were not affordable. The bat was my sword and my shield. Fear of getting hit by the ball never even crossed my mind. All I wanted to do was to not get out, so that I could keep hearing the sound – “Tuk”. Oh, that addiction. One lesson was learnt for life – if you overcome your fear and block the routes of failures, fruits of success will keep coming.
I have wasted one year of my life because of cricket. My engineering entrance exams were due in May but the sky fell down in March – after Sachin got out on that night in Eden, 1996, we surrendered.
India needs a solid middle order batsman so that Sachin’s fall doesn’t have a domino effect, and I am going to be that middle order batsman. I decided. Damn the exams. They happen every year.
Yes. I was being stupid, but what would adolescence be without believing in stupid dreams?
Maybe playing for the entire day in the month of April could be called as putting hard work in my game.
“Damn the exams”, I had said. Exams said “Damn you”. Well, my career in cricket is an open secret anyhow. I would have been in a lot better place in life had I not lost that year. But the lesson learnt was – hard work has to be a vector quantity. When it becomes a scalar quantity, buckets of sweat produced go down the drain instead of watering the flowers of your dreams.
I have been disappointed, gutted like a kid whose demand for a toy hasn’t been met by his father. I have had sleepless nights and thought how differently Kiran More could have played his paddle shot and India had not lost by just 1 run in Brisbane, 1992, or how the hell a batsman can be given out shoulder-before-wicket. When India lost to Zimbabwe in the 1999 World Cup, I was told by my father that I woke up from my sleep, shouted “We have beaten Zimbabwe” and went back to sleep again. Yes, I have cried with dry eyes.
I have also hoped like Andy Dufresne, or maybe better than him. Eden Gardens, 2001 was the moment when I learnt a big lesson in life. You will lose sometimes in life but if you start believing that you can and will win, miracles can be expected to happen. As they say, it’s not the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog that matters. While jumping in joy when Glenn McGrath was adjudged LBW, I decided to pick up some of that attitude – Screw you. Just because you have punched me down, it doesn’t mean that I will not get up.
I have been told by my wife “What is this? You are always watching cricket on TV. It doesn’t look as if we are staying in a house. I feel as if we live in a stadium”. I learnt that I was married.
I have had heroes. I have grown up with them. I have woken up at 1:00 AM in the morning, counted seconds till 3:00 AM when the match was expected to start so that I could see Sachin bat. I have missed few minutes of my exam so that I could see Dravid winning the test in Adelaide. I have shouted “@!#!@# di saalon ki” in the middle of the road when I saw Ganguly waving his T-shirt in Lords balcony. I have grown up with the hope given by VVS and loving the intensity of Kumble. Yes, I have grown up with them.
I am intellectually challenged, but the only subject in which I get some respect in a discussion is cricket. The human mind is an ever hungry monster looking for thoughts to eat up, and my mind feeds on cricket. At this age when you come to work only because you don’t have a choice, have become a slave of life’s rut, really don’t have much to look forward to apart from mundane affairs in life; cricket brings the emotions out of me. When Pujara got run out in Eden, I was roaming around in a shopping mall throwing expletives at nothing but air. People around me were looking at me as if I was insane. I am insane.
It’s good to see your emotions coming out – proves that there is something which keeps your adrenaline running. It feels good to be passionate about something. At least I am not a dead man walking.
To sum it up, I have been in love with the game. Madly. Hopelessly. Crazily.
Love is a feeling, a state of mind. Love is intangible. But its genesis lies in different objects – beautiful eyes, good looking faces, the persona, assets – literally or figuratively. It’s the ornaments of the object which make you fall in love with it, generally.
Alas, the world is changing. Times have been bad off late.
My object of love is weakening. It’s ornaments, the pearls, the rubies, the diamonds are either all gone or going. Soon, they all will be gone. I am not sure if new ornaments will be as good as the old ones. Even if they are, my mind is too practical and realistic to buy new stuff. Before buying, it will think of inflation, return on investment, future value and depreciation. It will not be bought in. Someone will need to sell it and sell it real hard.
My love for the game is being questioned by my mind. If I don’t find answers, I will be left alone with my mid-life and its crisis. I will be suffering. It’s love which keeps one’s mind going, keeps one alive at heart. I need love but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to.
One way out could be to change the object of love. After all, it’s being in love that matters, the object is just a way. Maybe I can start following another game, another sport.
But the question is, is that possible now, at this age. An even bigger question is, can love happen twice?
I would rather hope that my existing object keeps shining.