Once again the epidemic is here in India: I mean the CRICKET FEVER! Has it ever subsided? The intensity might fluctuate but it is always rampant …. simmering…. What with the ICC World Cup here, TV channels are flashing cricket stories and special debates. FM radios are screaming cricket. Even in this exam-season, cricket matches are in full swing everywhere you turn - age no bar, size – of players, team and field – no bar!
I’m going to talk about cricket in my family. Of course we are not the Tendulkars or Gavaskars or Srikants. Just Balasubramonians – an aam Indian family with a fair share of cricket in us. As far as I’m concerned, I think I experienced the peak in the 80’s and early 90’s – that’s when my boys brought cricket home and to our system. Of course I had a wee bit of cricket in me – thanks to my brother who was an all-rounder and hero of gully cricket and who walked and talked and ate and drank and dreamt ‘cricket’! As for my hubby, he was born and brought up in Kerala – he was more into football than cricket. He admits playing cricket a couple of times – complete with the cricket set. I thought he must have traded his best possession to get into the paraphernalia. But he said, “I told the team I didn’t want to wear the pads and stuff but they insisted on the norms.” “But why wouldn’t you?” I was curious. He chuckled, “Oh, it would take me some 10 minutes to strap them on. But I’d last at the crease for only a minute – I’d be out with the first ball!”
So you see, regarding our talent in cricket, the less said the better! But our sons weren’t chips off the old block! Growing up in a sprawling army campus gave them the advantage of forming their very own cricket team, practicing for a couple of hours every evening. My elder son was a big hitter – the bat which earned him his highest three-digit score - still occupies a pride of place in our loft! Only it is now in a battered, bruised and plastered condition! The younger one was a great bowler – it happens, you see – it’s a matter of ‘whoever gets more practice in a particular genre is bound to excel in it’! And each had his own favorite idol – and that paved the way for many a clash between them. Junior would go gaga over Martin Crowe in his earlier days and Senior would promptly rap him, “What’s there to crow(e) about him?” and this would end in fisticuffs and even black eyes! Senior maintained an album with the best of the published photos from magazines. Junior was a relentless statistician who maintained hand-written books on the World Cup. I was expected to have all the records at my finger tips – even a little memory lapse on my part would be strictly reprimanded by the youngster!
Senior was the somber one, junior had his idiosyncrasies. I still remember the latter sitting up to watch the late night matches in March 1992 while appearing for his SSC examination. What struck me like lightning was the pre-exam discussion he and his friends indulged in – no, not the customary questions/ doubts about the subject of the exam but the previous night’s cricket match! When Martin Crowe climbed dizzier heights, sonny’s craze too expectedly escalated. The New Zealand team visited Bombay in the mid 90s. Junior was studying at IIT-B. He did some investigation to find out where the team was put up by calling the 5-star hotels posing as a journalist. He succeeded in locating them. He landed at the lobby of the hotel before 6.30 am – those were the pre-terrorist-days and so there were no security checks – of course the poor autograph-seeking-lad was armed only with some sketch pens and a sheaf of glossy paper cards. He succeeded in his mission – with a schoolboy’s excitement, he preserved the autographs of his favorite cricketers with the pen used for the purpose taped next to each!
Cricket stayed alive with junior even in the US – there were a group of Indian and Pakistani friends at his university. That reminds me, Anirban Bose, author of “Bombay Rains, Bombay Girls” was a member of the team! In fact sonny had asked us to get a good cricket bat and some half a dozen balls when we visited him in 2000. But the poor bat got separated from us at Mumbai airport and had to travel on its own – in the custom hold. When we went to collect it at JFK, it hadn’t arrived. The officials didn’t know what a cricket bat looked like and we had to give a picturesque description of it. They promised to trace it and send it to Rochester but we had no hopes. Our son and his friends were truly disappointed. But we were in for a surprise within a week – the bat landed at our doorstep! Matches were excitedly arranged; the balls got lost in quick succession at the enthusiastic attempts to hit sixes and fours! Eventually with the team members graduating and leaving the university one after another, the team disintegrated. My son too has moved over to golf…. And by the way, he chose to buy a brand new Audi as soon as he took up a job and realized his childhood ambition - you see as an eight year old, he had been fascinated by the Audi car Ravi Shastri won after setting the TV screen ablaze with those sixes!
My elder son wasn’t lucky with cricket in the US – he now finds joy in playing with his little girl at home with a mini cricket bat he’s taken from India and entertaining her with his running commentary. He too has switched over to his second love – tennis. But as we all know, Indians can never build up immunity to cricket fever – if they cannot watch every ball of the match live at the stadium or on the telly, they will keep at least virtual contact with the game, thanks to the internet.
Every time there is a World Cup series, every Indian waits with bated breath with the same prayer - 'Good luck India! Bring home the World Cup!!'
© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.