Being an Indian, it is impossible to miss the beauty of cricket. This wonderful sport is virtually unknown to most parts of the world but is akin to a religion in my country. There are as many as thirty languages spoken in India. In many ways you would be like a foreigner if you were to travel from one state to another. But cricket is the language everyone understands. It is the language everyone speaks with unparalleled zest. Ask any person of my generation about their happiest moments and 2nd April 2011 would invariably figure among them as we won the World Cup on that day. Cricket truly is the one thing that unites us all.
Growing up in an Indian household guarantees a very early exposure to cricket. Ever since I remember, I had been passively watching the sport and had already sensed that this was one of the traits of being an Indian. Right from a very young age, I could see and hear it everywhere and unconsciously started picking up the rules and terminologies of the game. However, it was on 24th April 1998 when I truly fell in love with the game and in the process found a role model – Sachin Tendulkar.
India was playing against Australia in the Coca Cola Cup Final in Sharjah. Australia, led by Steve Waugh were a formidable team back then; fierce and highly seasoned. The first innings where Australia batted is a blur to me now. All I remember is that we were given a target of 273. Sachin opened with Saurav Ganguly and as they say, the rest is history. It was his birthday and he was in the mood to party. He annihilated the Aussie bowling attack, making greats like Shane Warne and Kasprowicz look like minnows. Watching him bat was poetry in motion; boundaries and sixes gushed effortlessly from his bat as he went on to score 143 and win India the trophy. From that day, Sachin’s square cut and straight drive became one of my favorite things in the world. I was amazed at how this little man shouldered the daunting responsibility to defeat the world champion and brought joy to the billion of Indians. He was already a legend, the darling of the nation and the hero of my generation.
That spectacular victory has been etched as a milestone in India’s psyche. It was significant to the country in many ways. It signified the resurgence of Indian cricket, led by the great man himself. It cemented Sachin’s place in the pages of history and hearts of my countrymen. The baton had been passed to him, to carry the hopes of a cricket crazed nation. And he did not disappoint. It is truly overwhelming to realize what the cricketer has become to the country.Everything in the country came to a standstill when he stepped to bat. His achievements were our pride and his failures were our pain. My colleagues and I kept all our work on hold to watch him score his hundredth century. I will never forget how my office’s jam packed cafeteria erupted when he scored the 100th run. Watching him play was one of the greatest joys of my life and I wept like a baby the day he retired.
This post is just another excuse to display my obsession with Sachin Tendulkar and my love for cricket. I am terrible at remembering dates but I never forget 24th April. Not only it is the birthday of my hero but it is also the anniversary of my relationship with the great sport.
Written in response to Daily Prompt – Offside Memories