Re-finding lost love of Cricket

15th February 2015 brought home a realization. India’s ICC- Cricket World-cup campaign had begun with a bang with a convincing victory against the arch rivals. While the social media in India made fun of Rameez Raja and chanted “mauka mauka mauka”, I began contemplating what had changed in me since the moment MS Dhoni hit Nuwan Kulsekara for a 6 to clinch the world cup nearly 4 years ago.

My earliest memory of cricket is a world cup memory – India vs Kenya 1996. Sachin scored a century, Jadeja had added a fifty and India comfortably won the game. I was just under 6 when this game was played. I must have watched cricket before this game as I remember being a Sachin fan. I have some cricket memories before this game, but I cannot be sure whether I remember those games from following them live or just as a collection of memories fused with highlights seen in the coming 15 years as a cricket fanatic. Memory being a tricky concept isn’t just what you remember about a time in the past, but it also encompasses the broader emotional and informative thinking about that “time in the past”. So I assume that memories of me watching matches like “Hero cup final 94” are fabrications because I don’t remember my emotions during this game, unlike the WC-96 Ind-Ken game.

Being a cricket fanatic didn’t just mean being glued to television sets when the match was being broadcast. For me, it also meant learning to read Marathi well. -we didn’t subscribe to English newspapers in my childhood. It also meant the ebb and surge of emotions as a function of Indian-Cricket. The 1 or 2 months of cricket free time seemed to stretch like years. Even trailing 2–0 in a test series didn’t deter me from following through with the same vigor. Waking up at 4 am to watch India beaten in New Zealand in 2002 in 3days or remaining awake till 2 am to watch India’s famous win @ Port of Spain. The sad loss in WCFinal-2003 on my birthday didn’t dampen cricket for me though it saddened my day. The same can be said of India’s loss to Srilanka on the same day in 2007 which included Sachin being bamboozled by a 150+k MPs Dilhara Fernando ball for 0 and India crashing out of WC2007. The cycle of the game went on. The heartbreak @ Chennai against Pakistan where Indian tail fell like a pack of dominos after Sachin’s wicket was reduced greatly by the heroic 10Wicket-match-winning haul by Jumbo @ Delhi in the following match. The spell Indian cricket enjoyed from 2001–2004 under Ganguly and 2007–08–2011 under Kumble and Dhoni was the crowning achievement of Indian Cricket till then. India began winning test matches overseas. Nothing pleased me more than 5 idyllic days of watching dukes ball cricket from 330 to 1030 in the Home of cricket (The duke’s ball is used for Test cricket in England; In India, we use the S.G ball, Australian Kookaburra ball is used in all other countries. I believe that the best contest between bat and ball happens with the Duke’s ball). I still remember the India-England test series 2002 and 2007 and Ashes 2005 with utmost nostalgia.

If the 2007 world-cup disaster was the nadir of the Indian cricket fan, then things could only improve from then on and they did. India won a Test series in England under Dravid. India won the Inaugural T20WC in September in SA. That was followed by the Perth victory and winning the CB series. Sachin who had been criticized (justly) since the 2000s for failing in finals, led the team in both finals to silence his critics. Indian cricket had never reached such consistent high plateaus. If anything this was the foreshadowing of even better things to come. India beat Australia twice in India in tests and drew 3 Test series with the Proteas. (Sadly India played only 2 and 3 test series with them). Indian cricket team also began to chase 200+ run totals successfully in test matches with the most memorable chase (of 387) coming in Chennai against England with Sachin scoring a fourth inning hundred. We even wrestled the No-1 spot in both rankings. Meanwhile, the once written of Sachin was in his purplest patch since the 97–98 season. Scoring runs in Tests ODIs and IPL, he kept pleasing his gigantic fan base. Sachin and Gambhir facing the incredible spells of fast bowling of Steyn and Morkel @ Capetown with elan to set up an incredible series win (Which wasn’t to be; due to Kallis and Boucher)with the series poised @ 1–1 were extremely fulfilling. The natural course for this buildup of performance was bound toward the WorldCup dream which was realized in early April 2011.

The post WorldCup party lasted for days. But fortunately or unfortunately within days, the focus was on IPL, thanks to the advertisers and organizers who were quick to exploit the euphoria of World-cup win. Never a huge fan of the 20 over format, I had nonetheless followed previous IPLs. But if anything was overkill, it was the IPL in 2011. The somewhat scripted drama, the page 3 news, the frequent controversies, all conspired to dampen the spark caused by pure cricket. Then began the sudden fall of Indian cricket with consecutive 4–0 drubbings in the 2011–12 season.

