I've been getting strange, unbelieving looks.
The Blogadda folks announced a Wide Angle Book contest to win the wonderful coffee table book by Anil Kumble, India's great ex-cricket captain, record breaking bowler, and avid photographer, and the two best tributes to the maestro would receive an autographed copy of the book, each.
It so happens, that the results came yesterday. And turns out that I am one of the two who gets the book. It is also relevant to note that both the winners were women. Just saying .
Reactions have ranged from skeptical disbelief, boring nods, childlike excitement , patronising comments implying, "you never know what these old ladies will be up to next", to plain and simple thrills and shouts, telephone calls, emails, messages and sms-es of excitement and congratulations.
There are even plans afoot on some blog posts, to wrest the book from me under false pretences.:-)
I think time has come to clear the air about me and cricket.
My earliest cricket memory is from half a century ago, when there couldn't be anyone worse to play with, than the boys in our colony. Summer holidays, and a searing afternoon May sun, saw us playing an ill advised tournament against the boys. My predominant memory is of running desperately to reach the crease, a partial umpire declaring me "out", and me desperately trying to prove that part of me was already inside what we then called , "deed-bat" (= one and a half batlength) , which was our name for the crease.
High School and college cricket was basically me, surreptitiously listening to radio commentary while studying. There were then Maharaja type guys called Vizzy who did the commentary, who I always mixed up with Vijay Merchant. There were no TV's , no earphones, and the commentary often suddenly shifted to Hindi because it was always All India Radio.
Early twenties saw me work for what is today's leading IT company, owned by the Tatas, and one year, the Tata Sports Club allocated some club quota tickets for a match in Mumbai to our company. Our group of friends decided to buy and attend, and 9 am on a hot morning saw me sitting way in front in the North Stand of the Brabourne Stadium. There were no Bisleri water bottles in those days, you carried your own limited supply, and lunch. We did spread wet towels over our heads as the sun bore down, but the excitement of the game, lack of water and the heat was too much, and the entire North Stand was treated to me collapsing in a dead faint right in front. A whole lot of folks got into action, poured water on me, and made me drink some, and for the rest of the match, I suspect that the fielder at deep fine leg was also looking at me.
TV happened, and understandably, I stopped attending stuff at stadiums.
Since then, I have had the privilege of being part of a family where 50% consider themselves experts of the game (and 50% are considered not worth classifying). 25% have played schools cricket in India and University cricket in UK, and seen some legends up close and personal. Another 25% spends more time on cricket study than academics, writes detailed stuff, continuously communicates with similarly obsessed people, and one lets it all happen, because the academics has never suffered.
In the meanwhile , I observe with great amazement as these folks watch matches on TV, give advise occasionally to the fellow on the TV screen, predict when someone is going to bowl a certain type of ball, shake their head in disgust and shout saying "Kashaalaa full toss atta ? (=Why a full toss now?)" , "Chor manoos ahe, Sachin la LBW khota out dila (=Thieves ! Wrongly gave Sachin out leg before wicket(LBW))", " Arre ! Stump war taak ? Wide kashalla taktos (=Oye! Bowl on to the stumps ! Why bowl wide ?)" ....... and many other things.
I have sat motionless on a sofa, worrying about something burning on the stove in the kitchen, because any change in the configuration often brought on unnecessary wickets, hundreds of miles away. Food could be cooked again, but we couldn't lose a wicket. We had guests for dinner the day Anil Kumble hit his maiden century, and the family and some of the guests promptly went out to get a celebratory wonderful dessert for everyone.
And while the cricket obsessed types have always gone ga ga over the game as it was played, I have always been more interested in the personalities. I love to watch the post match presentations, and hear the players speak. I enjoy their interactions with each other in the team. I observe how they behave with members of the opposing team.
I enjoy seeing the gifted Sachin walk out to bat in Australia, and the audience rising to applaud every step he takes. I enjoy seeing how he handles a particularly badly behaved opposition bowler who snarls at him. I see the nation stand solidly behind him, when he looks up to the sky after reaching a milestone and I wonder what his mother watching from home must be feeling.
I enjoy hearing Sehwag confidently promising to hit, anything that came talking to his bat, and making those promises come true. No false humility, and he tells it like it is.
I like looking at those they show sitting in the pavilion, waiting for their chance, and I wonder what must be going through their minds. It is great to see families of the players on TV, supportive of each other, parents proudly giving interviews after a record being broken, and a wife and children coming on to the field at the end of a match to greet someone , who has just declared his retirement. I like to see a captain, who carries a team with him, leading from the front, in and out of the ground, without a hint of glamour, but with a great sense of leadership and giving.
And so, a cricket-disabled-me, jumped at this opportunity to write a tribute about Anil Kumble, about whom there are never two opinions. I have followed him and observed him for many many years, like many others in his class. I keep track of the commercials these people do. Tells you a lot about what they think is important in life. It is a pleasure to see how the family is so important in their busy lives. In India, family includes extended family, and for a public figure with a huge demand on his time and talents, this often involves a delicate balance of priorities.
I see this "balance" in his entire career. I see this balance in his life, what I see and read about.
And so I wrote this tribute, and was delighted to note that someone appears to have agreed with what I had to say....
For other bat and ball details there is always Google, television and commentaries.
Thanks to the folks at Blogadda for creating this opportunity.
And thank you for the wonderful Book, avidly awaited...