My Dear Cricket,
I am so excited to finally write to you. My hands seem to be shivering. Do you have any idea about how big you are in our country? You are compared to religion here. And everybody knows religion is India’s fuel – without it our news anchors would have nothing to talk about.
I became a fan of you when I was a kid. Well, what is a fan exactly? When I was four, I watched you on TV with my dad because whenever there was a match on, he used to sit in front of the TV and not leave it till the DD National jingle came on after the last bowl was bowled. I remember watching matches on Sunday morning. The only reason I got up was because my mom would fry pakodas and leave them in front of my father while he watched the game.
Love for you exists in the whole of our family. My uncle loves to comment about how much a batsman would make, but quickly shushes someone else up if they say anything. My mom is a bad omen. Whenever she enters the room and says something negative about India, a wicket falls. My sister often pushes her out of the room.
I remember the World Cups. There used to be preparation a week in advance. Everyone would make predictions. I peeked into the drawing room, my father talking to his friends fiercely debating about Kapil Dev’s history and Sourav Ganguly’s present. I only had eyes for one – the New Zealand captain. I did not much know the game in the beginning, but he looked incredibly handsome to me (I couldn’t even pronounce his name properly). I stood in front of my mirror and practised what I would say to him when I grew up, finished school and flew to New Zealand.
The fever for gully cricket overtook me, too.Somehow, I liked fielding as much as everyone else in the ground hated it. I liked standing near the boundary (marked by slippers of the players) and viewing the game in all of its glory. The bowler would run up, twist his hand in a way that I haven’t been able to understand yet (I never could bowl – still can’t) and the ball would fly to the other end of the ground. There would be a lovely sound (this is still my favourite part of gully cricket and my one complaint with cricket on TV) – thwack! – and the ball would fly, as gracefully as a ballerina in a pink tutu.
Winter mornings were especially hard. I remember hurting my hands catching the red ‘rubber wali’ ball. It was heavy and hurt like hell, but I was unwilling to concede to the boys who had accepted me as one of their own. They even let me bat. I was decent at it. I remember I once scored 32 runs, and it was one of the happiest mornings of my life. Until the dirty ball landed in the bucket which contained white school shirts washed with Surf Excel. I gingerly took out the ball, stuffed the shirt on top towards the bottom, and my mother never found out what I had done. When the craze for Harbhajan Singh was at its height, I tied my hair up like Sikh people and asked my mom to take me to meet him. She was surprised. She just laughed, and I was left puzzled.
I miss you, though. Stupid thing to say, right? How can I miss you when you are still here? But have you never felt it? Missing someone even when they are around? Wishing things would be the same as they were? Nostalgia has set in. I am sorry, cricket, but you have changed. I was never one for tests (I would sleep off in my father’s lap, ketchup from the pakodas still on my lips), but I enjoyed ODIs immensely. When you started T20s, I felt a little betrayed, but I watched them in the beginning. It was fun, definitely. To see the sixes swishing and the fours gliding. But as soon as the novelty wore off, I felt betrayed. It was nothing compared to what I felt when the IPL started. I felt as if someone was intentionally tarnishing my childhood memories. I still refuse to watch the IPL or read news about it.
But, as they say, once you love, you never really leave. When I am in college,I don’t watch you enough. Score updates through a phone application have taken the place of sitting through the match, watching even the ‘Fourth Umpire’ on DD National. But I still love you. You are a part of my childhood that I have carried into my twenties, and I am glad you’re still here. But when I see kids play in the lane beneath my balcony, that old yearning to field comes back to me, and in that moment I’m my little, happy, careless self again.You were and will be am important part of our country’s pride and memories.
With love and warm wishes,
-An Indian Kid