Friday, March 23, 2007

The cricket - the dangerous way of life

Pakistan team coach Bob Woolmer is found dead in his hotel room after some one strangulated him for reasons unknown at this point. The story is still unfolding with unbelievably sketchy details of corruption crime and betrayal. Entire cricketing fraternity is praying that the investigation does not lead to any one from cricketing world. Money corrupts cricket. Black money kills it.

When British first played cricket, they did not play a sport. It was a way of life for them. The pass time of the aristocracy. They broke for tea and lunch in between. They played days non-stop in the sun, clad in white. It is no longer a gentleman's game. It is a game of black money, match fixing and death. Yes, you can get killed if you coach a team or play cricket.

It was before the television popularized the game of cricket in erstwhile British colonies. My Chacha (Father's younger brother) introduced me to the wonderful game of cricket. I was not presented with a cricket bat and a kit by my rich Chacha on my birth day as you may have betted. My Chacha was a disabled person from childhood polio. He could walk but not without falling down frequently. So he preferred to sit down. In the verandah of the ancestral home, he sat on a wooden bench all day, from dawn to dusk. Waiting for a test to begin.

Cricket was his life. He would listen to BBC radio commentary of every single cricket match that was played. Back then, it was played in 5 days and players did not wear colorful outfits. They wore white trousers and T-shirts. Early mornings and evenings, they wore half sweaters. They broke for tea in the morning and evening. They took an hour lunch break. It was slow and boring at times. They played 5 days of 'outdoor chess' and still did not produce any result. But it was the real 'test' of patience, skills and mind game.

My Chacha went to school and all but dropped out early on after few falls in school. But he learned to understand the English commentary over the years. He could eventually count upto the highest score made by a test team in an innings. (952 by Sri Lanka against India).

Test cricket was his only solace in an otherwise lonely life. He had a small transistor radio and he tuned to BBC sports for English commentary. He took tea break when the test team broke for tea. He ate lunch when the team broke for lunch. When the cricket is played overseas, he quietly listened to the radio when every one was asleep.

India did not win all the time. In fact, they lost most of the times. But they were admired for their sincerity to the game of cricket. The days when the class of the batter is judged by the number of days he camps in the crease frustrating the pace batteries of the world. Sunni's copybook perfection and single minded determination to dominate the fearsome four;Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner.

They were underdogs and they wanted to prove the world that they be taken seriously. Just like the Bangla boys of today. They did not make millions from endorsements but they made billion fans proud when they won the first ever world cup by upsetting the then mightiest West Indies. The image of Kapil clad in Blue blazer hoisting the world cup from the balcony to the fans, never repeated in like or kind.

My Chacha grew increasingly disengaged from life and eventually from Cricket too. The transistor radio stopped playing BBC. It lost its owner and operator. He is no longer in this world to witness India getting out of world cup cricket in the first round by one of the weakest campaigns in recent history. He is not there to hang his head in shame with a billion people. He would be happier dead than living through the times of betting, match fixing and murder in cricket field. Because the purity of cricket meant so much to him. He would prefer the slow boring days of test cricket than the glitz and glamour of celebrity cricketers of India who buckled under pressure every single time without fail since the (in)famous sixer by Miandad of Chetan Sharma. The days when Bollywood actresses flew to Sharjah to watch cricket sitting next to Dawood Ibrahim!

1 comment:

sajee said...

sree, how powerfully u've illustrated the feelings...
simply great these memoirs are!
keep writing such wonderful stuff, mate...

rgds, sajee