How do you solve the problem like Maria? It is a lovely song from the movie “The Sound of Music.” The nurses from the seminary where Maria lived, were very much confused by young Maria, her behaviour and her persona! But still, they simply adored her! They didn’t know how to handle her. I have the same issue with good old Cricket! In my childhood, I lived very close to Mumbai’s maidans both Cross and Azad Maidan. The Brabourne stadium where the test matches were played in those days, was about two km from my home. Whenever and where ever we went to the grounds, there were teams playing cricket! Even though in those days when the kids were born, during growing up, they were inoculated! But all the kids caught the cricket bug for which no cure has been found. As I grew, I have seen that this bug has spread from Bombay and Chennai to Bangalore, Delhi then Kanpur-Ranchi, Vadodara– Mysore! It is just spreading without any control!
In my childhood, there were test matches, Ranaji Trophy matches, and in Bombay Kanga league club cricket matches in Monsoon, on Sundays. One could see Umrigar, Ajit Wadekar, Ramkant Desai et al. playing on these grounds on Sundays. All cricketers were amateurs and used to have a tough time getting off to play matches when selected in Mumbai or India teams. Even in those days, Indian cricketers used to do their stint in county cricket. I remember having heard the tales from Maharashtra batsman Datta Kher about his playing in England. He would stay with his relatives in our condo when he went and arrived back from England. We used to view his cricket kit with open mouth and with awe!
I remember having bowled to Hoshi Amroliwala in the nets on Cross Maidan. As I grew older, then we started to see new stars, of those days, like Sunil Gavaskar, Ashok Mankad, Eknath Solkar. In those days there was an opening partner for Gavaskar called Ramesh Nagdev. He used to be a big hitter in the mould of Sachin Tendulkar. India lost his services as he migrated to the US at the age of around 20. Mahesh Khandwala was a fast bowler of those times; somehow, he fizzled out after initial burst.
Cricket is like a close family member or a friend to many in India. It lives a stead life with sudden brilliance and surprises. When one thinks that there can be no more surprises in Cricket, it pops up something new. You Cricket also have a shady side of yours which disturbed many! You are called “Gentleman’s game” but sometimes you behave in an ungentlemanly manner!
Cricket has rules and regulations; while understanding these rules, most are perplexed because of the absurdities. When the third umpire system was started on TV, the first victim was Sachin Tendulkar. (I am using the word victim) Sachin completed a run against Pakistan, and while collecting the ball, Shoib Akhtar inadvertently pushed Sachin out of the crease and removed the bails. Sachin was declared out!
Cricket is the only game in the world in which matches used to be played without time limit. In one such test match in South Africa, England was playing with SA. The game was played over 12 days for nine days and had to be abandoned as a draw as English team had to catch a ship back home!
For the Indian cricket team, the ‘60s and early ‘70s used to be fire fighting matches with occasional brilliance from an individual. When Gulam Guard got Sobers out caught on 29, it was time to celebrate. Chandu Borde’s 96 and 104 in Delhi against the West Indies were the peak of batsmanship. But then came a guy called Sunil Gavaskar, who changed the thinking in the Indian team and changed the way the world would look at India. Of course, there were occasional and sometimes not so occasional lows when India once got out for 42 in England in 1974. Gavaskar once played brilliant innings of 36 not out in a 60 overs one day match!
Hey, my friend Cricket! You suddenly provide some pleasant surprises and sometimes you suddenly test the umpires. Don’t forget that these guys are human. You suddenly want them to interpret rule 19 (b) subclause iii! That too in the rush of things when a team is on the verge of winning the world cup! Umpires get confused! Have you forgotten that there are crores of Rupees or Pounds hanging the final outcome? I am talking of prize money as well as betting money.
The biggest surprise you gave us was when India won the world cup back in 1983! Nobody in their dreams ever thought that India would win it! How many hearts were broken? How many British Pounds were lost? How do you manage to do this, my dear? Till then India winning any match itself was a celebration. India was trying their best to get eliminated and was five wickets down for 15 against Zimbabwe! Kapil played an epic inning of 175 and India won that match. In those days, this match was played in England at such a remote place that there was no TV broadcast. Hence there is no recording of this epic innings!
You have funny rules is well known, but during 2019 the tie did create significant controversy. But in 2007 T-20 world cup final, India vs Pakistan, we had a similar issue. The match was tied. Do you remember how you settled it in those days? You asked six players from each team to bowl one ball each. Those who hit the stumps more won the match. We did not crib as we won the Cup. But is it any way to decide on a cricket match? How does this accuracy determine the final winner? But rules are rules, and the rules are known to the teams beforehand.
2019 World Cup crossed all the limits of reason during the final. Who would have thought that the final match would tie and then the Super over would also be a tie? No point in discussing the rules but they are there! But the coincidence of double tie was most unexpected!
The most important thing was the way New Zealand captain Williamson showed his maturity and Grace! He never made any statement about luck. He knew at the back of his mind that they were joint winners, but on paper, they were runner–ups! How do 30-year-olds become so mature? There must be something special in his genes! Luckily, the Indian team was not in place of New Zealand. In that case, there would have been riots in India, maybe a few suicides and some deaths due to a heart attack!
The cricketing folklore is full of anecdotes, full of characters, full of excitement and full of boredom! There are only two types of people in this world. They either hate or love it. But you never ignore this strange creature called Cricket!
I love one anecdote which I want to share with you. Gavaskar was the first Indian Cricketer to look foreigners in their eye. After the 1983 world cup victory, we won two more cups in 1984 and 1985. The cup in 1985 was won in Australia! Gavaskar was the captain of the team and was being interviewed. A foreign reporter asked him, “Mr Gavaskar, you have won three tournaments in the last three years. What do you want to say about this?” Gavaskar, in his typical way, asked him, “ Have you seen the movie Jaws 1, Jaws 2 and so on! Our victories were Fluke1, Fluke 2, Fluke 3! Thank you. Any more questions?”