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India loves its cricket: A grass root analysis

Saumin Parmar
ANALYST
Feature
73   //    Timeless

Enter captionn
The cricketing set-up aptly describes the passion of the game spread across the street on a Sunday afternoon

Hello folks! Seems like cricket is a known entity to each one of you, or most of you at least, or maybe it’s just my assumption. Whatever the case may be, it is almost impossible for one to miss the updates on the cricketing scenario in India, even if they are living under a rock. Literally, I mean.

For someone who has grown on Sachin Tendulkar’s straight drives, Tony Greig’s commentary (read Desert Storm to be precise, 1998), the famous reverse swing of the two Pakistan Ws (Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis), and Sanath Jayasuriya’s leg-side dominance, this assumption might just be fair.

The above-mentioned examples are just a few of the multiple reasons why every passing generation is hooked on to the game called cricket. Although the heroes have changed now, the foundation was laid many decades ago.

Luckily, we have our new-age heroes too, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the current lot needs someone to look up to as well. 1983 was to be the start of it all, but it did need some taking for the Indians to really assert their dominance in world cricket, given the quality and calibre of the teams back then.

India is a land of varied cultures, religions, caste, festivals, etc. Talk of a sure-shot leveller in the Indian society, and it comes down to just one word – cricket. I’d be happy to bet a few grands if someone begs to differ. I grew up in a surrounding where playing with a bat and a ball every evening was nothing less than a ritual.

Make that morning and evening both, on Sundays and other holidays. And make that almost 12 hours a day, after the school exams are over. A random old uncle at a street-side barber shop, a cab driver awaiting a passenger at the railway station, or even a police constable manning a traffic signal have nothing but one thing in common – a piece of mind on cricket.

Travel through Mumbai locals during an ongoing Indian series and they know as much as the team coach and the team management. Really! In modern times on TV, we call it a pre or post-match analysis.

Well, one of the best and the most conceptual advice I have ever received is from an auto driver in my home city of Ahmedabad. He said: “It’s all about your eyes. Your body follows the actions of your eyes. You blink, you’re gone in a split second.” Maybe through the years, while trying to bowl fast and bat hard, I overlooked this simple thought. So yes, that’s how it is. Cricket is free, taught by one and all.

Ask an Indian fan his best memories of the national team, and you would be on your way to nostalgia. World Cup wins in 1983 and 2011, World T20 in 2007, Yuvraj Singh slamming six sixes in the same tournament to English pacer Stuart Broad, Sourav Ganguly's intense shirt-waving celebration at the Lord’s balcony – each one had its own story and glory.

Also, the new-age phenomenon called IPL rewrites history every single Indian summer. 11 simple men, mostly from small towns over the years have gone on to become demigods worshipped by a nation of billion, with cricket taking a religious form.

In Indian cricket, the baton has always been passed successfully – from MAK Pataudi to Bishan Singh Bedi to Kapil Dev to Sachin Tendulkar to Virat Kohli at the moment.

There has hardly been a year in the Indian cricketing calendar where something of historical significance hasn’t happened. No doubt cricketers all over the world consider India to be one of the best sides to tour and get engulfed in the emotion in every single stadium they play in.

Burning effigies, stone-pelting and many other incidents of fanaticism have been reported in the past on below-par performances from the Indian team. Though these are not good signs, it shows the deep-rootedness of the game in the hearts and minds of the people. And now with T20 gaining extreme attention in world cricket, and with the advent of leagues across continents, the game has peaked in its number of followers and how!

India loves its cricket, more than any other cricket-playing nation in the world. One of the recent examples of this was in November 2013, when Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell speech stopped time in India. The nation went into tears as an era came to end right before their eyes.

Ending it here, I would like to quote English writer Harold Pinter whose famous words are etched in the memoirs forever, "I tend to believe that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth."

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Saumin Parmar
ANALYST
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