The Good Ol’ Days of Cricket

Posted on September 5, 2014

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Enthusiasts and athletes share their fondest memories of India’s favourite sport. By Reena Karim

Even though it is not the official national sport, cricket brings the most amount of excitement and has the biggest fan following compared to any other sport in India. In recent years, however, it has been marred by match and spot-fixing scandals, making it difficult to truly rejoice in victories. And the hearts of many cricket fans broke as they witnessed the fall from grace of their cricket heroes. Despite the betrayals, Indians continue to watch, play, and enjoy the sport in their own ways.

To mark one of India’s biggest cricket events, the IPL season, we celebrate not how big and commercially viable cricket has become, but what we love most about the sport.

Practise with the Pros
Some 30–35 years ago, there was not much live telecast, but radio commentary was so popular. So we used to buy small radio transistors to listen to the commentary. We loved to watch clips of cricket wherever and whenever we got a chance. Matches against England and Australia were popular, but a game against Pakistan was so special. Watching players such as Derek Underwood, Zaheer Abbas, Imran Khan, Rameez Raja, Sunil Gavaskar, and of course Bishan Singh Bedi inspired me and defined cricket as a sport for me. I still remember the fifth test match against Pakistan where Gavaskar scored 166, and young Kapil Dev took eight wickets, and India won that match. Some of my most memorable moments in cricket was my first 45 runs as a batsman, a Best Bowler award I won in an inter-school cricket competition where I had taken 14 wickets for 32 runs in two innings, and practising with top cricketers, such as Anshuman Gaekwad and Yograj Singh, in Chandigarh in the 1980s. They appreciated my bowling skills and advised me to “never be afraid of bowling, even if it is to a top batsman. —Harinder Singh, CEO of Bangkok Cricket Academy

On the Edge
I remember watching an India-Pakistan match with a few of my Pakistani friends and teammates at BCA. We were on Khao Sarn at Royal India restaurant. Even though India won the match, my friends were not so gloomy. Now it’s friendly, but earlier, some 20 years ago, it was different. During another India-Pakistan match in Sharjah, I remember being very tensed. At some point, I moved out of my room because I didn’t have the guts to watch them losing. I only came back once the match was over. The tension was high because in those days the players were hostile. Then there were a few other matches I didn’t watch because I was too nervous. In any match, I always take India’s side. But I am supportive towards underdog teams, such as Bangladesh or Kenya, because I really want them to win. But if it is a test playing nation, then I will always support India. —Anon Sirikumarkul, restaurant owner

The Longest Century
Scoring my debut century at the Irani Trophy against the rest of the Indian team in the 1994–95 season was the most difficult night of my cricket career. I left myself batting overnight on 99. With the constant stress during a game, one never really sleeps well anyway, but to make matters worse, I couldn’t score that last run before the day’s play ended. It was a horrific night, and I got up the next morning feeling terribly sleepy. But the adrenalin just kept me moving, and I went out to bat feeling quietly confident. The first opportunity I got—it was the second or third ball of the morning; the ball was short, outside off stump—I cut it for four. It was the longest I have ever waited for a century, but us old-school cricketers were always taught that the team came first. The game at the point of my personal century was not yet won, hence there was no need to celebrate the moment. —Zubin Bharucha, former professional cricketer and Director of Cricket for Rajasthan Royals

Boundaries and Beyond
I have been brought up with cricket. My parents loved watching it, the older boys competed in it, and we young kins brandished our miniature bats at all balls, each other, dogs, and even the occasional cow or buffalo. When I started to walk, I had a plastic bat that I would swat at the inflated ball that my father would roll at me. The semblance of teams began around middle school, when all the kids in the building would meet in the garden for a match. The bougainvillea marked the boundary for four runs, six if you made it to the coconut trees, and beyond the walls would count as no runs. I loved bowling and specialised in Yorkers. Leg-before-wicket, or LBWs, were hardly ruled due to the fact that siblings make for very biased referees. So the game plan was simple: bowlers make it very hard for the batsman to make runs, best catcher near the coconut trees and all other clumsy children around the bushes. My fondest memory is of the day the building kids snuck into the cricket grounds of Andhra University to play. Being half the size of an average cricket player, we found the grounds were overwhelmingly large. But 10 kids and four teenagers had a blast running amok in the stadium. We did get through a couple of overs before campus security found us, and we made a speedy exit. —Insia Chaithanand, teacher

The Boys’ Club
Growing up in my family’s ancestral home in Kolkata was a lot of fun. On weekends, my cousins would come over and we would play board games for hours. But when it came time for cricket, the womenfolk shied away and the boys saw that as a blessing. I, however, was the lone ranger who would want to play with the boys, but it wasn’t easy infiltrating the club. Right after the coin toss, when the team was made, sometimes three per side, as opposed to the standard 11, they would choose to either bat or bowl. After much harassment, the boys would include me, but always as an extra fielder with no allegiance to any teams, not the most sought-after position. On rare occasions, when I was allowed to bat, it would be for a short time and to underarm bowling, a method where the ball is rolled or skimmed along the ground, but I didn’t mind either. However, my skills weren’t up to par, and more often than not, I would be out within the first five balls, much to the delight of the boys who could then carry on minus the rookie. —Reena Karim, Masala’s staff writer

