In the name of sports…..
Oh, I wanted to write this post soon after watching the finals of the ICC World Cup. But these days, it’s just not possible to blog whenever I wish to. Sigh !
What is with me and sports? I really don’t have an answer. Is it because I don’t understand it just like the rest of you or is it because I am simply not interested. Many of my friends have asked me this question. And you should see the expression on their faces when I tell them that I hate sports and I don’t even follow cricket; its priceless.
Honestly, I find cricket to be very boring and watching that on TV is laborious. There have been days when I was forced to watch cricket and all that I cared for was the frequent commercial ads. Any which ways, it’s always been more ads on TV and very less of the game 😀 😀 😀 And oh, those test matches, they are like black and white parallel cinema for me – ultra boring.
But there was a time when even I used to play cricket. Ok, how many of you fainted? Yeah, it’s true and cricket has been the only sport for which I had been associated with on a frequent basis. I have played badminton a few times with my cousins, which, I believe, is very common among Indian families during a get together. And also football, twice or thrice during school days, but I was always asked to be the goalie because of my size back then. Our team was great, I guess, for I don’t remember doing anything near the goal post other than humming and kicking stones out of my way. Hmmpphh!
My interest has always been in music and movies and during childhood, I was so damn busy with my sticker collection and video games. My bro was just the opposite (well, he still is) and went out to play cricket with his friends every weekend. When my parents started getting concerned about my increasing weight, they compelled my brother to take me with him whenever he went out to play. My brother used to curse me each time he had to do that because he knew very well about my cricket skills; I still can’t catch a ball properly to save my life!
What my parents didn’t realize was that all his friends are of his age group, about four years elder to me, and they were pretty huge in size, vertically. I could get easily hurt if I was the batsman and they, for sure, were not going to let me handle the ball. My brother, probably, knew this and so, asked me to stay as far as possible in the field. While they played, I simply stood in the sand either looking at the skies, or singing or even talking to myself. According to a small kid’s brain, I am in my brother’s team and I am playing cricket; I am a fielder, you see! The ball rarely reached my corner and instead of throwing it to ‘my team’, I used to run towards them like an obedient child, place it in their hands and get back to my position!!! Eventually, I got bored; there weren’t enough avenues in the ground to display my ‘creative skills’ and I got fed up talking and listening to myself. I remember asking my mom a couple of times not to send me with my brother, but she turned a deaf ear towards all my requests. Poor woman, she wanted me to have some kind of physical activity!
In a few days, one of my brother’s friends brought his brother along with him. This chap was younger than me by a year or so and his position in the team was just like mine; a useless fielder at some corner. For a change, the like poles didn’t repel. Both of us clicked instantly and decided to stay away from the boring ‘big boys’ game. We sat together in the sand and started making use of our ‘creative skills’; you know, like sand castles and stuffs, and also performed role plays from the movies that released back then. This continued for a while and I was beginning to enjoy my weekends.
And, now comes the twist in the tale. My new found friend somehow developed his cricket skills, while I chose to remain the same. He got promoted and started actually playing with the ‘big boys’; yeah, traitor !!! and I got stuck to my corner; once again, all alone. One such day, I saw this chap facing a ball and running along with his brother in the pitch. That’s when I realized the embarrassment I must have caused to my brother all those days. Neither did I show an interest nor did I bother to learn the game. The other reason why I didn’t want to play was because I always used to feel inferior with my abnormal fat accumulation. I was teased and bullied in my class for being fat and I was afraid of being treated similarly by my brother’s friends. I put my little foot down and told my mom that I won’t go to play anymore. Moreover, my brother and his friends switched from tennis ball to cork ball and that came as a blessing in disguise. My parents had to find new methods of weight reduction like jogging and karate and I bid farewell to cricket, in spite of my brother trying to hone my cricket skills through indoor cricket.
