As Rahul Dravid neared the 10,000 run mark in test cricket, there was a slight sinking feeling in my stomach. I know you would say that I’m crazy but I assure you that I’m in fine mental health. It was the result of certain emotions flooding me at that time.
It was the same batsman whom I had watched score a 95 on his debut test against England at the Lord’s along with another beautiful innings by the ever elegant Sourav Ganguly. I didn’t understand much cricket then but my love story with the game started then. My love for the game had a lot to do with my brother’s interest and was fueled by the Dravids, the Tendulkars, the Kumbles and the Gangulys. That they have now entered the last phase of their careers is like the end of an era for Indian Cricket as far as I’m concerned.
These guys, along with the Srinaths, Jadejas, Robin Singhs and even the Azaharuddins and now with the Dhonis, Yuvrajs, Ishant Sharmas and the Harbhajans have given us a lot to smile about and, at times, to weep about.
I still remember Tendulkar’s back-to-back centuries against Australia in the April of 1998 at Sharjah which won us that tournament, the thrashing that Ganguly gave to Sri Lanka in the World Cup of 1999 where he scored in the 180s or that feisty 140 odd runs he scored of the Australian attack in Australia in the December of 2003 . Who can forget Rahul Dravid’s stupendous 270 against Pakistan on India’s first tour to Pakistan (in 2004) since 1989 . and what about VVS Laxman’s 281 against Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2003! Anil Kumble’s 10-wicket haul in an innings against Pakistan in 1999 had the whole nation dancing on the streets.
And then there were the heartbreaks too. Remember 1996 world cup semi final against Sri Lanka? Or that test in Chennai against Pakistan in 1999 when after scoring a 136 Tendulkar succumbed to his back pain and lost his wicket and India losing the match? And the third test in Kolkata where India lost the series. Or the thrashing by the Australians in the finals of the 2003 World Cup? And the 2007 World Cup debacle is still fresh in our memories.
You see, what they have achieved is brilliant (and hence Dhoni should shut his trap sometimes), but what is even more fascinating is what they have given us- the cricket lovers of this nation. They have given us joy , moments to cherish, brought out our patriotic fervour and given us memories-sometimes happy ones and at other times a bit bitter, but they all leave a sweet taste lingering on our tongues. But most of all they gave us hope. Every time they stepped out to bat or bowl, we would pray with them, strategize with them and hold our hands to our hearts if they won, otherwise silent tears rolling down our cheeks would tell the whole story. But the downside of this cricket fanaticism has been the sort of violent outbreaks of emotions we see when hopes are broken.
As the curtains are being drawn on the illustrious careers of this bunch of highly talented players from across the nation (I call them the “Golden Guys” of Indian Cricket from the “Golden Age” of Indian Cricket), a proper farewell needs to be planned. For Ganguly, the last phase has already been a little rough, but thank God for the sheer determination he has shown, he can still hope for a decent farewell party. Dravid’s exclusion from the ODI side is hopefully just a manifestation of his lack of form and not his age. After all, it is performance which matters at the international level. Kumble, the eternal gentleman, on the other hand, has been enjoying probably the best phase of his career now and deservedly so. Tendulkar, is, was and will remain the God for me. Laxman, though a few years younger than the rest, might have his career cut short due to the long line of his critics always after him.
Guys, just a last few words.
Thank you for all the wonderful times and when you do walk down into the sunset, remember to hold your head high and look straight into the setting sun because you have shone brighter!!!
[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/appwiz/13635324/]