A few days after the comfortable win against Pakistan, I sat contemplating why don’t I feel any longing, connection, or zeal toward Indian cricket (even cricket in general). The answer is multi-faced. Maybe the ambition of the Indian cricket fan was completed emphatically with Dhoni’s 6. The abysmal performance in England and Australia, (my 2 favorite cricketing locations) once a regular occurrence now felt unworthy of world champions. Having supported this very team after numerous debacles, suddenly I found the rapid fall from the cricket zenith too much. Engaging in a more active social life, I found following Test cricket which I never missed, difficult. Excess of 300+ scores in 1Day games has also made the contest between bat and ball-less appealing. Cricket (At least the one Indian cricket team played) since 2011, seemed to focus on economy rate instead of strike rate. All these reasons combined made cricket much less appealing for the most part of the previous decade.

But then things again began to change for me and Cricket over the last couple of years. I have followed the 2018 India England series, 2018 India Australia series, and 2019 Ashes and 2019-WC somewhat sincerely but never reaching the pre-2011 levels of interest. Then came the 2020-21 Border Gavaskar series.

Having taken a break from social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and reading and writing (history, politics, literature) & still following social distancing norms, I started following the cricket between India and Australia more and more as the tour went on. Surprisingly the 36 all out at Adelaide did not turn me off from the rekindling of my lost passion. I continued following the series which turned out to be as good a series as any I have followed (up there with 2001 India Aus and 2005 ashes). The finale at Brisbane was well and truly beyond the wildest dreams of any Indian fan from before 90’s and 2000’s. I will not be adding to the already exhaustive coverage of the recent series here but just note that this series was truly remarkable as test series go.

With completion of the this extraordinary series, not only is my interest back but also the adrenaline and tension. With 2 India England series and Ashes to follow, 2021 looks like a promising year.

PS: We don’t have a Sports tag on Brownpundits. Is anyone else a cricket fan here ? I am thinking of doing some more blog-posts on cricket in coming months. 

The original piece titled – Once upon a time in Cricket Fandom written on medium in 2015 has been supplemented and republished here.

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18 thoughts on “Re-finding lost love of Cricket”

  1. Thanks for this article, and good to take a break from politics on the blog.
    In a way, you are lucky to have missed the early ’90s of cricket. Those were the days of our perennial tours to Sharjah (one of the Gulf Emirates for those who don’t know) to play, and inevitably lose to, Pakistan, with all the acrimony and the accusations of favoritism (perhaps not unfounded) that would follow. It’s still astonishing to me, given the nature of both cricket and geopolitics today that we kept playing with Pakistan in those days, which were the heydey of the Pakistani attempt to destabilize us and force us to give up Kashmir through the sponsorship of militancy. And Pakistan was relatively a lot more powerful compared to what it is now.

    Back to cricket. My first memory of the game was in a World Cup too, like yours. It was the first game of the ’87 Cup (marketed as the “Reliance Cup” then), India v Aus, and I have two memories from the game: the striking figure of David Boon and some hoohah about Maninder Singh towards the end (I knew nothing about the game then.)

    Though the period between the late 80s and late 90s really sucked for Indian cricket (the dominant WI giving way to the dominant Aus, with us somewhere in the bottom half of the world rankings), I count myself fortunate to have seen a mighty West Indian team. The first series I followed while learning the game was the WI tour of India in 87-88. Apart from one flukey test match, they blew us away. Viv Richards seemed like a mighty giant who could hardly be dismissed (no other batsman, even Sachin, has left such an impression me since; AB de Villiers comes close).

    I still can’t bring myself to love T20 because I grew up in that era. The very nature of the long forms of the game, both the 5-day and the 50-over formats, ensured that one remembered particular games and particular incidents in those games. T20 seems one endless burst after another, with no memories to cherish.

    Enough rambling for now. Will see what others have to reminisce about.

    1. Right. Even in my lifetime we have gone from being beaten by Pakistan to beating then hands down every time (except champions trophy final).

      True about twenty overs format — too much excitement to savor

  2. 90s Kid. Fell in love with Cricket for a very different cricketer , hardly a idol of anyone, Ajay Jadeja (another matter my current fav is also the other Jadeja). Got really into it during those Toronto-Sharjah series, even though we were smashed around by Pakistan. Cried during the 96 semis loss.

    Then match fixing happened. EPL started broadcasting around the same time on Star. Left cricket for good for soccer. Dhoni onto the scene. So, tried to keep up once in a while. Came back for the WC 2011, felt it was swansong for Sachin. Left again. But this time around, football has become somewhat stale, so its 50:50 for me now.

    Never watch IPL much apart from few matches i went live with friends.

