So, the biggest event in the world of cricket gets off to a dazzling start with the gorgeous opening ceremony at Dhaka. The opening ceremony of the ICC World Cup 2011 was an extravaganza of music, and fireworks as the whole world saw some amazing talents coming together. The highlight of the show, to me was when the captains of all the playing nations came together on the same stage to salute cricket and its way of uniting the world to a unique platform. This is the beauty of the game: No matter how professional and hard-core these cricketers are on the field, they have so much of respect for each other.
Talking about respect, yes, in terms of the popularity of cricket in India, man, the cricketers are like demigods. Cricket is the biggest religion in India. This religion is quite phenomenal and has several gods who keep changing every few years or even months. Although, there is no holy book for this religion; people can remember the names and figures with ease. The passion among the people for the game is evident in the matches that are hosted in India. Thus it is said more than often that cricket has achieved the status of a religion in India with millions of followers to its credit. The fan base transcends all the cultural and religious barriers of the country. I have personally seen people of so many different religions, castes and principles accumulating together and cheering for India, near some nearby television sets during “tensed” matches. They can criticise and abuse the cricketers when they under-perform as much as they appreciate them when they score “big”. The people are so passionate about the game that it is almost impossible for a neutral cricket viewer to come and enjoy the game. The crowds begin to fill the stadium 5 hours prior on match days. Being a resident of Kolkata, oh my god, the traffic gets so congested within a few miles of the Eden Gardens prior to the match, that it almost gets impossible to avail any kind of transport. The atmosphere inside the grounds is electric and the noise level crosses every barrier when the likes of Sachin come out to the centre.
As far as I am concerned, cricket is my first love, right from the days when I used to wear shorts. Irrespective of the fact that I had an exam on the following day, I used to sneak across my parents eyes to catch the live action through our neighbour’s window, since we couldn’t afford a television then. I was crazy about my “Adidas” cricket bat, gifted to me by my grandfather on my 10th birthday and even made a fake signature of the Master as well, to show it to my friends, silly me!! I remember, once DADA had come to our neighbourhood to attend an inauguration ceremony and I went like crazy, trying to catch a glimpse of my hero, my inspiration being a Bengali. Even today, I regret the fact that I couldn’t shake hands with my dream personality due to staunch security arrangements. We had a mini-cricket team in our locality which comprised of 8 people and we used to play gully cricket everyday in the evening, after school. We mocked the batting and bowling styles of our heroes and took an oath of playing for India when we grow up; whatever the circumstances are like. We were kids then yaa; but those were fun days, we even used to have quarrels among each other regarding who will win the match or how many runs is Sachin going to score etc. and used our cricket cards as betting currency. Our parents used to scold us for talking about cricket all the time as their logic was “They are earning money by playing, why are you people wasting time on them”?
I still laugh when I remember these tiny incidents. On the other hand, I can’t forget my father’s face, down with shame and anger, returning from the Eden Gardens after India’s dreadful defeat against Sri Lanka in the semi-final match of the Wills World Cup on the 13th of March, 1996. The same face was shining brightly with pride after Anil Kumble’s 10 wickets against Pakistan and India’s sparkling victory over the same opponents in the finals of the first T20 world cup.
The love for cricket is unprecedented among fans of all ages. This is the beauty of the game. And make no mistake our whole family is expecting Dhoni and his young team (should I say young or a perfect blend of youth and experience) to lift the trophy again after 1983. And I am sure that they won’t disappoint any of us!! Jai Ho!
Sammya Brata Mullick
*This piece has been selected as a Winning Entry for the ‘Viewspaper Cricket and Passion Writing Competition’*