Archive for April, 2011|Monthly archive page

World Cup 1983 to 2011 – My Personal Journey

It’s hard not to react to this world cup in a very personal way. Most of the videos of player interviews that I have watched since are very personal, very emotional. Even the interview with Gary Kirsten, the South African coach sounds very emotional, almost in an Indian way. Most of the columns I have read since, blog posts I have browsed through seem to bring forth a personal, emotional aspect from the writer’s perspective. Here are some of the examples

I am no different. This event made me re-start my blog again, which I wasn’t able to continue for a while now due to work pressure and simple laziness. But this time, I had to come out and express myself.

This was the first Monday in a long long time, when I was visibly happy. My non-Indian colleagues would ask in their casual American way, “How are you?” and would get astonished at a very strong “I am happy” response. The entire weekend was dedicated to the match. Friday night and Saturday morning for obvious reasons, but during the rest of the weekend all I did was catch some sleep, get up and stare at my lap top- soaking myself into the videos, the pictures, the player interviews, the match reports, the ball by ball commentaries ( yes, I watched the match live), everything and anything that was written about the match, I lapped it up. By Monday, day end, I must have seen more than 10 hours of videos, clicked on thousands of pictures, most of them for repeat viewing and must have read every major blog, every major Indian newspaper and Pakistani, thanks due to some drone named Shahid Afridi. The amazing thing was, I was still not done. That’s the impact this world cup win has had on me and it seems I am not alone.

I figured out many years later that we had won the world cup in 1983. No, I did exist back then, I am not that young. But I existed in a remote hilly place in the Kumaun region of Uttarakhand state, located in lower Himalayas, also known as Shivaliks. My remote village back then didn’t have access to newspaper or radio. I landed in a small UP town in 1986 and woke up to a whole new world beyond the snow covered Himalayan peaks. A world that had organized sports, cricket being one of them. Before that I thought cricket was what we played after school on the un-even staircase fields of Kumaun where if you hit the ball too hard, sometime it took up to 30 min to recover it.  I woke up to the fact that my country played cricket and were good at it. I heard that some guy named Ravi Shastri was a star player and had won a very expensive car called Audi, in one of the championships. I still remember seeing the pictures in one of the old copies of Cricket Star, I think that’s what the magazine was called back then. It took me few more years to realize that India had won the biggest prize in 1983 and to fully realize that it was a very big deal, particularly keeping India’s one day record in mind until then.

After that, it was an overdose of pictures, replays and stories of that 1983 story. Some of the stories were repeated so often that they had started to acquire the shape of Hindu mythologies where stuff gets added by the narrator himself. 1983 was forever etched in India’s pop culture memory, and Kapil’s Devils were made out to be heroic almost to the same extent as Jai and Veeru from Sholay. Sholay and 1983 were probably the only two threads required to connect any two Indians around the globe.

India hit the rock bottom in 80s before slowly climbing back up in 90s, the stories with cast of characters such as Rajeev Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, PVN are by now well documented and repeated often. India cricket had hit rock bottom in 1999-2000 after the match fixing scandal. That’s the time it lost many fans, some never to return, except may be now. In 2000 Saurav Ganguly began the  re-building and found and groomed Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj and Sehwag, the mainstays of the team ever since. By 2003, the confidence was back and we almost had our moment before we had the meltdown in finals. The team in 2003 was stronger in some ways, particularly the bowling department where Zaheer, Nehra were both in form, spearheaded by Jawagal Srinath. But it wasn’t destined to happen back then and it didn’t. After the shock of 2007, I had given up on world cup dream, simply because of how difficult it seemed. You had to win 6-7 matches on a trot, based on my 2003 memory and I don’t remember our team doing that in recent past, except the T20 world cup. But, was happy to be proven wrong and loved it.

I wouldn’t go into the match itself as we all experienced it. This was probably the most watched match by Indians. Every friend and friend of friend I meet every neighbor, every acquaintance, present, past and future colleagues, in India and abroad have seen this match. But would love to comment on the change in mind set that I notice in the youth brigade. May be I am getting old now, but people like Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli or Suresh Raina definitely don’t belong to the generation of Indians we knew. Even Harbhajan and Yovraj were considered young no so long ago and aggressive, were different. They had just learned to give it back and were sometimes too loud and brash. But the generation of Gambhir, Virat and Suresh is one step ahead. There is certain calmness, some maturity about their aggression, the way they handle pressure, the way they are confident about who they are as Indians on the global stage, in some sense our generation never was, even when the hugely talented Saurav, Rahul and Sachin were part of the team.

Seeing these people, watching them play gives me inspiration and confidence that there is something right about India, that there is hope. Beyond the cacophony of our overcrowded cities, the dust bowls of our perennially broken and under construction roads, beyond the abject poverty and suicide of the farmers, beyond the sheer enormity of the population explosion, beyond the stupidity of our media and Bollywood, beyond the massive corruption among our leaders, beyond the almost defunct local governing and civic system, there is hope. Call me a romantic, but I can see it almost feel it on my nerves that lead from the eye to the brain to the heart that the road gets better and smoother ahead for India and Indians.