Interview of Cricket Fans – 63

Thank you for your participation in this interview, tell us how did you fall in love with this sport? And what does this sport mean to you?

First of all, thanks a lot for this one Jay, it means a lot. I first watched cricket around 1998 when I was about 4-years-old & I was able to watch the “Desert Storm” innings by Sachin Tendulkar on the television, but properly fell in love with the game in 2001, just around that legendary Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test Series of 2001 between India and Australia, which featured that 32-wicket haul from Harbhajan Singh & that 281 from VVS Laxman in that epic Second Test at Kolkata. This series made me fall in love with the game & safe to say that 19 years later, that love is still going strong. Cricket for me is a source to seek an escape from my daily life and routines and be able to rejoice in the successes and understand the failures that the game brings with it.

How many times have you been to a stadium to watch a match and what was the experience like?

I’ve been to watch a cricket match on a total of 6 occasions across two legendary grounds in India, which are the Arun Jaitley Stadium (earlier the Feroz Shah Kotla) in Delhi and the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, having watched 3 tests and 3 IPL games in total across the two stadiums. The experience of watching the games at both these stadiums are completely different, yet the commonality between watching a match at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata & at the AJS, Delhi is the intense & feverish atmosphere that gets generated in both the stadiums. While the facilities for the spectators can certainly be improved upon in not only these venues, but also across all sporting venues in India, the experience I had in both the grounds was quite exhilarating as I was able to celebrate the love for the game of cricket with thousands of other cricket lovers.

Your memories when India won each of ICC event in the past 13 years?

I have quite a vivid memory of the times when the Indian team won all the three major ICC events in the past 13 years, starting with the World T20 in 2007 & was followed by the 2011 Cricket World Cup and the 2013 Champions Trophy. I was mostly at home watching the three finals. The 2011 World Cup final is one which I especially remember quite fondly as I was watching this game with my father and maternal grandfather while having dinner and the entire family was watching the final with us & the moment when MS Dhoni struck the winning six, it was probably the most euphoric celebrations that we’ve had in our house till this day, because a World Cup win is something that comes only rarely and at times, not everyone can witness it in their lifetimes. So celebrating the 2011 World Cup win was the most special for me, as I was watching the game with my family & we could all rejoice together post-victory.

Who was your idol growing up? Tell us a bit about him.

I’ve been an unabashed fan of Sachin Tendulkar and in fact, I started watching and following the game due to my liking of Sachin Tendulkar, especially after watching that “Desert Storm” innings against Australia at Sharjah in April 1998, at a time when I was only about 4 years old. To me, there have been several brilliant batsmen, especially who came in the time Sachin played and afterwards too, but nobody symbolised the collective soul of a nation the manner in which he did, whenever he stepped out on the field. The technical perfection of his batting was something that very few batsmen have matched till now and that’s why when I see a few so-called cricket fans of a certain Indian cricketer who on various social media platforms, especially on Twitter, spew unadulterated nonsense about Sachin & constantly employ excessively foul language to demean him. That is a kind of social media interaction that kind of turns me away from appreciating this great current Indian cricketer when this certain cricketer himself called Sachin his idol. Sachin Tendulkar was and is not just another cricketer, he is an experience that is to be lived and felt.

Which is that one rivalry you always look forward to whenever India plays?

For competitive reasons, the one rivalry I always look forward to following when India is playing, is their games against Australia. The India-Australia cricketing rivalry is one of the most competitive and interesting cricketing rivalries in modern-day cricket. The games between the two sides have been always worth a watch and it’s seen some exceptionally brilliant performances by legendary cricketers across both sides. My personal favourite memory of this rivalry remains the legendary 2001 Border-Gavaskar Trophy Test series in India, which saw India win the series 2-1 in a 3-test series, on the back of the 32-wicket haul by Harbhajan Singh, that epic 281 from VVS Laxman and the 180 from Rahul Dravid in that historical Kolkata Test, as well as the 2003-04 Test Series in Australia, which marked the pinnacle of India’s test batsmanship with all of Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag & Sachin Tendulkar all score epic test hundreds and double-hundreds across the 4 tests of the series, which ended in an epic 1-1 draw. But there’s another special memory I remember from this rivalry and that’s the 3rd Test of the 2007-08 Border-Gavaskar Trophy at Perth, Australia, which came at the back of the Sydney-gate fiasco & this Perth Test saw India win an epic test by 72 runs, which I have covered in my blog post about this test match.

