Its bigger. Its massive. Its glamourous. Its IPL! The one summer sensation that unites the nation. It contributes to vivisection of the nation too. But at the end of the day it is cricket that unites us all anyway.
India is an emotional country. We thrive with emotions. We drive with emotions. Cricket is one such emotion catalyst. Many of our mundane activities get lesser priority than a short and sexy cricket session.
Cricket runs in my family’s interests. If not for my for the summer street cricket sessions with my cousins I would have remained unaware of the pleasure of imitating cricketing shots in mid air. I can easily trace my memory back to my first cricketing “awe”. Multan was the slaughter house with the Pakistan Cricket team being the imminent beef meat. Sehwag was the butcher who reigned a rain of boundaries. Eventually he became my favourite cricketer painfully testing my loyalty with inconsistent performances. Adding to my loyalty worries was the fact that I had to root for the Delhi Daredevils for a decade.
As I ponder upon my favourite cricketing memories, wishing for a summer with 9-5 carefree gully cricket sessions the importance of this game comes screaming back to me. My dad often refers to cricket and its players to motivate us while we bring back a sorry sight of marks in our report cards. When I cribbed about life and the testing academic curriculum, he brings cricket analogies to our light to make us feel that problems are an everyday occurrence. I still remember how he made me feel strong when he used Jonty Rhodes who suffered from blood phobia as an example to fight my very own blood phobia. He insisted that I am not weak but it is just another thing I have to fight against.
Sehwag’s retirement affected my interest for the game. However Dhoni lingered around to make me put some effort to repair the relationship. However with no Sehwag, to part away from the game became very easy. My interests changed and cricket was no longer my favourite cuisine of interest. The opener’s absence was quite enough to pledge myself to other interests.
When I was in my second year of college I was no longer the ardent fan I used to be. Just to escape ignorance of cricketing affairs I used to tune into Cricbuzz and skim the headlines of the sports page to catch up.
Ignorance is far from bliss when it comes to cricket. In a country where cricket itself gives you diverse identities it is tough to maintain any sort of indifference to the game. It makes you irrelevant to many conversations.
However I could notice one thing. I was never the same. Meaning, certain parts of my character deteriorated. I followed Dhoni and Dravid and it put in my core personalities a lethal combination of maintaining composure while maintaining perseverance. My flair for Sehwag watchful aggression in me. Ignoring cricket completely rid me off these attitudes too. I forgot how to be persistent . I forgot what I did to emulate a Dhoni under pressure. I forgot to strike opportunities when the time was right. Somehow these characters were robbed off from me.
Then came the harsh and humiliating ban on the Chennai Super Kings. A series of match fixing scandals not only scandalized the game but also the team and their fans too were not spared. Being an obnoxiously ardent Dhoni fan I could only watch as the final nail of the coffin containing my interest for cricket being hammered. IPL became another reality show to me. I no longer bothered to watch balls being hammered off the dusty summer grounds, showers of sixes that defy all predictions of summer rain. Gujarat Lions only appeared to be a consolation while the name Rising Pune Super Giants resembled a portion that enhanced potency.
It was 2016. January brought along with its chills the great Indian cricketing season. India were up against an uncertain Australian team that posted huge scores only to be defeated. Cricket now being obsolete no longer enticed me. However there was nothing else to do. So I set to watch the highlights of the third T20 of Ind vs Aus. Aus posted a mammoth total. The Indians were up for the challenge and came out all guns blazing. It was the final over and India needed 15 runs of the last six balls. Yuvraj as on strike with Raina ready to scamper to the striker’s end when needed. I no longer remembered the countless occasions the swashbuckling left hander reduced his bowlers to cluelessness. However I waited. It was totally worth the wait and what accompanied the wait was two sixes a two and a boundary with India cleanly sweeping the series 3-0.
Days passed but the game still lingered in my mind. I deliberately boycotted watching the following IPL owing to CSK’s absence. Days passed and September bought with it a series of disappointments. Failures were the only thing in sight. However I was taught to be strong. But how? How did I pull through, slave over such testing times? What was that source of inspiration in despair? What gave me the tenacity during testing times?
Time itself reveals answers when you need and not whenever you need. Nothing much to do in my seventh semester I stumbled across a final over cricketing video. On playing, it was revealed that the batting side needed 23 runs off the last 6 balls. Curiosity kills the cat but I saw it necessary to probe beyond. I continued to watch and this was what happened.
19.1 The striker strikes the ball down to deep mid wicket but it was fielded by the man there. He refuses to run and takes the onus of finishing the match on himself.
19.2 Bowler bowls a wide.
19.3 Batsman hits and hits hard down long-on for a 6! 16 needed off 5.
19.4 Batsman hits it over extra-cover for 4. 12 needed off 3.
19.5 Batsman smashes hard down the offside only to be brilliantly saved by the fielder there. 12 needed off 2.
19.6 Batsman hits over leg side for a huge 6. 6 needed off 1.
This was the moment. I hadn’t seen the match before and I was totally unaware of the imminent disorder. I felt the familiar chills. Sweat soaked palms returned. Fingers were tightly twined between strands of hair. And then it happened.
19.7 There you go! The skipper does it once again. A brutal whack sends the ball soaring into the skies and eventually into the crowd. Dhoni you beauty!
Suddenly a tinge of shock raced down my arm and concluded at the apex of my body. The sensation that is part of every Indian every time India won a match. Admist all the nostalgia that returned what impressed me the most was the unfazed look of the winning captain. The look on Dhoni showed pure, pristine indifference. Win or lose he remains indifferent. At that moment every little thing I learned throughout my childhood came screaming back to me. It was like a switch that was turned on and from nowhere a jolt of electricity enlightened me.
On watching CSK make it home at the last ball even in case of small totals I learnt that the process is more important than the result. Watching debut players grow I learned to respect my elders which is the key to success. When stars backed junior players I learned to give love to my juniors. Watching players walk away even before umpires point their fingers towards the pavilion made me aware of honesty and its importance in life. On watching captains taking slings and arrows of a collective failure on themselves I learned to be responsible for my actions. On watching captains neglecting all laurels and directing them to their players I learned that to share is to survive sustainably. Somewhere in cricket I learnt that there is no limit while bettering oneself. Somewhere in cricket I learnt that taking your thoughts off the end result helps you keep your head straight. Somewhere in cricket I learned that nice guys can finish first. Somewhere in cricket I learned to love anything, especially your passion, unconditionally so that it shall return the favour unfailingly.
Cricket gives me character. A break up with cricket turned me pathetic. A patch up with cricket gave me respite from all sorts of despair and depression. With the 2017 IPL on, I find cricket for me is more than simply a respite from hardships. I intend to stay sprawled for a long time like a hippo in my bed along with my dad. I know my city when I enter it. In my city I know I am in my house when I am myself. I know it is home when I switch on the TV and there is cricket. You ask why there is cricket? Home is where the cricket is.
So how did cricket affect you? The page is incomplete without your thoughts. Do leave your comments below.