Saurav Sehwag Sachin hit boundaries and sixes
Yuvraj Ajit Dravid don’t miss any catches
Kumble Zaheer Nehra take all the wickets
We pray to have the best of the cricket
England Lanka Pakis lose all the matches
India wins against the kiwis and the Ausies
Om Cricketaaye Namaha!
- Promo of 2003 world cup on Sony Set Max
Running back from school to reach just in time so as to not miss the toss. Fighting with mom while giving her “When India plays how can you even expect something else to be played on TV?” look. Studying while India was bowling so that the batting was not missed. Sneaking out of parent’s room to granddad’s room to watch late night matches (apparently he was not under no TV post 10 rule). Getting up early in the morning to catch the early matches (only times in life apart from Holi when getting up at 5 AM wasn’t a pain). Well like most of the Indians I followed a religion that I wasn’t born with. I chose this religion. I chose to be dedicated to it, made my sacrifices, celebrated the wins, mourned the losses and kept the faith. The only reason for my dedication was the happiness I received from a century, a wicket or even a catch as if it were my own accomplishment. Gloating the same to the other followers of the same religion was like a next morning ritual everyone engaged into. We might have been divided by age, caste, religion, and place but what united us was our self-adopted religion: Cricket!
Like other religion Cricket had its Gods too with an obvious categorization. Some were worshipped nationwide while others had to be content with the secondary and tertiary places in people’s heart. My mom often asked me “Why do you care if Sachin scored a century? You are happy as if he will share his prize money with you”. Obviously I would defend my belief by saying “Why do you care if someone’s mother in law is ill-treating her daughter in law? You don’t have one so you can chill.” But inside I knew I had no answer to that question. The reaction was only to rationalize my beliefs. But there were no justifications, only counter arguments. I have very often used the patriotism card to shield my faith despite knowing that only cricket instilled these strong patriotic vibes in me. I was rest assured that cricket might be inflicting patriotism in me but there was no vice versa cause effect.
Everything seemed a ritual that needs to be followed. Wearing Indian jersey during the match. Interrupting anyone who applauded an Indian batsman while he played well so as to not jinx the situation. Often uttering “Aj India haar jayega” with a heart that believes that saying this might turn the game around. I don’t remember missing even the prize distribution ceremony of a cricket match that India won. The very next step would be to switch to a news channel which was praising India for the win. Next day it would be customary to grab the sports page of the newspaper so as to read about the win again. Somehow it just felt good that the same win was being reiterated over and over, prolonging the celebration of success.
Then something changed! Legends started retiring, making way for the young blood. Everyone seemed very excited about the Dhoniz and the Kohliz who were showing immense potential and proving their mettle in all forms of cricket. Suddenly the “out of form” was replaced by “rusty” and “old” for the idols who were once worshipped. It felt like they were being dethroned in front of my eyes and all I could do is to put a happy face for a better future, newer energy and replaced torchbearers. Thankfully this came in phases, but with time all of my heroes went back to the pavilion and never came back. Now neither there was any anxiousness about the progression of the Indian innings nor any excitement when some Indian batsman hit a six. The next morning newspaper seemed like page 3 of cricket – who was dating who? The records, the statements, the stories of those great men were somehow lost behind the girlfriends and the sledging of the newer lot. The aggression was more through words than bat or ball. Yes we were winning. Perhaps more than we used to. But somehow those wins were doing nothing to my adrenalin. The centuries, the wickets, the sixes all started seeming mere stats. Even next morning discussions no longer felt like a personal victory but only a win for Indian Cricket Team.
Am I upset about what happened? Not really. Obviously those guys were bound to retire someday or the other. But cricket doesn’t feel the same without them. It has once again become a sport. I even find myself switching channels during a cricket match just to see what else is on TV. No longer do I try to find a TV set in a nearby shop when I am out of home. The jersey doesn’t fit me anymore and I have not cared to replace it one with a larger size. I am neither in hurry to reach home to catch the live telecast nor do I get irritated if someone disturbs me during the match.
One might say the detachment is not because of those icons retiring and probably because of how we have grown up and have become occupied with other priorities. I am not sure whether that is the reason. Even today if I knew that Sachin is opening with Sehwag I wouldn’t mind coming back from work early or calling in sick next morning in case the match runs late. My eyes quickly catch any article in the newspaper that mentions any of those names. I still get annoyed overhearing a comparison how ABC is the next Sachin or finally India has XYZ who fills Dravid’s place. No one can. I do agree that many of the younger players are brilliant in their game and possess the capability to bring laurels for the country. I also agree that the new rules and newer formats have changed the face of cricket making it a more exciting game. But for me the major difference is – This cricket is news! That cricket was life!