Ads 468x60px


Thursday, 26 May 2011

Memoirs Of A Fan…On The Cup That Counts

As Shahrukh Khan asks in one of the advertisement "Score kya hua hai ?" my childhood and youth were no different when there was a cricket match going on and one of the team was India. I am sure anyone of my age group would have asked this question at least once in their lifetime; may be in their mother tongue.
I was an young boy going to pre-school nursery during 1983 Prudential World cup. I do not remember seeing any fireworks or sweets distribution when Kapil's devils conquered the world. May be the lesser impact happened due to the lack of media; especially television was not a household item by that time in my area. And when I grew up I came to know about this historic achievement, mainly reading the books and sports journals. But, my mind was stuck to the description of an innings played by Indian Captain against Zimbabwe when defeat was staring at India. I would more than happily agree that Kapil Dev Nikhanj was the first cricket hero in my little mind.
Then came Reliance world cup in 1987 mostly hosted by none other than this religious cricketing nation. Meanwhile, I had already started playing cricket in the byroads of my home town and the courtyard in my own home, despite of my parents and elders who thought that my prime responsibility was studying and not to spare time for this mad game ! I was wondered, but being a 3rd standard boy I had to obey them. That didn’t stop me from peeping through the windows of my neighbor who owned a television in his home and may not welcome nuisance kids like us to watch cricket on his television. Well, I had not found adequate time to follow all matches having occupied with my studies. But, I used to get myself updated through news papers and the peeps through the window. By that time I strongly believed that Kapil Dev, my first hero, and my new hero of that time Mohammed Azharuddin would bring luck to India.  However, my nights were haunted by two Australians; Craig McDermott and David Boon. My legs would start to shiver whenever McDermott bowled against batsmen whom I loved. And I always felt that Boon is going to hit another fifty in this innings too ! My dreams were shattered when India lost to England and crashed out in the semifinal. Only consolation for me was the hat-trick by an Indian bowler Chetan Sharma against New Zealand; that was the first hat-trick in a World cup.
I was a full time sports man, may be a sports kid, hardly finding time for my studies when Benson & Hedges world cup came knocking in 1992. I was in any place in my home town where there was a football or cricket match happening. My parents were really fed up of my appetite for sports, specifically for football and the subsequent injuries. They even had tried to sway away my friends so that they will not come and invite me for playing. Finally I don't have to peep to my neighbor’s window. My home is blessed with an assembled black & white television. Glory time ! Another advantage was the time zone difference which helped us to watch some part of cricket matches before we leave to school. I was sure like any other Indian fan that Ajju Bhai and Sachin will bring the World cup back to India. I bet even though you are not a cricket fan, you might have heard about this short man with God status in India; Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. We, Indians believe that he erases all our sins by hitting, pushing, gliding, glancing, and pulling the cricket ball to and out of the fence using his willow; few even believes that bat is his holy weapon. Anyways, I was in shatters again when India did not qualify for the semifinals. Apart from Ajju Bhai and Sachin, two players forcefully occupied my heart for various reasons.
Finally I had started loving one bowler in cricket which was widely considered as batsman’s game. My friends started teasing me for heaping praise on my beloved fast bowler. Unfortunately he belonged to our fierce rivals and his name was Wasim Akram. The way he steps in to bowl, the way he reads batsman’s mind, the way he bowls swinging yorkers, and the way he helped his team in difficult situations with bat and ball made me a fan of Wasim Bhai. How can my friends tolerate when I feel affection for a Pakistani; that too when they won the world cup for the first time and made a place in that elite winners list along with India. I was not happy that Pakistan won the cup; rather I was annoyed by Indian performances which lacked spirit.
Have look at that second man who conquered my heart, Martin Crowe. Initially I thought this fellow was hoodwink by giving new ball to a spinner for the first time in the history of ODI; Dipak Patel. When I read in Sportstar that he had his master plans already drafted before the start of World cup, I felt a respect for that small cricketing country, New Zealand and their magnificent Captain. He had his Christchurch and Auckland stadiums shaped for his pinch hitter opening batsman Mark Greatbatch and then keeps his team's run rate by leading the team from the front. Finally I started understanding tactics in cricket; thanks to the vision of Martin Crowe. But, their attempt fell short in semis when Inzamam Ul Haq declared his batting capabilities to the world. I am waiting for Team India to achieve Pakistan's team spirit, at the same time vision and trickeries of Martin Crowe.
Oh dear, I was enjoying my college life with beautiful girls, cinemas and bunking classes when Wills World cup happened in 1996. In spite of my passion for sports, I had successfully cleared my matriculation and all those off-class activities were always arranged in such a manner that sports had not taken the toll. Wow, we finally have a branded color television in our home and family members even started watching cricket matches. Television has taken the control of drawing rooms in most of the houses in Kerala. I was thinking this could be Team India’s year because we had Sachin Tendulkar achieving his peak, and had Ajju Bhai and Ajay Jadeja to control the middle order. Added to that is the presence of Anil Kumble to lead the bowling attack in the pitches of sub continent. Alas, our hopes are again crushed in the semifinal; this time by Srilanka. My goodness, till that time we were thinking Lanka was only a second string cricket team and suddenly