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Having a Ball, Batting for India through the Years

As India gears up to firm up their semi-final contention in the Cricket World Cup in Thursday’s match with the West Indies, an avid fan of the game recalls growing up with this “religion”.

Cricket fans from Jaipur celebrate India's win against Pakistan during the World Cup cricket match at Manchester, England on 16 June 2019. Photos courtesy: The Times of India Group
Cricket fans from Jaipur celebrate India's win against Pakistan during the World Cup cricket match at Manchester, England on 16 June 2019. Photos courtesy: The Times of India Group

As we go into the second half of the Cricket World Cup (CWC) 2019, India celebrates its first triumph of CWC of 1983 and the madness of cricket is all around, I recollect my introduction to the game and the passion to follow cricket.

I vaguely remember, it was the 1999 World Cup, and I had just got to know the rules and regulation of this gentleman’s game from my uncle. We used to listen to lively commentary on radio and relish the sound of the ball hitting a sweet spot on the bats. During the matches, our hearts skipped a beat depending upon the sounds of the vociferous crowd coming through the microphone of commentators.

ONCE IN A LIFETIME: Kapil Dev, all-rounder and captain of the Indian cricket team which won the 1983 cricket (Prudential) World Cup, holds the trophy in Bombay on 28 June 1983.

In home matches, when commentators’ voices got drowned by the sound of spectators, we would know that the ball had gone out of the boundary, and a deafening silence signified that the batsman had been given out. I can’t give you the count of how many radios were broken by teachers in my school and the students who got chided for following this religion.

Time passed, many cricket match series concluded, Australia became unrivalled champion. Then came World Cup 2003, this time I was no novice, well-versed in field positions such as short leg, mid-wicket, covers and third man. By this time television had invaded all homes, but for the hard times of power cuts, radio was what we turned to.

It was the radio that brought home the live telecast of Sachin Tendulkar hitting Shoaib Akhtar for a boundary and Virender Sehwag’s first ball six against Australia in the final, a sparkle of hope in reply to mammoth total of 359. Radio again delivered the message of six sixes of Yuvraj Singh in the inaugural T20 World Cup and India’s triumph in 2007 after a debacle in the World Cup the same year.

Then came 2011. Expectations were high as it was being played in the country where people consider a cricketer as “God” and the game a “religion”. This time I was in college, watching the game live with groups on TV and cheering Team India as if we were in the stadium. What a moment it was to watch the winning six in the final match and the emotions that ensued thereafter.

World Cup 2015 went by in anticipation of defending the trophy. It was an emotional moment to see tears in the eyes of MS Dhoni after the semi-final loss against Australia. Though I was a working professional by this time, the passion to follow cricket remained the same. With the progression of technology pocket radio was replaced by live written commentary or live feed online.

Today TV has been replaced by mobile applications enabling us to follow the game live from anywhere at any time. And I continue to cheer for Team India!

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