J – Thank you for your participation in this interview, tell us a bit about yourself as a cricket fan.
Thanks for having me, Jay. So my love affair with cricket started at the age of 9. Just like any other kid, I used to play cricket everywhere – in my room, in my society and on playgrounds. My dad used to watch a lot of cricket matches. I just used to sit with him and try to learn what’s happening on the field. Since then it’s been quite a journey. Being a cricket fan has its challenges. There’s so much you get to experience within such a short amount of time. But it’s my life now. Don’t want to change a thing about that.
J – What are your early memories of this sport?
India vs Pakistan 2007 T20 World Cup. The league match between the two teams is the very first thing I remember about cricket. And that bowl out at the end was such an interesting concept to me as a kid. And after a few days came the historic 6 sixes by Yuvraj Singh. That sealed the deal for me. That was when I officially fell in love with the game. That was when I forced my parents to enrol me in a cricket academy because God knows I had the self believe(read overconfidence) to hit 6 sixes. Well, within two days I got to know it ain’t easy and not happening anytime soon. But it was just the start of an 8-year long journey of playing this beautiful game.
J – Did you get the chance to watch the game live from the stadium? If yes, how was your experience?
Yes. The very first match was of a tournament called Indian Cricket League. I think Kapil Dev was the head of that tournament. That was the very first experience for me. But the first International match I saw was between India and Australia at Mohali. Both Tendulkar and Ponting were playing in that game. It was a surreal experience, to be honest. Watching two of the greats doing what they do best is something I won’t forget ever.
The other amazing experience was the India vs South Africa Test match at Mohali in 2015. I remember it was Virat Kohli’s birthday that day. Fortunately, I was sitting with Sudhir Ji, Sachin’s famous fan. He told me about his journey and what Sachin sir meant to him. We also sang ‘Happy Birthday Cheeku’ from the stands. The stadium was only 30-40% full. So whatever we were shouting was reaching to Virat (he was standing at the slips). So we kept on shouting ‘O Kohli.. Silly Point La Le (Keep a silly point)’. After a few minutes, he looked at us, smiled and did a thumbs up. The very next over, there was a silly point. I mean I am not taking any credit but I don’t mind thinking that I captained India for an over :p
J – Who was your favourite cricketer growing up and who is your favourite player currently?
While growing up it was Yuvi Pa. Yuvraj Singh is my all-time favourite cricketer. That man is a fighter. The bat swing he had was a work of an artist. He was a magical southpaw from the north. He played the best tournament of his life with a tumour inside him. This perfectly defines his character and his love for the game. He cried out of pain for weeks just so that 125 crore people could have tears of joy. He tolerated so much pain because there was a man in his team (Sachin) who was playing his last World Cup in the hope of lifting that trophy once. He walked in pain so that Indian cricket could take a leap forward. He was a force to reckon with. Sadly, he didn’t get the farewell he deserved.
My current favourite player is Virat Kohli. This guy has redefined cricket for me. The passion he has for the game is unmatched. The way he transformed himself from a chubby kid to a fit athlete is a huge lesson for everyone. It takes immense discipline and hard work to reach where he is today. I was always jealous of my parents that they got an opportunity to witness Sachin in his prime. I always used to wonder if I’ll ever get to watch someone of that calibre in my life. Then came a youngster from Delhi who gave this generation some great cricketing moments to remember for their whole life.
J – White ball or Red ball? Your preferred format? And why?
Oh. Easy. Red ball. Anyday. I always say this: T20 is a Moment, ODI is a Phase, but Test cricket is Life. You can enjoy a moment, you can cherish a phase, but you have to live a life. Same way, you have to live a Test match. It’s a roller coaster of emotions. And the recently concluded Border-Gavaskar Trophy is a perfect example of that. Who would have thought India would come back home with the trophy after winning the series 2-1. What India did against Australia in their den is something many people would remember their whole life and would also pass on to their next generation.
