This blog is meant as a vent for all the turbulences of the heart and mind. It is meant to lay them bare. I know that nobody is interested in my stories or my turbulences, but the blog is. It always was and it always will be. I have been treating it with some solemn stories and thoughts recently. This is not the way you treat someone who listens to you so ardently. We must give them happy stories too, and today is the time I shall do so. This blog is also my time machine. When I am with it, I travel time. From past to present to future. Today, I am taking this blog down the memory lanes, the lanes where I house memories of my time with Cricket.
I was introduced to the gentlemen’s sport very early in my life. Perhaps as soon as I was able to stand up and walk. That would make me about 8 months old. I have photographs to prove it. I, holding a bat, and my father, bowling at me. I am a right-handed batsman and bowler. Occasionally, I can also bat left-handed. I was always the brightest student of my class. Ever since I started going to school. One of the motivations of topping exams at school was the deal my parents would have with me – to buy me anything of my choice If I top exams, and they did. The first thing I demanded, when I first topped my first exams in the first year of my schooling [after KG], was a bat. In fact, THE bat. I could easily reproduce the photograph of the bat here, but that defeats the purpose of writing. I want to describe the bat a little, and photography is the laziest art. It is art nonetheless, though.
The bat, when first bought, was about same size as mine. Reaching up to my shoulder, I remember. It was white, made of Kashmir willow and had a “Power” sticker, pasted on its striking face, with “Power” written diagonally across the sticker, in blue, along with its logo on top left corner. Below the sticker was pasted another sticker: “The Tendulkar Scorer”. It was my most favourite bat and it was with me until I went to university. By that time, it had gone old, with its cane handle forced in place with help of glue and nails.
Playing Cricket was a crucial part of my life. I remember that one day my father introduced me to his boxer friend and asked me to go with him to train as one to the city’s stadium called Bheem Stadium. That stadium is known for boxing all over India. Same Bheem Stadium boxers have brought India Gold and Silver medals in Olympics, Commonwealth, Asian and other sporting events. However, I wasn’t interested. I did go there for a day or two, and I also went to the Gymnastics Hall of the same stadium, but it was Cricket that interested me. Therefore, I joined the Cricket coaching sessions at the stadium. I wasn’t regular, but wasn’t irregular either.
My short stature made sure that I wasn’t to be taken seriously. In sports, at least. I still wish I was taller. At least 6 feet 6 inches. Short heighted men, if not so bright, are often overlooked. Anyway, I was bright, and I was too bright to be overlooked. I was also good at Cricket. Eventually, I became part of my class’s Cricket team, and we would often play matches in the evening. Not in large grounds. On the streets. On the roads. Breaking windows. Knocking doors. Hitting neighbours. In short, inviting the scourge of neighbours. Every. Other. Day. However, nothing would stop us from going out again and playing. In India, we don’t buy full sporting gear to play a sport. Well, at least when we are beginning to learn. We played Rugby without any shoulder, shin, abdomen etc. guard. Therefore, the moment of wearing the full sporting gear becomes memorable one.
It was a match played by our team with a team 2 years our senior in school. It was the first time we played with Cricketing gears on. Pads, L-guard, gloves, elbow guard, shin, and helmet. All on. I was the opening batsman of my team. I was exceptionally good at playing on the off-side of the stumps. My best shots included the cover drive, the square cut, the deep cut, the hit on the long on. I was poor on the leg-side of the stumps, but I could play ball towards third leg and deep third leg convincingly. In that match, I scored 30 runs. It was also our team’s first 15-over match. I was the fourth wicket to fall. We lost the match.
Summer Vacations, Winter Vacations, Diwali and Dussehra Vacations – they were all spent in Punjab. 2-3 months of a year were spent in Punjab. As vacations. Summers, in particular. All I did in those hot summer afternoons was to just play Cricket with my cousins and their umpteen friends. One of my cousins was exceptionally amazing at playing Cricket, and it was through him that I was introduced to many different “kind” of bats and balls. We often started in the morning 5 AM and played until 3PM-4PM. Surviving on water, and some little lunch or road-side dishes that we could buy from our paltry pocket money. The ground, where we used to play, was little far from my grandma’s home in Punjab. At least, its main entrance. We would, therefore, cross the railways lines near to one of the quite high boundary walls of the ground and then climb that wall to get to the other side. The wall was and is almost 10 feet high and during first few times, I would be pulled and pushed up the wall by cousins and their friends. After a few attempts, I was able to climb the wall like a monkey. We would climb that wall about 4-5 times a day.
As we grew, the craze of Cricket in India grew as well. India liberalised its economy in 1991-92, and its most direct effect could be seen on Cricket and its increasing craze. 1996 Cricket World Cup, which was organised in India, after Indian economy was liberalised, was watershed event of sorts in my cricketing life. Mostly because it had the first of the matches where I watched Sachin Tendulkar playing live on TV. I came to know of many Cricket terms. Many names associated with the game. Mostly, I read about its history in good detail after this world cup through magazines and columns of newspapers. I was only 9-10 years old back then.
Over the sport of Cricket, I have always made friends, never a single enemy. Of course, back in Punjab, we will get into all sorts of fights, but end of the day, we shared same ground, sometimes same 22 yards, same stumps, same balls and same bats, that the fighting was almost a trivial moment for it was all about Cricket. Who could hit the highest? Who could catch the highest? Who could hit neat? Who could catch clean? Who could drive beautifully? Who could bowl dangerously? Cricket Cricket and only Cricket!
Then, I moved to a new town. It was right after I had been given a new bat, after topping the exams again. It was SS bat, from Meerut, with Fish skin on White Willow, dipped in “Cricketing Oils” – the last and the most expensive bat I ever bought. Leaving old friends and town back, when I first came to the new town, I missed playing Cricket the most. What put me off was that the kids in the neighbourhood would play cricket with plastic balls. I felt that I’ve been downgraded in my standard of living. Back in the old town, a day before we left it, I had promised my best friend that I would often write to him. He was also my cricketing buddy. I did. I wrote at lengths about how much I dislike the way they play Cricket in this new town, and how much I miss our old days. I never received a reply. I wrote quite a few times but I never received any reply. It was perhaps for the first time I felt sad for a loss and felt bitter towards friendships. Nevertheless, life, like always, moved on.
In the new town, while I lost many friends, and a best friend, I also started losing touch with Cricket. It was limited only to playing 4-5 times a month. I never could find a good team or I never actually tried. Especially after 2001, my ties with Cricket were severely cut. One reason being that I was entering the “adult world” and I had to start “becoming realistic” towards “what I want to do with my life”. I went full steam on academics after 2001. I abandoned Cricket or Cricket abandoned me; I can’t tell.
I do miss playing Cricket. Sometimes, I want to run away and play Cricket, with the wall. All by myself. I used to do it in the new town I moved to. To play cricket with the wall in the backyard. Back then, playing Cricket with the wall was like I writing silly blog posts today. It was a means of occupying the demons in my mind. I rue the fact that when I started playing “real cricket”, I could never play a single match with my father. We never met on a Cricket pitch.
Today, I quench the occasional thirst of playing Cricket by immersing myself in watching Cricket matches of the years I was growing up. Watching Sachin, Saurav, Dravid, Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Graham Thorpe, Courtney Walsh, Ambrose, Ponting, Gilchrist, Lara, Cronje, Kumble, Warne, Jayasuriya and all these greats play is my way of re-living some of the moments of my Childhood.
Cricket has always made me happy. Win or loss. Either way. Watching or playing. Either way. Listening about it or telling about it. Either way. And today, writing about it has made me even happier!
To the Cricket!