they turned hot favorites. Even though a novice strategy, Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana took full advantage of the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs. Pace bowlers turned part time spinners and Captains turned nuts thinking how to cease the run flood. India against Srilanka in semifinal at Eden Gardens was no different. When Ajju Bhai won the toss and elected to bowl first everybody thought that’s a right decision because of Lanka’s first 15 over threat and chasing capability. I was wondered how you can think of batting second in a day and night match, in a spinning track like Eden Gardens ! Lankans swept away Indians en route to the final and conquered Australia to become the “real” Pearl of Indian Ocean. Had Azharuddin chose to bat first, I don’t know, but am sure fortune favors the brave. And there were two brave men stand aside; Arjuna Ranatunga, the Lankan Captain and Dav Whatmore, Lanka’s Australian coach.
I was attending my Polytechnic exams when 1999 World cup cricket arrived and was enthusiastically welcomed by our Polytechnic gang having divided our opinions for Azharuddin and Sachin. India made it a habit of making Sachin’s efforts futile unless Ajju Bhai or Jadeja stabilizes the innings. India was shell shocked when Sachin returned home for attending the funeral of his father. However, God returned to his most comfortable place and hit a century against Kenya which was dedicated to his departed father. But, this time India perished in a new hurdle called Super Six.
Slowly, my attentions started moving away from Sachin as well as Ajju Bhai. I felt an uncompromising addiction to a particular Indian player and a team other than India. To my surprise both were aggressive and too arrogant. Later, when Azharuddin made me an anti-cricket fan when he was involved in match fixing scandal, the man I started to worship both as a player and Captain restored my love for cricket. That was the Maharaja of Indian cricket, Sourav Chandidas Ganguly. I started watching matches for Sourav’s off drives and dancing steps. Soon he pulled me back to the greenery of cricket through his authority over the team and tactics to overcome fighting opponents. His Indian team made it a habit of grinding out results in style. Finally, Indian team spirit is reinstated. 
The team I started loving was Australia. I won’t say it was an eternal love, but, that was the respect for their professionalism and never say die attitude in the field. Can you think of an Indian victory like the Aussie did against South Africa when Steven Waugh led from the front with an unbeaten 120 runs ? I still remember the famous comment as Herschelle Gibbs ‘caught’, in fact dropped Steve Waugh’s catch, Waugh told him “friend, you had dropped the World cup”. That was the starting of Australian supremacy in World cricket.
2003. I am working for an Indian MNC in Mysore. Believe me; our room was not having television that time. Going back to olden days where we had only radio and news paper to get the news. No, we do have internet for anything and everything. Cool. Getting updates every time through internet, e-mails and mobile phones. Discussions in four way junctions and tea shops had given way to the chat rooms in internet and mail chains. It’s great going for Team India under Sourav, my Dada. Men in Blue reached the final in style and they play against defending champs, Australia; my other favorite. Who will support other teams when India plays in the final ? We hired a television for the final and sat down to cheer for Men in blue.
Again in shatters. Along with that defeat, I was shocked to realize that I couldn’t turn my attentions away from two Australians. They trespassed into my own heart territory only through their performances. Sorry friends, you have to admit the first fellow is ridiculously impolite, arrogant and outspoken. But, whenever his blade talks Australia reach the shore of victory. He keeps his best innings for titanic occasions against giant oppositions. After that innings of 140 runs which included 8 massive sixes I had reluctantly accepted the Aussie Captain, Ricky Ponting, Punter. And the second man, oh God, again I fell in love with a pace bowler. Forgive me, this time also a non-Indian but, luckily a non-Pakistani. He did not have the swing and all round capabilities of Wasim Bhai. Instead he was a machine. Ask him to bowl 100 deliveries and he could ball all 100 deliveries in the ‘corridor of uncertainty’. Glen Donald McGrath, The Pigeon.
World cup venue reached another continent in 2007; this time West Indies. I had decided to move on from Indian MNC in Mysore to another Indian MNC in Kochi. During this World cup too I was in Mysore.  But, somehow my principal focus was settling things at office and rented home at Mysore. Not sure because of my cold response to World cup, India couldn’t advance to the Super Eight stage. Again, look at the champions Australia; successfully marshaled by Ricky Ponting and Pigeon with Player of the series achievement.
Life goes on…so too my World. I am married and currently at Gurgaon working for an American MNC. I cut myself as an ardent Indian supporter reluctantly turned to acknowledge that Australia were a better team and Ricky Ponting a better achiever in the past. But now, along with 120 crore Indian minds, want to reaffirm the ultimate judgment. India, my home nation is on the brink of taking over cricket supremacy from Australia and Sachin Tendulkar to be heralded as the greatest ever cricketer to grace the Universe. For the moment, we do have the shrewd Captaincy of M S Dhoni who had earlier won the inaugural T20 World cup, and a humble opener from Delhi who decides the shift in the match if he is able to face 50 deliveries; Virender Sehwag ! Fortunately for them too, God himself has chosen this occasion to make our dreams come true in his own land, in front of his own followers. When he pads up on this Saturday at Wankhede stadium Indians along with M S Dhoni wishes only one thing. Let God decide the result of this match !!
For me, I was a nursery boy when India won the Prudential World cup. Hence, I wish those magic moments to be recreated on 2nd April. Again, let God decide the final judgment. J

1st April, 2011
The day before World cup final, Ind vs. Sri Lanka in Mumbai

No comments:

Post a Comment