DUAL INTERVIEW – North Stand Gang – 1
J – Tell us your early memories of this sport.
Sagar Walve: A cricket bat was one of the first things I held as a toddler. Ever since playing and watching cricket has been an inseparable aspect of living life. Started following the game as a 9-year-old in 1995 and the 1996 World Cup was the first big tournament that captured my imagination & there was no turning back.
Vinayak Anawalikar: My earliest cricketing memories, albeit very faint, revolve around India’s home series against England in 1981-82. Years later, I was overjoyed to read the book titled “Cricketwallah” by Scyld Berry on this series. I have vivid memories of India’s return tour to England in the summer of 1982, billed as the clash of all-rounders, followed by the series against Pakistan later that year.
But it was the series against West Indies which helped cement my love affair with this wonderful game. Listening to the commentary on a radio transistor late into the night was an unforgettable experience. And then the 1983 WC happened.
J – What is the positive impact of this sport in life?
Sagar Walve: Life is like cricket. Every day is like a new ball whether you face it as a batsman or you are the bowler. Problems come at you like fast swinging deliveries and you have to patiently bat out and the risks you take in life are the balls that you bowl expecting to scalp the big prize. So that’s the impact of cricket is the way to put life in perspective.
Vinayak Anawalikar: As a kid, I remember watching Sunil Gavaskar’s Marathi movie “Savli Premachi” (Shadow of Love) in which he sings “He Jeevan Mhanje Cricket Raja Hukla To Sampla” (In life, as in cricket, if you miss, you get hit)
But for me, cricket is about memories. I can relate events in my life/career with the cricket matches (domestic/international), played in that particular phase. Cricket is a way of indulging and enjoying the joyous moments from the past.
J – Which cricketer’s story inspires you the most?
Sagar Walve: A middle-class Bombay boy, shy and unassuming, achieving unimaginable feats against mightiest opponents eventually ruling the world & hearts of billions, and all this through sheer hard work, ethics & unflinching discipline. Is there a more inspiring story! Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar!
Vinayak Anawalikar: My generation (and a generation before that) has grown up watching Sunil Gavaskar’s batting (and if I may add, Amitabh’s Bachchan’s films and Lata Mangeshkar’s songs)
So my favourite and also the most inspiring cricketer has to be Sunil Gavaskar. Cricket is a metaphor for life. Gavaskar’s single-minded dedication and epic powers of concentration are worth emulating in real life too.
J – Early memories of being a member of North Stand Gang?
Sagar Walve: Have been involved with NSG almost since it’s inception. 2011 India vs West Indies was the first test we saw together and what a test match that was. This was followed by the India England test and Monty’s (one of the) ball of the century and then many more matches. The best part has always been the straight view, behind the bowler’s arm & the chants that keep the game alive even in the most dead periods of a test match.
Vinayak Anawalikar: Compared to my other cricket fanatic friends in the gang, I am a relatively new entrant. 1st August 2019, to be precise, was my first interaction with NSG.
I came across a thread on Frank Worrell by NSG, wrote something of my own, tagged them, followed them and became one of them.
Co-incidentally, I was present at Brabourne stadium for the Test against SL in 2009, without knowing North Stand Gang was taking shape and that our paths would converge 10 years later
J – How long you have been associated with NSG and how has been the experience so far?
Sagar Walve: So it’s been a decade now and the experience..the journey has been nothing less of amazing. NSG has members from all walks of life & I’ve made some really good friends in the process. From a group of 10 individuals now we are almost 70 of which at least 30-40 turn up for a game at Wankhede and then the fun begins.
And now NSG has its own playing squad. So we are not your usual fans but fans who actually play the game properly. We have our net sessions almost every weekend. And we play matches with both leather & tennis ball.
Vinayak Anawalikar: I have been a part of NSG for the last year and a half. It is one of the best things to have happened to me after I became active on social media, mainly Twitter.
Phenomenal knowledge and keen understanding of the game is what sets NSG apart. For me, one of the best parts about NSG is the focus on domestic cricket in India and remembering the forgotten heroes of the past.
The other thing I love about NSG is, so many are working silently behind the scenes to ensure that NSG appears a well-oiled machine on social media platforms.
J – It must feel great to have a gang of passionate fans who share the same enthusiasm towards the sport. What was the inspiration behind it?
Sagar Walve: One thing NSG is never short of, is a passion. Even on a non-match day, the NSG WhatsApp group is buzzing with selection news, player updates, ranking debates, etc. There are easily 1000+ messages. And on match days there are 1000 msgs in a matter of an hour.
And the fact that NSG has members who are into their 50s, some just turned 18 and even a few ladies show enthusiasm towards cricket.
Vinayak Anawalikar: We are T20 fans during IPL, Ranji Trophy fans during Ranji matches, ODI fans during ODIs, and Test cricket fans during Tests. Basically, we love all forms of cricket.
We are vociferous in our support of India, but we do not hesitate to applaud good cricket even when the opposing team is doing well. Coming together from such diverse backgrounds and ages, to discuss and enjoy cricket…there can be only one inspiration…. GENUINE love for the game. You will find that in abundance at NSG
J – What is your favourite NSG moment of all time?
Sagar Walve: I think our favorite moment was ironically not in Wankhede! getting recognition from Vijay Lokapally Sir & then getting to meet SMG in person was a pure joy & an unparalleled sense of satisfaction.
Vinayak Anawalikar: On Twitter, there have been many. Especially when the cricket legends interact with you, albeit through NSG handle. Personally, it would be meeting the core NSG team on 5th November 2019 on the occasion of the publication of Anindya Dutta’s book, Wizards.
Also had an opportunity to meet my favourite stars like Dilip Vengsarkar, Dilip Doshi, Padmakar Shivalkar, and Lalchand Rajput during this event.
The other remarkable thing is we get to interact with senior journalists and our mentor Shri Vijay Lokapally Ji on a regular basis.
J – What does a typical day of NSGian look like on match days in Wankhede stadium?
Sagar Walve: Well a typical match day begins with a lot of calls & messages to ensure that all 30-40 NSGians arrive on time and at the proper gate. Usually, all of us take the train to arrive at Marine Lines and then the long queues to enter, the longer the queue the more the buzz and excitement. Of course, everyone comes in the customary NSG white classic tee. Also, we advise everyone to have a heavy breakfast/lunch depending on a day/night match. This is mandatory, considering the overpriced and low quality food served in the stadium. Sometimes a few of us meet up at Kayani bakery for a quick meal. We start entering the stadium at least 45-60 mins before to catch a glimpse of players, experts and interact with them with our chants.
Vinayak Anawalikar: Lockdown has meant I haven’t had a chance to watch any match live with friends at NSG in Wankhede. Hopefully, the forthcoming England series and the IPL 2021 will provide that opportunity.
J – Which was the favourite match you enjoyed the most as a part of this gang?
Sagar Walve: Can’t single out one match, every match has been memorable! India winning or losing is secondary! Wearing that NSG tee, joining the gang outside Wankhede, walking into the NS as if you own Wankhede, and then blowing the roof off. Can’t ask for more right?
Our collaboration with Mumbai Indians and Star Sports where NSGians ensured a virtual stadium atmosphere during the IPL was a memorable one.
Vinayak Anawalikar: Haven’t been lucky enough to watch any game live with the gang as yet, but talking of enjoying it online, the favourite has to be the recent Test win against Australia at the MCG.