| February 12, 2015 11:08 am
To say that cricket in India evokes a passion like no other sport is an understatement. Cricket for me always brings back fond memories. In the pre-television era, this game has made me get up at odd hours in the night just to listen to the commentary on All India Radio. Listening to the likes of Suresh Saraiya describing the flair of M.L. Jaisimha, the bravery and technique of Sunil Gavaskar (and that too without a helmet) against the Caribbean quartet, the classical late cut of G. Viswanath and the guile of E.A.S Prasanna made me realise that cricket had the ability to touch a million hearts.
I can endure long flights and airport delays, just to watch our cricket team play at stadiums around the world. TV is my next best option and if my schedule still does not permit, I ensure that I get regular updates. So, I am a true cricket fan. It is estimated that on a day when India is playing, more than 400 million people are glued to their television sets. Needless to say, I am one of them.
Although India had a number of great players in the 1970s, they did not take one day cricket too seriously. In the first two World Cups, the Indian team was merely a participant. All that changed when India shocked everybody by winning the World Cup in 1983. India had a bunch of all-rounders led by the courageous Kapil Dev. What made the win so heartening was that India had two victories against the mighty West Indies. That victory changed the way Indians looked at cricket. It gave them confidence that they could be world beaters. The next few World Cups gave the Indian fans a lot heart aches. The World Cups of 1992, 1999 and 2007 were quite forgettable.
In 1987 and 1996 respectively, we managed to reach the semi-finals only to be defeated by the ‘sweeper’ Graham Gooch in the former and by a turning Kolkata pitch in the latter. In 2003, we did come close to winning it, but Ricky Ponting had other ideas and took the game away from us.
I still recall the deafening silence at Wankhede Stadium when Sunil Gavaskar was bowled for four against England in 1987. Incidentally, it was on the same ground that the crowd went up in raptures when M. S. Dhoni hit that magnificent six to lift the World Cup 2011.
A common cause
There is something unique and magical about cricket — eleven players coming together with different skill sets for a common cause. Moreover, every facet of cricket can play an influential role in the outcome of the game — the toss, umpires, the size of the stadium, the ball, the grass, the wind, the nature of the pitch and in some cases even the slope of the pitch! Further complicating the matters are the vagaries of rain, which brings in Duckworth-Lewis — a concept which very few grasp. Not to forget, there are very few sports wherein the captain bears so much responsibility.
This game allows individuals to shine and change the course of the game, while also ensuring that no one is greater than the game. Like life, cricket is a great leveller. An in-form star bowler or batsman can suddenly lose his touch in the next few games he plays. This is the time when the other players in the team need to pick up their game. Teams that manage to do this manage to win consistently. Australia did this so magnificently by winning three consecutive world cups from 1999 to 2007.
Policymakers often benchmark India’s economic development over a 20 year period. Similarly, if one looks at what Indian cricket achieved over the past 21 years since India won the world cup in 1983, it is truly a remarkable feat. During this period, Indian cricket has been able to:
2. Produce all time great bowlers like Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath and Zaheer Khan;
3. Have great captains in Saurav Ganguly and M. S. Dhoni;
4. Become the highest-ranked Test team;
5. Induct a number of national players from Tier II and Tier III cities, reflecting that the economic rise is percolating to all of India;
6. Win quite a few prestigious one-day events apart from the World Cup;
7. Win the inaugural T-20 championship and World Cup 2011; and lastly
8. Introduce IPL, thus ensuring that the top players from around the world play in India.
So what are India’s chances for World Cup 2015? I believe that we have a fairly good chance of going far into the tournament. The talent and ability of this young team is unquestionable and if they get a couple of morale-boosting victories early in the tournament, they will pose a serious threat to the title. However, niggling injuries to our key bowlers is a slight worry.
I surely hope that India wins the title. And even if it does not, there will no doubt be a bit of anguish. Of course, we will all move on till the next tournament. What I love about my fellow Indian fans is that they are never short on optimism. The mercurial Indian team does from time to time get beaten but there is always a glimmer of hope that the tide will soon turn our way.
Win or lose, one aspect will always remain steadfast — I will always be a loyal fan of Indian cricket.
Deepak Parekh, is the chairman of hdfc ltd and an avid cricket fan.