Sadly, this generation is more inclined towards T20 cricket. If you go out and ask, many kids would know that Tewatia scored 5 sixes against Cottrell but not many would know or realise the importance of Pujara and his knocks. It’s not that I don’t like white-ball cricket, it’ just that Test cricket is what gets my heart racing. Maxwell smashing the bowler is amazing but bowlers trying to get through Pujara’s defence is what brings a smile to my face. A player like Hanuma Vihari, who knows he will not be playing the next match, survives 45 overs on one leg to save the match he is playing. He walked on one leg so that his team could stay in the race for the trophy. Where else will you get to watch that?
J – How has IPL changed cricket in your view?
IPL is to a cricketer what flight simulation is to a pilot. Obviously not exactly the same. What I am trying to say is that a youngster needs IPL to know how it feels to play against the best players in the world. Sharing the dressing room with Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Jasprit Bumrah, Kagiso Rabada, etc can help a youngster in more ways than one. Indian cricket has benefited a lot from IPL. Having said that, I don’t think youngsters should make IPL or even T20 cricket for that matter, their final aim. Each and every young player should aspire to play Test cricket for their country.
These leagues are good for entertainment but the focus should always be red-ball cricket. You learn your skills in domestic cricket and polish them in IPL with the help of all the experienced players you play with or against. IPL had a very huge role to play in our win against Australia this time. We had so many debutants but they were ready to take on any challenge. The atmosphere was not new to them. They have played against the likes of Smith, Warner, Cummins, etc. All in all, IPL is really good but it’s not the best for cricket.
J – Share your thoughts on Cricket Twitter.
Cricket Twitter is a strange place. It’s a place where you’ll find everything. People loving what you hate and people hating what you love. You just have to deal with it. Cricket Twitter, while a live match is going on, is nothing less than a circus. Hundreds of people showing their emotions all at once. For me, the best thing about cricket on Twitter is people from different countries coming together to discuss cricket. I have mutuals from all over the world. I get to learn so much. But it also has it’s downside.
There are some elements who think they own Twitter, or cricket or a player. The worst of them is who think women have no right to comment on cricket. How absurd is this? I literally see men telling women to stop commenting on cricket because they don’t know anything about it. If given an option, these men would send copyright strikes to girls for every cricket tweet they do. I have seen so many women who know and write cricket better than any ‘expert’ out there.
Cricket Twitter is for everyone. Come here, express your feelings and leave. Leaving is the most important thing. It’s just social media. To conclude, for me, Cricket Twitter, if used in the right way, can help you a lot. I am a journalist, so it is expected that I should be serious on Twitter. But I have my job for being serious. Here, I can be serious and also my fun self. Actually yes, another bad thing about Cricket Twitter – Rohitians, Viratians and MSDians. It’s hard to find INDians amongst them.
J – If given a chance to meet a cricketer, who would it be? And what would your first few words be?
Two Cricketers – Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli. Well, I would thank both of them for everything they are doing for Indian cricket at the moment. And I have A LOT of questions for them.
Also Ben Stokes actually. The World Cup final and that Headingley Test. Again, so many questions.
J – You interviewed Simon Taufel before, how was the experience?
Emotional. It was very emotional in more ways than one. First of all, it was the first-ever interview of my life. I still remember standing outside his room before the interview and having a flashback of everything I did to reach there. All the daydreaming, the hard work, everything. It was a feature interview. I was not supposed to be in the frame. But I had to ask him questions. And it was not an easy topic to talk about. He recalled every little detail of the 2009 Terror Attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore. He was in one of those buses. He told me everything, from the morning of that day till the evacuation from the stadium. I knew about the incident, but hearing it from someone present there was something else.
Then we talked about Yuvi Pa’s 6 sixes, the India vs Pakistan 2011 Semi-Final and the 2011 World Cup final. He was present in all three matches. We also talked about the 2019 World Cup final and what he thinks of the umpire’s mistake. He agreed that the umpire made some serious mistakes there (Sorry England Fans).
As they say, firsts are always special. So this will always remain one of the most special moments of my life.
J – What is your all-time XI?
AB De Villiers
Coach: Ravi Shastri (Because I don’t want these 11 players to think about the Pitch if you know what I mean)
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