22 Aug 2020
It is 7 days since the no.7 of Indian Cricket team retired. And my 27 years of watching Cricket has officially come to an end – it has marked my retirement as a fan of this beautiful game too.
Yes, I say unabashedly that I’m a fan girl, of Cricket, of Sachin and of Dhoni. I am aware that there are many a sports aficionado who look down on Cricket with utmost condescension, and quip that it is not much of a sport as tennis is, or football is. But I’ve my fair reasons to counter. For one, I’ve always admired team sports than individual sports – maybe because when it is announced that Leander Peas wins, it is still more his win than India’s. While when Indian cricket team wins, it is always declared “India win”.. not that “India wins”. Why? Because it is not Indian team that wins, rather it is us who win – I win, you win, we win, everyone in India is a winner that day. Secondly, as a general principle, I prefer less violence always – in reel, in real, on the field, off the field, anywhere, everywhere. Naturally I had to have an attraction towards Cricket for its gentle nature and for being ‘genteel’ the way the game has always presented itself to me.
As opposed to many of my friends of the same gender who tend to have an aversion towards sports in general, I’ve keenly followed cricket all throughout my life. In fact cricket has also been one of the main topics over which I’ve bonded with many of my male friends (the second being explicit jokes and innuendos. Shushh now :D). Well, for me this craze – I mean cricket of course – 😊 started when my mother used to keep alarm for 4 am to wake up and watch the 1992 World Cup. I was barely 8 then. I would wake up with her, sit alongside staring at the TV screen with lights turned down in our living room barely figuring out how this game made sense. That was the start, at least in my mind. But my mother says otherwise. She is convinced it probably had its inception way back when she conceived me. Apparently, I was in her womb when the 1983 Cricket World cup happened. Back then too, my mom, despite her pregnant belly and morning sickness throughout the day, was glued to the TV watching all the one-day matches of the tournament like a studious pupil who dare not be truant. And boy was she rewarded! India, the underdog of the tournament lifted the World Cup that year.
All throughout my childhood I remember watching every single match India plays, without fail. There were days when I had even faked being ill to stay home and watch the entire match. The days I couldn’t, I would be in school wondering how India was faring, for those were the days before the internet, before mobiles and there was no way of getting to know the scores till I reached back home and switched on the TV. By the time I was in college, I believe my family expected me to give up on this so-called vicarious thrill. But no, I had no such intention, though there were occasional matches I missed, unlike earlier. I keenly followed Cricket, and Sachin and Yuvi with a lot of love in my heart.. till Dhoni came along. I still remember my classmates in college talking about this long-haired new guy who hit 183 out of 145 balls against SL, and I was miserable thinking how I could have possibly missed that match. I went back home and searched all over the sports and news channels to get a glimpse of this person. That was the first and probably the last time I missed watching Dhoni play for the next entire decade.
I don’t know how I could define my love for Dhoni. There are probably a 100 reasons, literally – but the very first I can think of is the fact that he is a small town boy. I am and will always be a cheer girl for the underdogs. Among the Sachins and the Kohlis and Yuvis – the metropolitan boys – this brown haired Bihari bloke with broken English and an unflattering accent stole bits of my heart at the very first sight itself. And in a short while he went on to completely pickpocket my entire heart when his broken English transformed into well-framed sentences in English, delivered with confidence. I was in awe, of the effort he would have put in, to groom and transmogrify himself so. The World Cup T20 matches and how he adorned the cap of a Captain with cool-headedness unseen in someone inexperienced in an international arena was inspiring indeed. His success in numerous tournaments that was topped off with ICC Champions Trophy and ICC World Cup all made me only adore him more and more over the years.
But rather than his success rate per se, what attracted me mostly was the way he conducted himself on the field. His game tactics – how he picks up subtle things and turns around the game with his flawless decisions, the way he shows confidence in bowlers who are not in the best of form by handing them the critical overs, his stumping skills that literally make us feel like time stands still for an instant, his impeccable DRS predictions which even changed the abbreviation of DRS to Dhoni Review System in our minds, his adamance to take India home every time with a final hit over the boundary if he is at the batting end, and his determination to win every match at any cost, making us all wonder if he is perhaps an undercover sorcerer who probably circumambulates the ground the night before every match discreetly burying black magic paraphernalia!
Over and above all this, what I admired most was the way he always maintained a sense of equanimity in the way he saw the game – never overjoyed, never in despair. Special mention to the way he treated his boys, how he never ever ever got angry (yes, the epizeuxis was intentional) or irritated no matter how bad anyone performed, took him to a whole other league when it comes to captains of yore. Plus, the fact that I was completely floored at how humble and sweet he was to keep waving back at me and my friends 3 times over and over when we got to be in few feet distance of him at Lord’s. Okay enough said. This would probably be the very last time I write or think about Cricket too. And now I realise it would have happened long before, if not for Dhoni. Thank you Dhoni, for that too!
P.S. : I know Dhoni is from Jharkhand and not Bihar, but I called him Bihari because it went with the flow of the title, also because, after all he was born a Bihari 😊