It was invented as a sport by the English, which became a religion in the subcontinent. The most widely followed religion, if I may add. A religion without caste differences, sects or any other sort of discrimination. The most perfect setting. The fanatics are huge; the followers – innumerous; the priests – both old and new; and God – just one – Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar.
The game started off as a leisure time activity for richer groups of the population, but the game was too big to be chained down to such a small future. It grew like an untamed forest fire and before it anyone realised it had extended itself to all corners of the Indian society. The Gentlemen’s game soon became a pandemic. It had taken over the hearts of billions. Every park, by-lane and corridor became a cricket ground in no time. The people of India welcomed it into their lives with arms wide open. Such was the grandeur of the game. The game transformed itself from the game of nawaabs to a common man’s dreams.
The heart aches to see how the people have started demeaning the game by saying that it has degraded from a thing of passion to a money making business. How young people are attracted to the game just because of the prospects of earning big. How viewers are interested in following the game just for gambling and for making easy money. The game is beyond all this. The passion for the game is still the only driving force, which motivates both the players and the viewers to make Cricket the centre point of their lives. In fact, I believe that the IPL can be renamed as India’s Passion League. Where else will you find the craze, the fanaticism, the patriotism – to follow the games in the summer heat of near 40 degrees centigrade? The game might very well have been invented by the English but the popularity it commands today is India’s giving.
For once, let us free our minds of the biases we have formed against our beloved sport and think about the whirlwind of emotions, which the players go through; it will help us understand the real reason why a player willingly stays away from his family for the better parts of the year; why he undergoes rehabilitation and surgeries as if it is a normal affair; why he still wants to go out and perform in the field in spite of earning millions and in spite of proving himself throughout his illustrious career. For once, let us not think as news channels in search of ‘Breaking News’, but as human beings with feelings and emotions, with desires and dreams, with the passionate love we possess.
The sea of spectators surrounding the bowler as he measures his run-up with a brand new ball in hand, ready to bowl the first delivery; the deafening roars and cheers of the crowd as he comes charging in at the batsman like a steaming coach with a single aim of breaking the defence, dislodging the bails and to see the stumps cartwheel itself out of its slumber. The adrenaline rush before he jumps into his action and the moment of sheer concentration when he releases the ball towards the imposing silhouette of the batsman ready with his wielding piece of wood.
The swinging, half shiny- moisten glistened ball, dying and then bouncing back to life before the batsman, with the stumps in sight, released to fulfill its bearer’s vow of knocking back the batsman and crashing the stumps, fast approaches the batsman. The moment when the voices of thousands of fans packed inside the stadium becomes so loud that it is impossible to listen to one’s own thoughts. The instant when the batsman needs to decide his shot and the magical sound that echoes around the stadium drowning the cry of the thousands of supporters when the middle of the chiseled bat meets the leather ball and the sight of the ball – battered and hammered – on its way to meet the clouds.
The swirling ball on its way down to meet the earth with the force of gravity working with it, and the humid air making the ball heavy and making it sway right and left; while the fielder measures up towards the falling ball, eyes on target, fighting against the rising turmoil in the gut area and the feeling of ecstasy when the ball silently rests in the cupped hands. The outburst of praises from the spectators and the small victory run by the better player on the field.
These emotions make a player give out his life to the game. The player who gets addicted to these emotions is the one who makes it big, the one who has the longest career, the one who worships the game….
“But eventually it is a game of cricket” ~ Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar