Dear to whomsoever it may concern with Cricket,

I am a cricket fan like countless other Indians & I’ve been one even before I could get my vocabulory in order. My mom often recalls the time when I was just 1 and a half (Yes, 1&a half), with a small wooden bat in hand, and a left-handers stance, I used to call on to my brother, “aee aee! (bowl bowl!)”

Over the years, the fascination for the game headed north when I saw real ‘men’ playing in whites, and at times, in my favourite blue. Then along came a certain Sachin Tendulkar. He was just 18 at the time. It was 1991 (a couple of years after his debut). While he was a star in the making, he hadn’t attained the demi-god status that he’s been unfairly given now. But something about him made me seriously pick up the game, even though I could hardly pick up a ‘season’ bat.

No matter what, I was there to support you guys. Tigers at home and cats abroad, we were tagged. I didn’t care. I was an eternal optimist. We were often embarassed and laid low by our opponents. For me though, they were just because of poor umpiring, or unfair treatment, or just pure bad luck. We lost because we lost the toss, I told myself, and others. Yes, I did criticize when we were sloppy, which was more often than not, but that was more often than not, just to join the popular voice.

I joined Venky in giving Aamir Sohail a farewell he deserved in that famous QF at Bangalore in 1996. I rejoiced when we thrashed the ‘Pakis’ yet again. I cried with Kambli when he walked out of Eden in the Semis. For I ‘agreed’ with him that we could somehow pull this one off. For the next couple of years, I looked at Sri Lanka and Clive Lloyd as ‘cheaters.’ I saw red when Bishop’s no-ball went unnoticed and India eventually succumbed chasing 120 at Barbados.

I hated the Delhi Police when they supposedly caught Hansie Cronje on tape. I disbelieved their talks about involvement of Indian cricketers. Then Cronje opened up. Skeletons fells out in South Africa. I felt betrayed. Yet, when he walked out of the press conference crying, I was one of the rare folks who felt pity! I wondered why! If anyone, I was to feel pity on myself for watching game(s) that was/were supposedly pre-decided! Then they found evidences against some of our own. And I still refused to believe, so what if our Board agreed with the CBI!
Then came the turn around. I was down on my knees with Sameer Dighe after Bhajji hit the winning runs to kill the Aussie winning streak! I leaped in the air when skipper Saurav went parallel to the ground after his 100 at Brisbane. I pumped my fist with Dravid after that famous victory at Adelaide. And I sledged Steve Waugh with Parthiv Patel when he saved them the blushes at Sydney.
I almost did a bare-chested dance with Sourav at the Lords Pavilion. I knocked out Kaif with Sourav. The emergence of youth and re-emergence of Indian cricket gave me goose-bumps. The poster of ‘Brave New India’ adorned my bedroom wall. India was winning again. Abroad. We were shedding our cat spots abroad, and putting on the tiger’s attire! We were no longer lambs for slaughter.
Along came the World Cup. Sachin’s square cut over point of Shoaib brought out a “Take that loser!” We rolled over every team, barring those men in yellow. But a final after 20 years was not a bad bargain!
I stood by you when you went back down. I thought, against hope that Greg and Sourav can work together. They didn’t. India suffered. A first round exit in the Caribbean and he was kicked out for good. When all hopes were dashed, you guys got home the T20 World Cup! I was that fan who stayed to my seat unmoved till Sree held onto that catch.
I cried foul when Steve Bucknor got it all wrong at Sydney, when the Aussies ‘cheated’ their way to victory. I was there to support Bhajji as he defended some serious racism allegations. And when we slammed the Aussies in the CB series tri-series final, it was the revenge that I was looking for.
I supported when Lalit Modi brought out IPL. I felt the purists were being unreasonable. So what if every six and catch were sponsored? So what if they showed firangs dancing after every wicket or boundary? For me, it was all about cricket! I saluted the legend from the third tier at Wankhede when he hit his first T20 century last year. Talks of malpractices in funding, bidding etc didn’t bother me. I was enjoying the cricket.
When the world around bitched about BCCI, I supported you. I thought we deserved the high-handedness we showed. We gave ‘them’ (ICC) money.
Then came the moment we all waited for throughout our lifetime. The fact that I high-fived my dad for the first ever time in life says a lot about that victory at Wankhede. Thank you MSD and Co! You did it for Sachin? I didn’t care! You did it for me!
Farewells along the way for legends like Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid, gave me a tear or two. Yes, we got humiliated in England and Australia. Like a typical Indian fan, I reacted too! The guy who coolly rotated his bat after slamming Kulasekara over long-on was now no longer of being the skipper. Yet, I loved MSD!
I was not entirely angry when Pakistani cricketers were caught red-handed while spot-fixing. As long as they were not Indians, I was fine with it. We were too clean. Well, till recently. Cricketers caught on tape. Indian cricketers! Talking about spot-fixing, under-the-table black money, using women for luring etc. Barely did the investigation begin, you guys gave us more. Manhandling, abusing, sexual assault, and what not.
I am disappointed. IPL V gave me some awesome cricket, close matches, heart-breaks on the field. But it’s slowly meandering towards a dangerous territory. A territory that has got everything, but cricket! And rest assured, I won’t be a citizen there. Can some sense prevail and parity be restored? Waiting.
With Love,
An Indian Cricket Fan (Still)

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