I distinctly remember it, the 1994 Singer series. My grand-dad sat in front of the television, with a calculator to watch Cricket - the practice that has dwindled only in the recent years. Conscious of the calculator keys that he would be meticulously tapping after every ball, I sat beside him trying to help him solve his mathematical trivia. This was my pristine encounter with the game of Cricket and its true harbinger.
From the wisecracks and hearsays that kept floating in my home and school, I committed to my memory the sequence, “Sachin out --> India loses” to “Sachin out --> TV off”. Those days, my room used to have an animal chart and my favourite animal was the Leopard, “The Indian Tendua”. Whenever Tendulkar used to bat, I, a 7 year old, and my little brother would run to our room to knock the leopard in the chart and shout “Tendua, chaukka maar” (Hit a four). The joy when he actually did this was immense. We actually used to pat our backs and believe that by doing this, we are somehow contributing to India’s win.
And so came the 1996 world cup. I took pride in the fact that I had become more mature and understood cricket better. But it still made no sense to me as to how India won the quarter final against Pakistan when Sachin got out early – that simply wasn’t how I had understood cricket. I still laugh when I reprise my thinking process as a kid, but deep down I still believe a part of it. For me cricket had always been “Sachin Tendulkar” and I admire people who are not like me, who are not a part of the cursed bandwagon. The bandwagon whose members believe that watching the master's straight drive would cheer up any dismal face, who believe that a red "MRF" sticker on their bat will help them hit sixes and who believe that 5 feet 5 inches is an ideal height to become a batsman.
Before I write further, let me make it crystal clear that this post is not meant to praise Sachin or eulogize his ‘Hercules like records’. This post is not meant to pull in the atheists into the bandwagon. This is just a selfish post where I, by assembling some random thoughts, am trying to unmask and unravel my apathetic attitude to ODIs all of a sudden. Probably I am not a true Cricket fan. The demise of one man shouldn’t have vaporized the interest in me and I will try to resurrect myself.
How stupid was I as a kid. I had loathed everyone who was black and named ‘Ramesh/Romesh’ when Kaluwitharana stumped HIM in the 1996 semi-finals. I settled my qualms with Dharamsena only recently when he helped us get rid of Mr Cook twice by raising his crooked finger, which I had dreamt of breaking once. Late Mr Ramesh Tendulkar had to take my blame for India losing out to Zimbabwe and eventually bowing out from the 1999 W’Cup.
The cinema hall in my hometown where I had watched the 2003 WC Finals live is now ‘a cinema hall where I haven’t stepped into since that day’. I don’t know if the hall still stands erected, but whenever I go next, I will make sure to step in and relax on the seats - the seats which saw people sitting immovably on them even when Australia had posted 359. Because they believed in one man. He was a God like figure uniting people in their joy and sorrow and that day was a sorrowful one. By the end of the 1st over of Indian innings, the theater was empty and I could hear a few sobbing, muttering and cursing. A little kid was shouting in one distant corner ‘Why God, Why!!’
And then the 2011 world cup happened, and the tears flowed incessantly. None of us knew what struck us - fans broken, faces painted, throats choked, walls smeared, guys kissing guys and then he showed up on the shoulders of Yuvraj Singh. I thank my heart out to Dhoni and Gambhir for bringing us that moment, for bringing him that moment.
Before I finished my high school, I already knew this man was no God. Why would a God need a duty free Ferrari! How could God suffer from a Tennis Elbow! Why would a God need others to realize his world cup dream! And I was then left with no other option but to respect my idol tenfold more. If he were God, this would have been his job. But for a human doing something he loves and in the course bonding an entire nation of a billion people is beyond my simple mind. I respect you, sire!
I envy you all, the lucky ones who could still watch cricket with same or enthused vigor. I pity my brother and a couple of my friends who are still trying to come out of the trauma. I know some, who have cancelled their upcoming match tickets and some who have manhandled their laptops.
The fault is simply ours to consider the man immortal, to believe he would play forever, to believe that he would keep his hairs curled for ever. To believe that the number 10 jersey will bleed blue for ever. Damn us !!