This Guest Post comes from the wonderfully talented writer who prefers to be known as 'The Fool'. He writes at - Lucifer House Inc. In the following post he shares his trysts with cricket during his formative years.
Bernard Shaw is known for his saying “Cricket is a game played by eleven fools and watched by eleven thousand fools”. When I call myself “The Fool”, obviously I would be one of the eleven fools or eleven thousand fools. Wouldn’t I? If you were to see me hold the bat, you can be sure I wouldn’t be one of the eleven fools even in my wildest dreams. So one of the eleven thousand at least I had to be, right? I started off about where it all began right at the beginning like Oliver Twist – the cricket cards and stuff. If you are collecting cards having pictures of cricket players on the front and their statistics on the back, isn’t it conceivable that you will take interest in the actual players themselves and their statistics? That is exactly how it happened with me.
Having managed to collect most of the cards, my interest began to fade. I found it a better idea to make the cards myself rather than depend on the limited cards that come free with bubble gums. So I began to take interest in collecting pictures of cricket players and the statistics. Obviously how can you not see the matches where the players whose pictures you are collecting are creating the statistics live? The first series I really watched with interest was 1992 World Cup. Some of the memories of the things I distinctly remember are Martin Crowe’s captaincy, Inzamam’s batting and the altercation between Kiran More and Javed Miandad. It was also a series where I saw the fading of the only star I had idolized during my hitherto days of indifference to cricket: Krishnamachari Srikanth.
For the next 4 years there was not a single match I missed. I tried playing cricket too. But it was too late an age to begin. Already many of my peers were batting prodigies while I was a batting comedy. So obviously I would be sent last down and hardly ever get a chance to improve my batting. Bowling or wicket keeping obviously no one wanted to give to a neophyte. They sent me to field at the boundaries. Standing alone at the boundary where nothing happens can be really boring and you tend to get contemplative. And when you are contemplating on finer things in life, can you be blamed for missing the rare catch that comes your way? But the boys thought differently. The net result was I decided playing cricket was not my cup of tea and gladly renounced the game.
So my interest in the game remained confined to hero worship and compilation of statistics. Due to my lack of success in playing the game, I never really got on to the technical aspects of the game. I was happy as long as my favorite players got the half centuries, centuries and the 5 wicket hauls and the scoreboards kept ticking. So following the matches on radio or newspaper worked as well as seeing the matches on television. I followed almost the entire South African tour of India on our ancient family radio that was a year older than me. It was a disappointment in terms of India’s performance. But I found a new hero to worship: Pravin Amre. And there were no cards of him available too. Then there was the England’s tour of India which revived India’s fortunes. Vinod Kambli’s double century delighted the statistician in me.
Very soon I moved from cards to a diary which was more convenient to maintain the photos and statistics. I had a page for every player and religiously maintained the statistics. In fact it was cricket that inculcated the habit of reading the newspaper in me. In those days there was no internet. Nor was there cable television. The newspaper was the only way of following international matches. I used to religiously cut the scorecard of every international match that was played and compile them series wise. For the pictures, I had to depend on sport star as I preferred color photos to black and white photos from the newspapers. But when I did not get color photos of a player I would make do with the black and white photos as well. We were financially not too well off as such. So I could not afford new Sport Stars. So one of the most exciting activities for me during those days was going to the waste paper man with my father and buying old second hand Sports Stars. As soon as I come home I would finish reading all the cricket articles and then get to work with my scissors. I did not limit myself to recent statistics. I also bought and read a few books on cricket history. Hindu used to publish an annual edition of cricket year book. That was a favorite with me.
Every activity has an initial start up phase, then a peak period and then a decline. So it was with my interest in cricket as well. The four years were my peak period from 1992-1996. From then on the decline started. I became busy with academics as I had my board exams and IIT JEE preparations. Also in 1996, we got cable TV in our house for the first time. That brought a new range of entertainment at my disposal. My new school had a library with a good fiction collection and I began to return to my old love – reading books. So my new love – the cricket diary and cards were neglected. One fine day I gave away the cards to a boy in the neighborhood and my diary to my cousin. I still continued to watch matches. But the old passion was no longer there.
There were still a few highs for me in the years to follow. I went to watch a Ranji trophy match and watched Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath in live action in flesh and blood. I watched India chase down an impossible 300+ target against Pakistan in a crowded college hostel common room. I watched the emergence of Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman. I discovered a cricket card collection from my father’s childhood days in my grandparents’ home. But there were also the bad moments. The conviction of Azharuddin and Hansie Cronje was one of them. Decline of the English and West Indies teams was another. With the details of the match fixing emerging, all the statistics I had been collecting began to look meaningless. So slowly I began to drift away from cricket. The old passion gave way to new ones: reading, trekking, martial arts. Soon it came to pass that at one stage I totally stopped watching cricket. From following all 5 days of a test match on an old transistor, I have still not seen a complete 20-20 match to date. Then that’s how infatuation is, right? You never know when it comes. You never know when it goes.