My mother once told me about how my grandfather used to pack his lunch and head straight to the cricket grounds and watch India play all day long, basking in the sun and munching on his food. For him and for all of my family, that was the perfect afternoon. That amused me to no end back then since I didn’t fancy cricket all that much. I wondered, what’s the big deal with this sport that has my whole family under its rapturous spell?
Incident after incident in similar manner were narrated whenever the whole family got together during the sultry summer holidays in our grandparents’ house. The stories of how all of them grew up listening to radio commentary, how the West Indies team back then used to scare them all to death with their towering physiques and pace bowling, how my mother maintained dozens of scrap books with all the pictures of cricketers she could lay her hands on. These were small, insignificant incidents to everyone else; something to laugh about. But it instilled in me a deep rooted curiosity to know what about the sport made them so happy, so content.
It was the third grade. Lifting my head out of a Famous Five novel, I saw what my sister was watching on TV. It was a cricket match.
“Who is that man?” I asked, pointing to a short man with a small build and locks of curly black hair. She looked back at me like I was crazy.
“How can you not know him? He is the greatest cricketer ever, he is my favourite. His name is Sachin Tendulkar!” She said. Even the sound of his name gave her the chills. I didn’t understand why. If I had, I probably would’ve understood why she was so shut off and upset when he retired all those years later.
It was slowly, bit by bit that I understood the feeling my family felt every time they sat down to watch a match. The intense debates about how some bowler could improve his line and length, the madness that broke lose after every victory and all those dinners in front of our old Akai television all started to make sense and without even knowing it, I was plunging head first into the magical madness myself.
There were days of following every random cricket match that was relayed including some crazy inter-college cricket league that had my parents surprised. They wondered what had gotten into me.
“It’s your genes only!” I retorted, laughing.
Cricket is not a game of statistics for me. It’s more than the number of runs a batsman scored and the number of wickets a bowler took. It is about the passion in their eyes, the fire to represent what they love. It is about the wide smiles and the loud cheers.
It is about the feeling I get every time I watch my team play. That feeling of belongingness and content.
It took me a lot of time but I finally understood what my mother was talking about.