Sunday, September 17, 2006

CRICKET FEVER

Cricket has provided one of the most passionate pastimes I have indulged in -- Absolutely not, I do not as you must have assumed share your passion for playing cricket but for watching it. Yes, I am a poor performer at cricket though my love for playing the game is as enormous as my love for watching it on the big screen .Cool! But when did all this start! Let us listen to the full story!

I handled the bat for the first time in 1987 when I was barely three, or rather, I must have, for memories concerning those days are vague and unclear. However, I could remember hitting the white mass of rubber with childish exuberance, along the cement ground, and picking off some quick runs by the time I was five. I have fonder (though unclear) memories of watching the last few games of Gavaskar, and Krishnamachari Srikkanth and Kapil Dev,in the twilight of their careers and a blossoming Azharuddin in his prime. These are on the television, however, for I had never ever been to a cricket stadium, nor am I interested in watching a cricket match in a stadium. Live cricket entertainment, in absentia, is my cup of tea. I have never ad the opportunity to nor had ever felt that I would enjoy a cricket match in a stadium.

In July 1991, due to the locality’s proximity to my school, we shifted to Virugambakkam. And almost immediately, I began to develop intimacy to my classmate Madhusudan who resided nearby. This was the commencement of a new phase in my life. I was a kid no more and took to boyhood with calculated efficiency, one step at a time. This was also the phase when I actually mastered the basics of cricket. For this, I am indebted to Madhu who was a better player of the game than I was. I was earlier taught to play left-handed but I now took to batting right-handed. And the rubber ball that we used those days permitted easy clean hitting. I could remember spending those wonderful Sunday evenings playing cricket on the cement-covered verandah of our Porur house. Those days were truly unforgettable.

This phase reached its culmination in the “open-terrace” tournaments of Dolphin Flats. However, by the time I played my last match with those little playmates of Dolphin Flats, I realized that I was still a novice and hadn’t learnt much of the game. Nevertheless, those three years had been a wonderful formative experience for me and as I entered my seventh grade, I threw aside my cricket bat and ball in order to concentrate upon some cricket action on the television instead.

I did have an interest in watching cricket matches right from my early days, though it was unnoticeable in the initial stages. I certainly had watched matches in the late eighties in our Porur house though I don’t remember anything about it apart from the the names of a few sportsmen who excelled. In the early nineties, I could remember reading about the Australian tour in which Sachin Tendulkar first showed those flashes of greatness which were to exhibit itself with astonishing regularity in the later days. But the first tournament I could remember watching was the 1992 World Cup which Pakistan won. A few players whose names I could recall as having heard of then – Kiran More, Pravin Amre, Sanjay Manjrekar, Manoj Prabhakar,David Boon, Grahame Gooch, Ian Botham, Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Clive Rice, Jonty Rhodes, Kepler Wessels, Cook (I’ve forgotten the first part of his name), the Flower brothers, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama and Inzammam-ul-Haq. This apart from names like Kapil Dev, Srikkanth, Shastri and others that I’ve mentioned earlier. But two names which stood apart in the 1992 World Cup were those of Brian Lara and Mark Greatbatch (surprisingly 18-year old Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t among the top performers of the tournament).

I could remember watching Kapil Dev hit some of his big sixes, Jonty Rhodes’s cheeky sweep shots apart from his superhuman dives and Mark Greatbatch, the run machine and John Wright amass runs at a remarkable pace. Of the final, I have vivid recollections. I could actually remember Inzi’s innings quite well.

After the 1992 World Cup, there was once again a period of lull. I could vaguely remember Srikkanth’s last matches. He actually bowled well those days. Then came England’s Indian tour. This was the first complete test and one-day series that I watched in my life. Grahame Gooch with the likes of a bearded Mike Gatting in his team led England to a humiliating defeat on Indian soil. The Indians appeared to bat to take revenge and frequently harassed England by posting 250-plus totals. India usually opened with Sachin Tendulkar and Manoj Prabhakar or Navjot Singh Sidhu. Tendulkar wasw in top form those days and would begin the assault by destroying the bowling attack. The strong middle order with the likes of Vinod Kambli in it would respond in a like way and this would result in totals of 270 and 280 which the English would find impossible to chase. India swept the three test series with Vinod kambli playing a fine knock of 224 in one of those matches. Of the Englsih I could recount a wonderful innings of 108 by all-rounder Chris Lewis apart from many a fighting innings by an aged Mike Gatting.

The next year was another excellent year for Indian cricket as Sachin Tendulkar struck top form for the first time in his life. He made a dozen or so fifties that year and rose to the number two spot in ratings below Brian Lara. India had a series of wins both at home and abroad and in 1996, having quite recently won the Wills and Pepsi Challenger Series Indians were in contention for the World Cup.

The 1996 World Cup marked the start of the third phase, or rather, under further thought, would represent the transition from the second phase to the third. This was the only tournament I watched as a fanatical Indian cricket supporter. And this was the first time that an Indian loss affected my spirits for days and days on the stretch. In fact, I almost cried the day India lost the semifinal. If the 1993 England vs India series was the first instance when I started watching cricket, the 1996 World Cup was the first time I started regarding cricket seriously. Those were the highs and lows of India’s world cup campaign. Those were jolly days, indeed, as I used to spend the mornings watching live matches on television and attend school in the afternoon. The Calcutta loss really made me forget Indian cricket for the time being. Anyway, this loss taught the Indian cricketers a very bitter lesson. This would be probably the last time Indians would so greatly depend upon the form and fortunes of a single individual (Tendulkar).

Anyway, following the World Cup debacle, I bought an issue of Sportstar which covered the World Cup on the whole. And this was the time, I developed a keen interest in statistics. I used the issue of Sportstar as a reference and used the format given in its tabloids for calculating and tabulating statistics on run-rates, partnerships, highest totals, lowest totals, individual scores, etc. I continued to collect and tabulate statistics till 2001-02 but then statistics-collecting ceased to be a hobby when scores of cricket matches were made largely available on the internet.
Since the 1996 debacle, I have ceased to have any sort of fanatical attachment to the Indian cricket team. Nowadays, I watch cricket for the love of the game which has been dwindling since 2001, and an Indian victory is as acceptable as an Indian defeat.

"Cricket has played a great role in national integration, cutting across state boundaries and regional loyalties. Through this game, cricketers are fulfilling a national mission."
-Naval H. Tata

Friday, September 08, 2006


Introduction to my 2006 diary

Each existence of ours in this world is remarkable, when we take into account the number of people who come into our lives, the number of people who make an entry during our life-span and the large numbers whose passage into the other world we witness, the number of people we get to know and become intimate to in a matter of months, despite the fact that we barely knew who they were and how they lived before our acquaintance with them, the strange and in most cases, previously unknown, places that we get to live in, and the innumerable scenes and incidents we witness, be they scenes of joy and ecstasy or those of sorrow and grief. I long to preserve the incidents that take place in our day-to-day lives in a video camera, though the construction of a camera that could record our entire lives hasn't yet been conceived, so that when we fast-forward through the reels of the film, they might present before my longing eyes a plethora of images.