That didn’t give you guys a picture of me as a player, did it? Well, it was during 1995-1996, after my brother left to India for higher studies, that I actually played the game. We had shifted to another city by then and the only friends I had initially were a few Pakistani guys of my age. I used to cycle like crazy during those days as part of my weight reduction strategy and that’s how I befriended them. These guys played cricket every evening outside our apartment and one evening, the leader of that group, asked me if I was interested in joining them. I told them honestly about how I played, but to my surprise, they were ok with it and gave me free coaching. I guess, they didn’t understand the ‘hindi’ I spoke 😀 😀 I am not kidding folks, it is from them I learnt how to hold the bat, how to hold my fingers while bowling, and how to position my palms while catching a ball. They first tried ‘understanding’ my batting skills and found out that I really suck in it. Apparently, I had issues with my calculations and could face only 5 out of 10 balls. I was taught bowling next and that’s where I showed some potential. They tried teaching me the techniques of fielding, but since I was beyond repair, they had to give up. I was advised to work on my bowling and that’s exactly what I did. In due course, I became a part of their team and was one of their main bowlers, delivering even (only out of fluke) spins and googlys. Apart from playing a few matches within the team, I was also given an opportunity to be a part of an important match played against another team, more like a inter-apartment match. Oh, we lost, but I simply can’t forget that day; I took a wicket and being the last batsman, I also managed to take a few runs. Even though the results weren’t favourable for our team, I was more than happy for being part of a cricket match, for being recognized, and for not letting down the team. That was the last match I played with those guys; I was in my 10th and had to concentrate on my board exams. Mr. Shehzaad and Mr. Tariq – wherever you guys are, thanks a lot for all those coaching and also for not giving up on me!
After my 10th, we relocated to India and I realized that my brother had passed on his cricket ‘legacy’ to all the cousins there. Since I was the eldest among the kids (after my brother, of course, and a cousin who used to visit us only during study holidays), I was looked upon as a hero and a great cricketer who could also provide background scores during the game 😀 😀 😀 But guess what, whenever my brother made a visit during his holidays, I would be reduced to a zero who was only capable of bowling. The moment he leaves, I am their hero, again! 😀 😀 😀
I also got an opportunity once to play a match in my college. The team had a shortage of one player and they asked me if I could join. I had an injury on my forehead that day and tried my best to avoid using that as a reason. But since my best friends were a part of the team, I couldn’t handle their pressure. I went last for batting, as usual, and got out without taking even a single run. Teeeeheee. When it was time for our team to bowl, I wasn’t confident enough and to avoid giving any further embarrassment to my friends, I decided to take advantage of my forehead injury. I told the team that I have a bad headache and that I would stay back for fielding. But during the match, a ball was hit high up in the air that came towards me. Idiots; they just can’t let me live in peace or what! I could listen to everybody screaming “Vimal, vimal, catch the ball, cattttccchhh the…..”. I remembered my Cricket Gurus words while the ball was dropping down……brought my arms closer….opened my palms…focused my eyes on the ball and concentrated on my fingers……fixed my position….and…..
I couldn’t believe my luck; I caught the ball!!! That was the first time I ever caught a ball during a crucial moment. I stood there for sometime not knowing what to do. The team came towards me and expressed their excitement. I was in a trance state; so much so that, I still don’t remember if we won or lost the match 😀 😀 😀 😀
During my graduation days, my maternal uncle and his family had a habit of visiting us every summer, especially when I was in my study holidays. My brother worked in Bangalore back then and whenever he came down to see my uncle, both of them made sure that they ‘played some good cricket’ ! They used to invite me for the game which I guess was only because they wanted a ball boy and, to be honest, I sucked at that too. But even if it was otherwise, I wasn’t interested. I always used ‘exams’ as a reason to stay away from the game, the embarrassment and their happiness. But thanks to my loving sister, there were times when I couldn’t escape; she would squeeze out whatever self esteem I had by saying that our dog could play better cricket than me, and that used to wake up the lion inside me! That ‘waking up’ never made any difference to the way I played though 😀 😀 😀
We played inside the compound of our home, on a concrete floor and since it was on the road side, people could easily watch us play. Shorts and Bermudas weren’t popular in our place back then and there were these girls who giggled each time they passed by our home. For them, watching three grown-up men running around in shorts, was a rare sight. No, we didn’t bother to wear long pants; my uncle somehow seemed to enjoy all those giggles ! These army men, I tell you !
