Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Sum of All Our Moments

By Gaurav Parab

Forget sport, if anyone had doubts on the number one religion in India - Wednesday the 30th was your answer. Offices closed, roads empty, sidewalks full. A day when old blue shirts were re-found, and every Indian took flight to Mohali – if not in person then in spirit.

For a day, we were all living cricket. On Saturday, we do it again in the mother of all matches. (Funny how the marketers make every contest a mother of all contests. As they say, success has many mothers and failure is a bastard).

On Saturday, daily life dies while we come to life again.

While this amazing run of form belongs to everyone, it is more special for the old faithful. The ones who used to cry over each Tendulkar dismissal, before it became fashionable to count his centuries. The ones who applauded every failed attempt since 1992 with as much fervor as the new lovers criticize every time India mucked up a power play in 2011. Before it became clever to fly down entire star casts to promote movies during a cricket match, we were fanatically following the scripts of nondescript matches like a Dinesh Mongia getting a big one at Guwahati. So while this victory is the icing on a cake on every camera friendly politician's face, only true fans know how sweet it tastes. We know that India has already won the cup. We can just feel it in our bones. It is destiny. Ball boy to World Cup winner, old hands will know what I refer to.

I am not passing judgment on the hesitant mistress' rendezvous with the game ( better late than never)  but I am just hoping that the uninformed fan does not criticize an Indian defeat if it were to happen in the near future. Not everyone has to know about the nuances of the game, it is after all a game, but everyone has a responsibility in not being stupid in criticizing what we don’t understand. The new follower, who conveniently turns up when the going is good has no right to pass judgment on a bad performance by the team – just on the strength of a couple of TV hours or a VIP passes. You just don’t. The fan’s don’t own a patent on what victory signifies, this tournament is for the nation, this joy is not ours alone, but they reserve the right to be possessive about the sport. Hey Afridi ! we all cry out in unison- Up Yours.
Admit it. We had fun yesterday, did we not? Imagine doing it for twenty years! That’s what we have been doing. Call us crazy, call us geeks, but we were bleeding blue well before blue was more about a sense of belonging to a cause and less of a brilliant marketing tag line. While the new brothers and sisters amongst us saw only how lucky Tendulkar was at Mohali, this is what we saw:

We saw Tendulkar given out to no balls against Franklin Rose, Ian Bishop, Fleming and a dozen names you may not know about. We saw all those countless balls glancing off shoulders, leg pads and thin air only to be given caught behind. We saw Bacher jump to fame by plucking a catch like none other only because he knew what a Tendulkar dismissal meant. We saw Tendulkar LBW McGrath when the ball.. well… the ball… well…the blood still boils at that one. There were days when Tendulkar could only get out to lady luck, an affair which never worked for this faithful prankster from Bandra. And those days happened again and again. Untill Mohali. We did not say how lucky Sachin is - we just ticked off all the wrongs one by one. Lady luck, well she was finally in love with the little flirt.

You still think Tendulkar was just lucky. Let me use an expression you will understand. LOL.

Why we act the way we do? Why we punch the air, send a thousand litchis to Sachin every year, or pray like a son was in the ICU when Sehwag comes into bat? We do, not because it is entertaining, but because we live sport. Sport is life within a well-defined boundary. Birth, death, redemption – so real in reality are played out in sport every minute. It has been our little secret for all these years, and we gladly welcome you to this alternative life with a disclaimer that you have to be responsible about it. You don't feel the complete pleasure in being a sport fan by cheering in a World Cup semi-final. You feel it because you felt despair when India self-destructed against Zimbabwe in 1999.

Dhoni, you beauty! I hope you are aware of our existence. Those shrill voices that pile up pressure on you to play those booming shouts are balanced out by the intelligent amongst us who totally get what you are up to. It takes a real superman to defend balls in the forty third over when everyone demands a six. It is easy for keen followers to know that 260 is a good score after the match is won, but it takes a strong heart to invest in it in the middle of the innings like you did through your leadership. While others may only see the good run against Australia and Pakistan, we see what you, Gary, the selectors and all the players have been up to for the past two years. Planning, preparing and executing cricket that will get you a shot at a trophy of immortality – as opposed to a loud cheers by the gallery that will die down when spectators leave the stadium. The cricket you and your team have found the strength to play may not be beautiful, but it is damn right effective. It is the old Australian yellow, with a new dash of Indian blue.

Irrespective of what transpires in the final, the old faithful owe the entire team a big thank you. Most importantly, thank you to every parent of every Indian cricketer – who found the conviction to let his child to take up the most competitive job in the world. Thank you every Ramesh in Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. I hope you look down to see what you did when Sachin raises his arms in Wankhede!

And thank you lifelong fans like Phani, a man who took a bat on to his wedding stage while Tendulkar got his fiftieth test century. Thank you Pandit, Piyush, Thakar, Neeraj, Juhi and every friend for nursing a suspect heart through extraordinary times in the last week. Thank you that fellow who could not get a ticket because the movie stars and politicians had a million bucks while he only had faith. The own the seat, we own the moment when ball leaves hand and is about to meet bat.

This is no longer a dream. All that waiting, all those joys and heartbreaks. The sum of all those moments in front of television sets and reading SportsStar is spelt CHAMPIONS. This is that moment. And it is ours. Thank you every single fan, old and new.

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Amit Thakkar said...

@ GP - Thank you to every 'U' in GUP for allowing u to write. Thanks 4 the mention in the article but a bigger thanks 4 writing it. Read 10 odd articles since last nite on cricinfo bt cud not connect to it with such a feel.. This indeed is our moment.. :)

Phani- A Sports Freak said...

Too good.. OMG.. I am touched.. Got the feel of 100th 100 48 hours in advance... Thank uuuu :)

nightflier said...

wow! kudos to your friends and YOU! :)

This truly is our moment (I belong to the non seasoned category) :)

Sowmya said...

awesome read, Geepee Unkal!

Tarun Singh said...

Just Louuuuuu it Gaurav... what everybody wants to say but cant capture in words. U have the gift to do it ... Always a delight to read ur blogs ...