This was written before the 2011 Cricket World Cup final.
I stopped following cricket quite a while ago. To be precise, on October 17th, 1994 – The day Kapil Dev hung up his bat. Okay, so that makes me a fan of the man rather than the game; a fact I would never admit to in those days.
My first memory of cricket is that of a toothily grinning tall, dark, young man in a black blazer lifting up a huge cup and corks popping off champagne bottles. I was awestruck when I heard just how much one of those bottles of the stuff that was being sprayed about cost! It took a couple of decades before I actually got a chance to taste champagne and let me tell you… it was an absolute anti-climax. I spat it right out! No wonder they just sprayed it around instead of drinking it. Or maybe my taste buds just weren’t sophisticated enough to handle anything more than a fine red.
Meanwhile, Kapil had me at the grin!
With absolutely no idea of the game, I started following it. It was my sister-in-law a Gavaskar fan who taught me the rungs and soon I picked up enough of the game to distinguish between a pace bowler and a spinner although I could never get into an argument about the nuances of a doosra or distinguish between a fine leg and a silly point. I also learnt that LBW actually stood for something other than Love Before Wedding.
In that decade that I followed cricket, I had a built in alarm clock that would wake me up on the dot at 3.30 am, in time to watch the match that was played Down Under. If I had done that with my Physics and Chemistry Board exams, things might have turned out slightly different in my Plus 2 score card. I was a walking encyclopedia who could rattle off every statistic related to Kapil Dev and my life’s greatest ambition was to meet him and tell him how much I admired him.
I vigorously fought his wars for him against his vicious critics and even wrote a poem about my sensitive hero who stood emotion chocked in the (battle) field and pleaded for a drink of water when the ball off his bat killed a bird, in Australia. I sent it to The Sportstar absolutely sure that here was the chance to finally meet my idol. To my 14 year old imagination, Kapil would be touched by the poem and would want to meet his greatest fan. They sent me back a very nice letter congratulating my effort and enthusiasm and suggested I try some other publication.
Once again I wrote about him. During the dark days when he was falsely accused to be involved in match fixing and the brave Haryanvi Putthar broke down on camera. I wrote about how much I still believed in him and would continue to do so even if the whole world turned against him. I would stand by him no matter what. No one would publish that either. Finally I felt vindicated when he was chosen as the Wisden Cricketer of the Century in 2002. I wrote again. Only this time I did not bother to send it to anyone.
On April 2nd 1995, destiny once again presented me with an opportunity to meet him. Kapil was coming down to Trivandrum to play some friendly match and I was all set, determined not to miss him this time. However, that was also precisely the day my then would- be husband’s family decide to come and meet my family for the first time. And somehow, despite my best efforts, nobody at home quite followed my line of logic that it was my family they wanted to meet and not me. And once again the fates conspired to thwart the best laid plans of Kapil Dev’s greatest fan on earth.
The last time I went home, I cleared out my cupboard at home and threw away a bunch of old ‘treasures’… but a particular bundle stays. It contains several well-thumbed magazines and brittle, yellowing clippings from Malayalam, Tamil, and English newspapers from the eighties and early nineties. Anything that mentioned Kapil, I have it in there. I cannot find the heart to throw it away. It enjoys a very special place, right next to the spot in my heart that says, ‘Eternal Hope that Someday I will Meet Kapil.’
Over here where I live, at the Hindu Society’s Auditorium they are screening India’s matches on giant screens. Cricket fans are out in full force to cheer on the Men in Blue and Indian restaurants have set up stalls to nourish the fans cheering themselves hoarse. I kept myself totally aloof, till the semi-finals, when the infectious enthusiasm finally drew me in too. But when India plays Pakistan, it hurts at some level wondering if our cricket diplomacy mocks the memory of the lives we have lost.
Should I join my friends who will be cheering India in front of a giant screen tomorrow? I still haven’t decided. But I do have my carefully chosen T-shirt (with both teams in blue, I had to get the shade just right) and my Tricolor ready. Just in case I decide to go… just in case the man who lifted the trophy seven world cups ago turns up to watch the match!
Read as originally posted here: on www.yentha.com