The onlookers weren’t that many. But those who were there (4 or 5 to be precise) could only watch the proceedings from the terrace of a neighborhood alley. The pitch was 22 ft. long alright but was hardly wide enough and to make it even more challenging, there were 12 ft. high walls on both sides of the pitch.If you can imagine a net practice wicket that is only 3 ft. wide, with nets replaced by walls – that was the pitch and in fact, the entire playing field extended only 30 ft. past the bowler’s end in a linear fashion. Past that 30 ft. boundary line, there was a busy road with vehicles bustling past in their full glory.
3 teams. 2 players in each team. The youngest player was 10 years old while the oldest was 13 years old. And the three teams were competing for the first time in a round robin format for a coveted trophy. “The world cup”..Yes – The world cup – so called not only because cricket was the world for the 10 year old boy, but also because of the fact that this was June, 1983. The 10 year old boy besides organizing this tournament, also pushed the other five into taking part in this tournament being played in his house and even taught them the basics of the game. The tournament was dappled by many a hitch and also by the possessive arrogance of this 10 year old, who wanted his team to win and in the process couldn’t digest a verdict that went against his team. Eventually, the cup – a trophy made of clay and decorated with color paper strips, was shattered into pieces by the same 10 year old boy (who had spent almost a week making that trophy and also preparing for this tournament with so much anticipation) in the middle of the pitch while the other 5 boys watched in horror & the onlookers twitched their lips in despair.
A day later, India beat West Indies at the Lord’s to win the 3rd Prudential World Cup.
While in Bombay, another 10 year old boy experienced and celebrated the feat of Kapil’s Devils probably in a much different way compared to how this 10 year old boy did on June 25, 1983. This 10 year old, the one who broke that clay trophy just the day before, on June 24, 1983, was glued to his Murphy transistor and was on top of the world when Mohinder Amarnath trapped Michael Holding LBW.
Yes, for someone who grew up in a neighborhood that was cricket illiterate and had only his mom, to share his enthusiasm with, he somehow knew this was a big occasion. He knew what Kapil Dev had managed to achieve along with his brilliant team may have been a fluke but was not going to be easy to repeat. Somehow, he knew it was magical beyond words and he could sense that which was beyond his age or maturity, specially given his surroundings.
Twenty Eight years later, as I sit and try to recollect those moments during the 1983 world cup when I as a ten year old boy – be it the one when India were down 17/5 when I turned off the radio in disappointment and also in quite the nervousness about my then hero Kapil walking in..only to find out an hour later from my cousin that Kirmani & Kapil were still going strong, or be it the moment when there was a power cut in the house and I had no choice but to crawl to a corner of the house with the radio on my right ear, where the reception was at its best, to hear Balwinder Singh getting the first wicket or be it the moment when I saw that picture of Greenidge letting the ball go with his bat in the air as Sandhu’s crazy inswinger crashed into the off stump the next morning in “The Hindu” and trying to compare it with how I had imagined that fall of the wicket when I listened to it on radio the previous night…
I can still feel the same emotion. Tears are almost ready to flow. Somehow, I can control them now. There were a few things in common between that 10 year old from Bombay and me.
We both love cricket. Of course. We both started playing cricket at an early age. Both of us dreamt of playing for India. There were a few differences. He is Sachin Tendulkar and he grew up in Bombay. I am not Sachin Tendulkar and I didn’t grow up in Bombay. So I would never know if my talent was anywhere close to 50% of what Sachin’s is, because I gave up serious cricket after 17, which was when he got to play for India. When I was 17, playing my last league game, I didn’t know what my career was going to be, but knew very well that it wasn’t going to be Cricket. I was not disappointed because it was the most pragmatic decision anyone from a middle class family in a southern Tamil Nadu town could take, however talented one was. But I have followed Sachin’s career more closely than many of you have and I can relate to his career much more than many of you, the so called Sachin fans can ever claim to because of the simple reason that I see him as what I could have been in my alternate life.
I have to say that the memories of the 1992 world cup , which was Sachin’s first world cup are not vivid. Yes, I followed the tournament but on college campus with a bunch of friends. I was even the sports secretary of my hostel and organized a fantasy world cup pool with fictitious money. Before every match, I would issue odds and people were allowed to bet. In spite of all that, I only remember a few good knocks of Sachin’s and Azhar’s & Pakistan’s victory eventually. From 1992 onwards, Sachin has featured in every world cup and has never managed to hold the coveted trophy.
Till April 2, 2011.
The intensity of Dhoni’s eyes as he hit that six of Kulasekara said it all. The determination, the focus and most importantly his nonchalant confidence in himself. And then it started happening. As I saw Sachin in the dressing room hugging some of his team mates, I was lost in the moment and my emotions took the better of me. The next 60 minutes or so cannot be described in words. My son who is not 10 yet, saw me cherish India becoming World Champions again after 28 years. He joined me in the celebration for a few minutes as I hugged him & high-fived him. He may never realize the importance of that moment till he grows older assuming he still follows cricket. But, the victory lap with Sachin on Yusuf Pathan’s and Kohli’s/Raina’s shoulders, followed by Virat Kohli’s now famous tribute to the master “He has carried the burden of the nation for 21 years and it is time we carry him on our shoulders..”and every other bit of celebration that followed – they all mattered to me. They all mattered to me a lot. I struggled hard to control my tears. I couldn’t speak..I couldn’t frame a sentence with more than 2 words when my wife asked me a question. I was choking.
That’s when I realized how much cricket still means to me. To be specific, how much Indian cricket still means to me and how easily it can make me that ten year old boy again, who was ready to burn his hair in a candle flame only to get the radio close to his ear in the right position to listen to live BBC commentary.
And to think what this would mean to the Bombay boy who was also 10 years old in 1983, just like me, to have come this far and actually hold the world cup trophy and kiss it……