Interview of Cricket Fans – 40

What made you fall in love with Cricket? What made you feel like, “Wow, what a beautiful sport this is”?

April 22 – Summer of 1998, a 7-year-old, enjoying a wonderful evening in Manali with the scenic view of River Beas from the balcony, didn’t know that he would be watching the best ODI innings of all time over the next few hours.

Thanks to my sister who was an avid cricket fan, we spent that evening watching the ‘Desert Storm’ innings. I had already watched a few matches live but this was when I became a fan of the game.
My sister told me that India had to win or at least lose by a narrow margin to qualify for the finals. Sachin became my hero that night. I didn’t miss watching the finals on 24th from Chandigarh.

From then my wait began for the 1999 Cricket World Cup. The entire tournament schedule was memorized and by then I had enough maturity to accept that a loss to SA was not unexpected but a loss to Zimbabwe could prove to be fatal.

When Pakistan beat Zimbabwe, India’s world cup campaign was over before their last game against NZ. I now had to support another team to keep myself occupied for the last 4 games of the tournament – including the Aus vs SA super 8s.
South Africa was the team I picked. I never liked Australia since 1998 and the Oval loss just meant I wanted them to lose whenever possible. The Semi-Final at Edgbaston – I remember watching the entire second innings. I tuned in to the TV in the evening when SA were 48/0 and then Warne bowled that magical delivery to Gibbs. The events that happened in the final over are still fresh in my memory. I watched the game on Doordarshan. I now knew that the game is going to be my life partner.

Do you remember the first time you watched this sport live? If yes, which was the stadium and which match was going on at that time?

The first live game I watched was the Kargil relief match at MA Chidambaram – Chepauk 1999. It was a game where Cricketers and Film Stars played together for the cause. It featured the likes of Kapil Dev, Kris Srikanth, Prabhu Deva and even TN Leader of Opposition MK Stalin. Kapil Dev hit a humongous six and it reached our stand.
The first test match that I watched live is an experience I will cherish for a lifetime. It was Day 3 of Ind vs Aus 2nd Test 2004 – Chepauk. I witnessed the day’s play live from the player’s pavillion, thanks to my uncle who was associated with TNCA. Sunil Gavaskar who was with the team management was sitting in front of me. I, a 13-year-old excited kid then, managed to have a brief conversation with him and he was so kind.

I also got the autographs of most members of the squad. Sachin, however, wasn’t part of the squad then. I still remember how Ganguly was mad at Kaif after his weird run-out to end India’s first innings.
Other than meeting my heroes, the day’s play in itself, was special. Warne bowled well to pick up a 6 fer. India bowled well in the second innings and the day ended with Kumble dismissing Gilchrist to give India the advantage.

Tell me in your words about Indian Cricket. What do you like about it the most?

Indian Cricket has been my life partner for more than 22 years now. I tend to connect every major event that has happened in my life with a match India played during that period.

India didn’t have a great time during my initial days as a Cricket fanatic but no matter what the result is, it was a delight to see the team playing.

Imagine an 8-year-old cheering for his side bundling out the champion team SA for 117 during his quarterly vacation (LG Cup 1999) and waking up early in the morning during his half-yearly vacation to see his team being humiliated by the World Champions (Ind vs Aus – 1999/00)

The results didn’t matter but the experience did. The match-fixing Saga did affect me considering the fact that I was a fan of both Azhar and Jadeja, but I still believed we won the 2000 Series against SA since we played well and not due to other reasons.
Ganguly Era gave so much happiness with Border Gavaskar 2001 series and Natwest, but it was so painful to see us constantly getting panicky in tournament finals.
Dravid Era made us world-class chasers and gave us the happiness of witnessing overseas victories. I believe Dravid got the captaincy at the right time and I wouldn’t blame Greg Chappel entirely for asking Ganguly to step down, though he should have been a better communicator.
Dhoni gave us the satisfaction that yes, India can produce a world-class wicket keeper batsman. His batting was unbelievable during the 2008 to 2011 period. It is a no brainer that he was the best-limited overs captain that India ever had although I feel he delayed his ODI retirement and took early retirement in Tests where he could have continued after handing over captaincy to Virat.

Its high time we win an ICC tournament and I believe we have the team to win at least 2 of the next 3 ICC tournaments, but we shouldn’t tinker too much with the squad. It’s high time Kohli has a clear plan and him winning the IPL with RCB could actually help India.

Your favourite Indian Cricketer?

Without a doubt, it has to Sachin Tendulkar. The reason why I started watching the game. The reason why I love this game. Among the current generation, it has to be Virat. I can’t wait to see him score a match-winning century in 2023 WC Final in Ahmedabad.

Your favourite IPL team? And IPL player? And why?

Chennai Boy – Obvious Answer CSK, but I never make it obvious since I am very vocal in my criticism of the team.  No other team lifting the trophy gives me as much happiness as Chennai lifting it. Dhoni the master tactician and N Srinivasan the God-Father form a wonderful duo responsible for the consistency of the team despite all the challenges they have faced over the years. MI was my favourite for as long as Sachin played for them. The 2010 Final was bitter-sweet.

Which is your favourite format of the game? What do you like about it the most?

Test Cricket – The Best form of cricket.
Watching Dravid and Laxman Bat the entire 4th day in Kolkata for Harbhajan to weave his magic on Day 5.

Your favourite overseas player?

If I had to pick one, it would be Adam Gilchrist. What an amazing player he was. When he played against India, I wanted him to score runs but others to fall cheaply so that India had a chance. Gwalior 2003 would be one such instance when that happened. Two 50s and 149 in world cup finals – Talk about nerves – Need I say more?
By the way, his picture was my Orkut DP way back in 2009 and DC won that IPL edition 😀 

Your all-time XI?

Here’s my 11, that can do well in both Tests and ODIs:
G Smith
M Hayden
R Ponting
S Tendulkar
B Lara
J Kallis
A Gilchrist
W Akram
S Warne
G McGrath
M Muralitharan

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