Then came the summer of 2002, when my roomie and I surprised my brother by visiting him at Bangalore on a weekend. I really don’t know why he did it, but my bro invited us for a game of cricket along with his roomies. He took us to a huge crowded ground and it took us some time to get a pitch. When it was my turn to bat, as usual, I got out, facing a few balls and without taking runs 😀 😀 😀 I took my oldddd strategy of going far when it came to fielding. After a few overs, quite surprisingly, my brother called me for bowling. There was this guy who had been batting for long and nobody could get him out. Yeah, like those predictable sports movies, it took an underdog like me to end his batting reign. I had my cricket gurus in mind……I positioned myself in the field….my brother was looking at me…. I don’t remember where my roomie was, but that’s not important here anyway…..strategically placed my fingers on the ball with the intention of delivering a spin….ran…. and….. voila….I ‘middle stumped’ him….and that too in my first ball! I remember everybody congratulating me, but I went to that trance mode once again and I don’t remember if we won or lost that day. This proud moment, with my brother beside me, is etched in my memory and so, I decided to never be a part of serious cricket again.
My next adventure with cricket was not in an open field or at home, but inside my previous office. That’s right; that same old office which knew the meaning of ‘fun at work’. The free area between the cubicles was our pitch, a spare chair became our wicket and a sponge ball was used as our ball. However, we managed to get a real cricket bat Once again, I flaunted my infamous fielding skills and was known only for my background music before batting or bowling. But this time, my main intention of playing was only to escape from work We played for almost 3 months until our office moved to another location. The new place was good, but with the pillars and the glass walled cabins, it was not cricket friendly.
After a year long search, we finally discovered our perfect pitch; right next to the COO’s glass cabin 😛 We waited for the biggies in our office to leave, to start the match. There were more players this time because of the increase in the team size and things started getting serious. But it was different this time; small time arguments and yelling arose during the game because of one rotten apple who took all these matches to his heart. The fun element was lost and the game which started as a stress buster started giving more stress than work. I gradually moved out of the game and utilized this time for blogging while the rest of them kept shouting and arguing in the background! How else do you think I was so regular in all your blogs, eh? 😛 😛
And, that office cricket was the last thing I ever played in the name of sports. But then, to be honest, not many opportunities came my way for me to reject. Again, what is with me and sports? I really don’t know; unfortunately, I cannot blame this on my genes like how I usually do. My father hates cricket to the core, but he loves football. My bro was a cricket fan once upon a time, but these days, like my dad, he is more of a football guy and is an ardent follower of the European club football. My mom, on the other hand, used to watch whenever India played and it was with her that I watched the most number of matches, especially the ‘96 World Cup. Now that my dad is retired and is around all the time, I believe, she has no access to cricket And guess what, my grannie (mom’s mother), till about a few years ago, was also following the game and even knew the bio-data of all the players!!! She would discuss with me about the players and I would shy away from the topic because of my ‘knowledge’ in it
But I am happy this way and I have zero regrets for being sports ignorant. If I was into sports, I wouldn’t have had enough time for music; I would’ve bunked college and office to watch important matches; I wouldn’t have let anybody else take control of the TV remote at home; I would’ve been busy staring at the TV in the restaurant during world cup, instead of having food, I wouldn’t have spared even in the restroom to initiate sports discussions; and for crying out loud, I would’ve ended up being just another sports loving guy!
By the way, is ‘Hide and Seek’ recognized as a sport? No ? Hmmm…..