    1. I initially liked Jadeja as well. Couldn’t understand why he wasn’t played in test. His technique was pretty shabby though. Sadly match fixing changed my perception of him Azhar – don’t even like him as commentator now.

      Saurabh Bhai – didn’t know u r 90s born. Always assumed an 70s-80s guy

      1. LOL, what makes u think i am that old? I feel my lingo is pretty millennial.

        The reason i liked Jadeja was he was very different to the 90s Indian cricketers. Not his cricketing, but a certain easy laid back attitude, he brought to the game. But yeah match fixing just broke me, and cricket was never the same for me again.

          1. To be fair I feel more connected to folks who are In late 30s and early 40s then folks who are just 4 -5 younger than me. I think it’s just that type of generation

      2. Jadeja’s whole coolness appeal came from the fact that he wore sunglasses while fielding and took a couple of overly-dramatic diving catches.
        As a batsman, he was quite mediocre.

        The match fixing scandal, as sad as it was, was a blessing in disguise. It purged the team of players that were holding the team back and gave chances to the likes of Yuvraj.

        The biggest loser of the whole thing was the South African team. They were clearly the best team in the world at the time but paved way for the Steve Waugh dynasty.

  3. Can any Indian over 40 forget Sharjah and Sachin sixers?

    2006-2007 is when I stopped following cricket and get to know more about soccer WC. The controversy of soccer final (red card for head butt) was just more enticing than offline scandal of cricket WC.

    Later, cricket became something else with 20-20 and IPL. I remember so much commentary on Azhar’s touch and Kumble’s spin and can’t get myself interested in seeing the raw power of Dhoni.

    This year though, the test with Australia was something else. Wow!

    I kept thinking that cricketers are a good reflection of India’s self-confidence.
    Gavaskar and Ravi Sasthri et al, were all upper class with their Queens English during commentary. Sachin, Dravid, Kumble and co are really middle class with awareness of upper class requirements. Dhoni et al. are “don’t care, we are here” attitude.
    The newest ones are just masters of “reading the room”! Australians publicly apologizing for sledging! We have arrived!

    1. Dada initially and now MsD and VK have brought about substantial change in the attitude.
      Pant, Sundar, Gill weren’t at all fazed by prospect of winning at Brisbane. They must’ve thought it like winning any other test. Not getting intimidated by the Aussies at their Gabbatoir

  4. The first time I went to watch a cricket match live in the stadium was the India vs. Pakistan one-day fixture in Vizag back in 2005. It was Dhoni’s 5th match and he scored 148, that was the day he became a national star. Ganguly and Tendulkar were out for low scores that day which was somewhat disappointing. I used to think that scoring boundaries and sixes wasn’t that difficult after seeing Dhoni smash around the ball like that.

    It was also the first time I realized that bowlers ran up from opposite ends of the pitch in alternate overs, it’s not evident while watching on TV. No commentary too, just very loud crowds trying to catch a glimpse of the ball each delivery.

    1. Have only seen IPL games live.
      Had bought tickets for the 2017 india Aus Test but that game was almost lost on Saturday before I could go

  5. Recently read Nandy’s “The Tao of Cricket”, wonderful and quirky book on the psycho-cultural roots of cricket’s hold on the Indian mind. It has some great history about pioneering cricketers from India like Ranjitsinhji and Indian cricketers like D. B. Deodhar.

    Recommended if you can get your hands on it.

    1. Been meaning to read Guha’ books on cricket. I like his articles on cricket. Recent one on Commentary in England is very good

  6. Tie-ing farm threads, Rihaana, and Cricket together (i know i am a genius 😛 ) into one

    “Just a week or so back, I heard Ram Guha and Shashi Tharoor say that India needs a leader like Rahane. Someone who is not all about ‘I, me, myself’– they said. What happened? Did he become a coward in 10 days? Did Rahane become a Modi bhakt in 10 days?

    This tweet by Rahane– & by scores of other India’s big celebs– is simply the nationalism of India’s ordinary folks. This is why I chose Rahane and not other big-earning celebrities. Rahane helps us understand the perspective of the ordinary Indian much better than other celebs.

    If you didn’t know that India’s most ordinary people do not want foreigners telling them who to elect as leaders or how to resolve their disputes, you have been talking to the wrong people in Delhi, following irrelevant handles on Twitter, and traveling very little through India.”

    1. Are Indians unique in this respect? Everyone, including Americans, bristle when foreigners, especially celebrities, comment on local politics, especially if it looks like they are taking a particular side.

      In the anti-immigration/anti-H1B sites, they even bristle at foreign students and workers living in the country (and who have a stake in these laws) commenting on issues they care about.

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