As an eight-year old boy in 1995, I was told that my grandmother had died. Everyone around me was sad. I got to know that I was also supposed to feel sad. Well, I couldn't remember how I felt then. For an eight-year old sadness revolved around tiffs with friends and occasional scoldings and beatings from his father. There was nothing much more than that. Then the Wills Cricket World cup 1996 happened. India lost to Sri Lanka in an ugly semi-final at the Eden Gardens. Unbridled tears flowed from my eyes. A game; a team of eleven players. They taught me what sadness was.
Interest in cricket can always be expected from any school going boy in India. After all, the whole nation follows the game with such enthusiasm. On top of that, I had parents who loved cricket and never restricted me from following or playing the game. But the emotions that coursed through me even at the age of eight when watching a cricket match can be attributed to three people. Two of my Uncles who followed the game with such passion and craze, which, to this date, I have not seen anyone else match and one player who seemed to perpetrate magic on a cricket field.
As I became older I was expected to become mature. I did become mature to a certain extent in all aspects of my life, save cricket. Cricket still dominated my emotions and has been doing so for the past seventeen years. Instead of becoming reticent with age, I became a more vociferous cricket fan. Indian losses were simply indigestible and the emotional rage I felt at moments of faulty plays during the course of Indian matches often spilled over to my surroundings. Indeed, there has been many an occasion when my mother, sister or father had to bear the brunt of my anger. Graduating from school to college changed nothing. It, in fact, made me even more passionate about the game since I was surrounded by guys as fanatic about Indian cricket as myself. Cricket was always a thread of discussion, a way of bonding and a topic of heated arguments. Indian wins were celebrated and losses were punctuated with abusive tirades. When Indian matches coincided with my brief visits to home from hostel, there were more surprises in store for my parents. I had added some choicest abuse words to my already temperamental cricket alter-ego.
In retrospect, I am sure people around me were a worried lot. There have been many who have questioned my behaviour during an Indian cricket match. Was there a meaning to this madness? What was the eventual purpose of spending eight emotion-ridden hours before the TV every time India played a match? These were the questions put to me by many people. Others gave advice like 'cricket is a game after all' and 'winning and losing are part of sport'. I was not able to answer these doubters and was in no mood to accept their advice. Something will happen, I kept telling to myself.
World cup 2007 happened. India's unceremonious exit prompted me to ask these questions to myself. Was there, after all, a meaning to this madness? Are these doubters indeed correct? Should I mellow down and see it just as a game? But even if I had tried to mellow down, I couldn't have done it. Some people smoke cigarettes. Some people drink alcohol. Some people take drugs. I follow Indian cricket. It is an addiction. This madness will stay with me, I thought. And I feared it. What if everything becomes a meaningless aberration? 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007; each of these years brought renewed hope but, in the end, paved way to emptiness and frustration.
2011 also brought with it a renewed hope. A hope accentuated by the hype surrounding it. 'India are favourites' they told. I felt a mix of thrill and apprehension on hearing those words. India started its World Cup campaign and the league phase rekindled feelings of deja vu. This time the rage became monumental. It was maybe due to the hype of hope. I lost my senses after the string of shoddy performances by India in the league phase. Amrith, my closest friend and someone who understands my cricket alter-ego better than others, can vouch for this fact. When the knock outs started I was more skeptic and less expectant. That was when the second phase of the Indian World cup began. It said 'Go on my Friend. Don't stop your dreams just as yet'. The emotions reached fever pitch. Thankfully our performance matched the soaring emotions.
Yesterday at 11:00 pm it finally happened. The dream merged with the reality. 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2007 faded into nothingness. The pulsating emotions inside me burst out in the form of tears. I had found a meaning to this madness.
India had won the WORLD CUP... I had won the WORLD CUP