Which is your favourite IPL team and what does it mean to you?

My favourite IPL team happens to be the Mumbai Indians and that goes back to the very first edition of the IPL back in 2008. I became a fan of this side mostly because this was the team which Sachin Tendulkar was playing for, but also because I could see one of my fantasy opening pairs of Sachin & Sanath Jayasuriya walk out together to bat, while also see Shaun Pollock join forces with Sachin, Jayasuriya, Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo, Robin Uthappa, Lasith Malinga and the likes. While their performances in the first couple of seasons weren’t up to the mark, since 2010, they’ve become one of the most fearsome teams in the IPL, winning the title on 4 occasions, coincidentally in odd-numbered years of 2013, 2015, 2017 & 2019 and always being the team to beat for all other sides in the competition. The thing that actually draws me to the Mumbai Indians over the years has been because of the way they’ve backed young Indian players & the role they’ve played in promoting the rise of two of India’s most important players in the modern-day, Jasprit Bumrah & Hardik Pandya and how this team has over the years really backed young players to become better players and even play for the country. What also makes them a side I like to watch is the manner in which they utilise the data and analytics to formulate their plans for an opposition side and the dexterity that they show in implementing that in the field of play also shows the clarity of their thought process as a side.

How has this IPL gone so far in your view?

This season’s IPL is unique in more ways than one. With the global pandemic of the Coronavirus still crippling life, the tournament has been taking place in the UAE in a bio-secure environment and the absence of fans in the grounds. The competition this season has been much closer than in any previous edition, as it was quite unprecedented that 6 out of the 8 teams were still in the contention to qualify for the playoffs stage till the last round of fixtures and how the uncapped Indian players have taken to this tournament by storm is heartening to see, especially for the health of Indian cricket. The performances of young upstarts like Suryakumar Yadav, Devdutt Padikkal, Ravi Bishnoi, Kartik Tyagi, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Varun Chakravarthy, Ishan Kishan, T. Natarajan & Shivam Mavi has been outstanding to say the very least and the emergence of Rahul Tewatia as the Miracle-Man for Rajasthan Royals this season has been the story of the IPL. For me, the 2020 IPL season has truly been one of the closest-ever editions and especially considering the situations, the BCCI, the Emirates Cricket Board and every single healthcare official and ground-staff responsible for the running of the tournament deserve immense plaudits.

You are a fan of Manchester United, tell us how long have you been following this club and what does it mean to you?

I’ve been a die-hard supporter of Manchester United since around 2004, when I started to watch football on TV. Manchester United, to me, symbolise the term “Renaissance” as they literally emerged from the ashes of the horrific air-crash at Munich in 1958, which saw them lose a majority of their first team, but came back from that and became the first English team to win the European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League) in 1968. United has been a team which has always pulled me towards supporting them because of their ingrained belief to trust young home-grown players and back them wholeheartedly, which has seen players like Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville, David Beckham, Marcus Rashford and such players become major legends of the game. Even to this day, when the team hasn’t been performing well, my support for them hasn’t decreased even a little bit and I still retain the optimism that they will get back to the top echelons of European football once again, if they can get the background in order, such as ensuring that footballing decisions should be handled by footballing people, so having a Director of Football is critical at United. So if the boardroom issues can be resolved and the Manager Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is backed properly & improves upon his tactics even further, and the deadwood players and certain other players whose presence is creating a possible atmosphere of toxicity in the dressing room are removed, the club can once again compete at the highest levels.

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