Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary: The ultimate devotee of Indian cricket
He is hard to miss whenever India play any match, with his body covered in gloss paint emphasizing the tri-colour.
His devotion to the national side is well known, and courtesy the legendary Sachin Tendulkar, he has tickets to all the venues at which the Men in Blue play.
He also has had the distinction of lifting the World Cup trophy along with the great man himself.
But the burning question today is this: with his idol bidding farewell to the game, what will happen to Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary?
Would he wash off all the body paint and return to a normal look?
Or, if he still wants to go on cheering from the sidelines, would he continue receiving free passes into the various venues?
For those who came in late, Sudhir is the most ardent fan the Indian cricket team has ever known. Back in his hometown of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, he is a mini celebrity in his own right.
The chief reason why India is a cricket-crazy nation is because of this natty 30-year old, who left his job at a milk company to pursue his passion with great zeal. He brings the crowd alive with his exuberant waving of the tri colour and embodies the spirit of the die-hard lover of the game.
How does he do it? How can someone be this passionate about a sport that only consists of a round object hit by an oblong one and is then chased like crazy by adults in front of large crowds?
The answer to that is simple: Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, for long India’s powerful warrior who conquered each bowling attack that the world had to offer (except the United States, for obvious reasons!).
The desire to watch the Maestro in the flesh, when in full flow, has overpowered each of us, at some point in our lives. Even those of us who could afford the high-priced entry passes for the flashy Indian Premier League games or for any of the ODI / Test matches were certainly not as much consumed by the prospect of actually realizing this desire.
Sudhir’s desire, however, has grown to an all-consuming obsession, to the point where he sees himself married to the game he loves. His ardour has not dampened in the slightest since his idol announced his retirement from ODIs and Twenty20. After the Maestro supported his desire by giving him match tickets to each place the squad plays at, Chaudhary returns the favour by giving him a thousand litchis in gratitude, and often travels by bicycle to the stadia where the side plays their matches.
He has forgotten completely about settling down, getting a stable job with a steady income, and supporting his family – much to their dismay. For him, it is not about money – he gets by through funds donated by the game-loving public – but about supporting the Men in Blue one hundred per cent. In times of crisis, this can actually be a life-saver for the side.
But Sachin’s imminent retirement might actually put a bit of a dampener on the multi-coloured fan’s ardour.
What if the generosity extended by the Master is not replicated by the team as a whole after he takes his final curtain call?
What if N Srinivasan decides to ‘revoke’ the ‘benefits’ accorded to Sudhir despite his presence pulling in large numbers of viewers in the stands?
Perhaps I am exaggerating. Perhaps it might not be as bad as I fear.
Sudhir is as much an integral part of Indian cricket as the team itself. If he decides to call it a day after the Maestro’s final game, then it would be a bigger loss for the fans.
He has publicly stated that he will continue to wave the flag even after his idol walks off into the sunset, though for how long he can go on is rather difficult to say.
For the greater good of the fans, it would be in the best interests of the team to keep supporting their most ardent and exuberant cheer fellow.
If cricket is truly our religion and Sachin our God, then Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary is the ultimate devotee, and it will be the greatest gift to the little champion if his gesture becomes a team tradition.
Cheer on, Sudhir!