Cricket, my love

I love Cricket.

No, I can’t play it. I’ve always had poor motor skills and dim reflexes. I was a fat kid so I couldn’t run around much besides I’m a girl. Girls don’t play cricket, they play badminton especially in my neighbourhood.

No, I’m not a “tomboy”. Absolutely detest that term from the bottom of my heart. I wear my brother’s clothes regularly but I also, have a few dresses and I even apply make-up like a normal girl sometimes.

No, none of my family members are sportspersons. My father used to play at the college level during his hay days but I don’t think it counts. He was hardly there at home to insist on watching matches. However, we as a family used to follow the news avidly during dinners and the occasional cricket matches that were broadcast.

Our whole neighbourhood used to stop working during the telecast of the Sharjah cup. You are not an Indian if you don’t watch India v/s Pakistan. That was a really long ago though. I can barely remember names of the players, let alone details. I was too young to understand the game and its complexities. I’m pretty sure that no other sport has as many rules and concepts as does Cricket. Statistics form such an integral part of it. It’s another ball game altogether.

Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Ajay Jadeja, Mohammad Azhrudeen, Javagal Shrinath, Anil Kumble, Nayan Mongia, Venkatesh Prasad, VVS Laxman, Naseer Hussain, Glenn McGrath, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Jayasuriya… These were all household names for me.

I used to rejoice when Sachin and Dada would be together on the pitch. They had such great chemistry. 

It took me a very long time to understand spin. Yet, every time Anil Kumble would stride across the field and pull out those blinders that hit the stumps, I used to jump with joy. 

We’d watch matches just to see Sachin play. He had another legion of followers; people who didn’t want to understand the game, they just wanted to see God. It made me feel patriotic in an odd way.

I used to turn up the volume when Geofrey Boycott, Tony Greig, Harsha Bhogle or Arun Lal were in the commentary box. Their love and passion for the game was evident even in their voices. That's where i learnt the nuances. My Dad used to tell me stories about cricketing legends like Pataudi, Farookh Engineer, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Bishen Singh Bedi etc. not because he wanted me to learn but because i wanted to know.

After the match fixing debacle of the mid 90s, we turned away for a while. Not many people were keen on spending the whole day watching a match that was probably scripted. But Dada was Team India Captain then and winds of change were making headlines as we started to do well abroad. Team India was infamous for being Tigers at Home and house cats abroad. That was about to change. Fresh young blood was injected into the team. And Dada created history. All those memories bring tears to my eyes (I’m not kidding). Watching Dada marshal his troops on the field, bringing raw energy and uninhibited passion to the game, it made me believe, you know. Maybe, this is real. You can’t script emotions or maybe you can?

I don’t know. I have a folder of clippings of match summaries, pictures, interviews etc. Back then, Internet was a luxury. I still have that folder. It reminds me of how crazy we were at some point. I still flip to the sports section of the newspaper first before reading the rest of the newspaper.

Indian Cricket has been riddled with controversies time and again. And unlike me, not many returned back as a faithful audience. We all watched for the sake of Cricket with the constant thought at the back of our heads that this is Fixed. Bloody Fixed! Every time we win, every time we lose. Every catch that was dropped or every extra conceded. It’s all a bloody fix.

I don’t know any other such sport in India that was or is so popular. Cricket cuts across religions, regions, castes, languages and gender. It blurs the divide between rich and poor. When a match is being telecast in a college canteen or an office lobby, everyone knows everyone. We laugh, we cry and we bring out the best expletives in our dictionaries. We chant. We rejoice! And you don’t have to know the game or the players. Every time we win a match against Australia, South Africa or England, we feel like winners. We feel like belonging to this country. Do you know of any such sport or activity that unites Indians as Cricket does? Please tell me.

Who are our heroes? Who are the people who give us a beacon of hope as a nation? Our politicians are busy playing petty games with each other and the public at large. Our movies take us into an imaginary world that we aim to live through at some point of time but they rarely strike a chord with reality. We, as Indians have a bad habit of putting our “heroes” on a pedestal. We want to be them. With the overdrive of social media we can see through the facade and now we know that even stars are tainted.

Today, Indian Cricket has befallen from the eyes of the public. With allegations of corruption and a devious scandal which will never be truly exposed because of the thick nexus between the bookies, politicians and media alike. Their blood lust for money and power stole away the innocence, the beauty of this game for me and many others. They told me, it’s all fixed. I never heard them. I believed and now I repent.

As a lover of the game and an ardent fan of Indian Cricket, my heart is broken. My heroes seem tainted. Will they ever re-instate my faith?

I wonder and ache, as I watch dirty linen being washed in public.