Transistor Transition
I have been playing and watching cricket for almost 50 years in India and Thailand. So keen was my interest that I used to listen to commentaries on radio of five-day test matches in the mid 60s. Thereafter, when television was introduced in India towards the late 60s, I would sit in front of the TV for hours on end, watching the test matches. Having a keen interest in the game of cricket and seen so many matches both live and on TV, I am little disappointed at the noble game of cricket falling into disrepute due to match-fixing and spot-fixing which has become rampant in all forms of the game. Today, I am not sure if I am watching a real game or a fixed game. Some actions and decisions on the field seem to be rather weird and unjustified to a true follower of the game. However, I continue to watch cricket as some bad apples do not spoil the whole lot. —Rakesh Sodhia, International Commodities Trader at Fortuna International

The Dutiful
In 1983, in the month of May, I got myself a beautiful bride. A month or two later, I was watching the World Cup final between India and West Indies at home when I got a call from two of my wife’s cousins, who were visiting. I had no choice but to entertain them, although my heart was in the match. But when I saw that the Indian team all-out for a paltry sum of 169 or something, I thought, Oh, this match is gone, and we went for dinner to the Taj Mansingh. During the meal, I was lost in thoughts of the match but pretending to enjoy the evening and being a good brother-in-law. When we left the restaurant, my first question to the bell boy was, “What happened with the match?” He said, “It’s close, and India has to take one last wicket.” So we listened to the bell boy’s transistor radio, and immediately after, India won the match. I tipped him out of sheer happiness, and drove home having won the hearts of my brothers-in-law and my wife, too. All’s well that ends well. —Navneet Sethi, finance professional

To the Ends of the Earth
My passion is to play cricket, so whenever I get the chance I am ready for it. Our team is named BFF (Best Friends Forever), and we play indoor and outdoor cricket. My one special memory of cricket was when I watched a live match in Durban, South Africa. It was a real treat to watch Yuvraj Singh hit splendid sixes in the match against England in the Twenty20 series. The Kingsmead Stadium was at its peak, and there was thrill and excitement as our Punjabi puttar [son] launched six sixes in his over (a world record) over bowler Stuart Broad. It was a dream come true and India became the first T20 champions in 2007. It was a historical moment for me and all Indians in the world. I have also watched live cricket matches in England, Australia, and India. People from all over the world come and back their teams. They gather at one place and have fun, fun, and fun. Even in my busy schedule of work, I still plan and take out time to see cricket matches in different countries. I follow our team India whenever possible. —Chandan Chhabra, General Manager, Chhabra Brothers Co., Ltd

Superstars’ Lunch
When I was a kid, maybe six or seven years old, Kapil Dev was a huge celebrity, but everyone still remembered and loved his senior, Sunil Gavaskar. My favourite cricket memory doesn’t really involve playing cricket but rather pretending to be a cricket star in a role-playing game with my dad. When it was time for lunch, we would sit down at the dining table. I would be Kapil Dev, and my dad would be Sunil Gavaskar. We would eat our chapatis, call each other “yaar”, and dissect the highlights of the imaginary match we had just played. When I think about it even now, it makes me smile. —Mrigaa Sethi, Masala’s former Editor

Heroic Instinct
Cricket is all about passion and killer instinct. I was watching the Asia Cup match between India and Pakistan, which are always high-voltage matches. Being an Indian, of course I was cheering for India’s victory. But the way Shahid Afridi played in the last over, he became a hero. It is this killer instinct which moves me. This is the most important quality [of] any cricketer—his passion for victory is the first step towards victory. This reminds me of the first T20 which was held in South Africa in 2007. A match between India and England, where Yuvraj Singh became a super hero by hitting six sixes in one over—a feat performed only three times previously in any form of cricket, and never in an international match between two test cricket teams. This was a result of a heated argument between Andrew Flintoff and Yuvraj Singh, for which Stuart Broad was penalised—that is the fire that makes heroes in few minutes. Of course, who can forget the God of cricket, Sachin Tendulkar penalising Shane Warne, the Australian leg spinner. Shoaib Akthar a Pakistani player, otherwise known as Rawalpindi Express, was brought on knees many times by the Master Blaster Tendulkar. –Kaushal Bhamuvani, trader and exporter, S.B. Inter Co., Ltd

By the Book
Flip open a page and score a six, or a hat-trick, something that is fairly easy to score in book cricket. This very competitive indoor game is played among students in classrooms all across the South Asian subcontinent. All you need is a book (preferably one with a lot of pages) and two willing participants. The rules are simple, each team gets 11 wickets, and you toss for the choice to bat first. Once the book is flipped open to a random page number, the last digit is referenced for the score. For instance, if a book was opened to page 354, the number four would be the amount of runs scored. Runs are only awarded for numbers one through six, and digits beyond are either no runs or an out. Additionally, wickets are taken by someone landing on a page number that would be predetermined to be the “out” page. Book cricket has had a loyal cult following among kids of all ages in our cricket fanatic region of the world. I can vividly recall the many rainy recesses spent in class playing this game with my friends, the times we would try to play secretly while the teacher lectured, and the fierce competitive spirit the game evoked among us, which ultimately brought us friends closer together. —Imran Karim, banker

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