Interview of Cricket Fans – 157
J – Thank you for your participation in this interview, firstly tell us a bit about yourself as a cricket fan and your early memories of the game.
Hi, my name is Abhishek Chakraborty. I am from Kolkata. I work in the income tax department as a senior tax assistant. My love for cricket started during the 1996 world cup which was 25 years ago. I was hardly 8 years old back then and I fell in love with the beautiful sport as I was watching it for the first time. I remember that the World Cup began on 14th February 1996 and the opening ceremony was at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. That World Cup was a memorable one for so many reasons. I fell in love with Sachin Tendulkar automatically, it was a one-man show for India in that world cup. However, Brian Lara, Mark Waugh were not too far behind. It was Sri Lanka’s World Cup. I thought Jayasuriya and Kaluwitharana changed the dynamics of ODI batting in the powerplays in that World Cup. I still remember the quarter-final against Pakistan, the defending champions at Bangalore in that World Cup and the way Prasad gave an epic send-off to Aamir Sohail and we beat them after they got off to a great start but it was disappointing to lose to Sri Lanka in the semi-finals because Azharuddin won the toss and elected to field and the form Sri Lanka was in, it was a massive blunder and the fact that the match was played at Kolkata broke my heart more as I could hardly sleep that night when Sri Lanka was awarded the match after the crowd erupted and play was suspended. However, those were the initial memories of the beginning of my cricketing journey as a fan.
J – Tell us what is it like growing up in Kolkata with respect to Cricket.
Well, as everyone knows, people of Kolkata are very passionate about both cricket and football, so being a Bong guy, these are the two sports I have played and followed since my childhood but yes I do follow cricket a lot more than football because I love it more and it’s been an amazing sport and it’s a sport which unites everyone. Thinking about an Indo Pak World Cup game or a semi-final or a final in the World Cup always gives me Goosebumps. I remember taking sleeping peels before the World Cup semi-final against Pakistan at Mohali in 2011 because I was so tensed that night and nothing could describe the feeling because it was the mother of all battles and especially a World Cup semi-final is absolutely a high voltage clash. So cricket always boils in my blood. Getting up at 3.30 in the morning to watch a test match in New Zealand or 5.30 morning to watch a test match in Australia especially during the winters has been a trend since my childhood specially when India travels there. Also, when I was a teenager, I could hardly forget the 1999 world cup which happened during the summer vacations and the 2003 World Cup where India did so well under the leadership of Sourav Ganguly who is regarded as the prince of Kolkata. Also, the 2001 test match at Eden Gardens and Laxman and Dravid’s epic partnership on a 4th-day pitch against a quality bowling lineup like Australia and then Harbhajan getting them out one after the other on the 5th day was something the entire world can’t forget. So, growing up in Kolkata with all these wonderful memories made me a die-hard cricket fan for life.
J – How has your journey been as a KKR fan?
Well, my journey being a KKR fan has been wonderful. It didn’t start on a good note though, with KKR not doing well in the first three seasons but since Gautam Gambhir took charge of this team, the results started coming in automatically. I can hardly forget both the nights of the IPL finals in 2012 and 2014 when KKR won both the finals chasing two big totals and both the games seemed to slip away from their hands but they still managed to win them. 2014 was special because I started meeting KKR players frequently and since then the journey has been smooth for me. We didn’t win any trophies since then but as a KKR fan, I did meet so many wonderful cricketers whom I could never imagine in my wildest dreams be it Wasim Akram, Jacques Kallis, Sourav Ganguly, Gautam Gambhir, Sunil Narine, Yusuf Pathan, Andre Russell, Manish Pandey, Nitish Rana, Dinesh Karthik, Pat Cummins, Eoin Morgan, Suryakumar Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav. This year, though the IPL was suspended in the middle, I got an opportunity to shoot with Star Sports as the KKR superfan at my home and it was featured on Knight Club. So the journey from a fan to a superfan has been wonderful for me and I can never forget meeting these cricketers, the conversation I had with them and this would stay with me for the rest of my life but I would also want KKR to win more IPL titles because since 2014 we have not done that and it is very saddening to see them not even qualifying for the playoffs for the last two seasons and this season also they are at seven currently, so I believe they need to raise the bar and play well to bring some smiles on the faces of fans like me who ardently support them every year.
J – When was the first time you heard of the name ‘Sachin Tendulkar’?
Well, the first time I heard the name Sachin Tendulkar was when I was 5 years old and I went for an interview for UKG in school and the principal asked me who Sachin Tendulkar is. Unfortunately, I could not answer that which I still regret that and I didn’t get an admission that year in the school and got an epic scolding from my parents since I could not say that but since that day I knew who Sachin Tendulkar is and he became my favourite player since the 1996 World Cup. When I was a kid, I used to buy magazines and read about his interviews, I followed him a lot. His batting stance, his straight drives, cover drives, on drives, sweeps, cut shots. I even used to imitate him while batting in street cricket and I watched him play for so many years, so when he retired, it brought tears to my eyes as I knew I would never be able to watch him play for India again. Also, I would never forget the day I met him in person last year at Kolkata. I greeted him with folded arms and he did the same then I sat beside him for a photograph during an event where he answered my question that what he was feeling when he went in to bat in his 200th and last test match at Wankhede Stadium against West Indies and how nervous was he feeling when the camera started showing his mom, his brother, his wife and children. He answered that and smiled at me. That moment is surreal and I would never ever forget it because he has been my hero since childhood and sitting beside him was just a dream come true for me. I felt like meeting god that day.
J – What do you think is going to happen on the 18th?
I believe India are the no.1 test team in the world and they deserve to win the WTC final like the way they approached and played test cricket over the years especially in Australia, they showed character playing with so many injuries and still beating Australia 2-1 that was really unimaginable and highly commendable, on the other hand, I believe NZ has won all the series at home and they have not done well on away tours. However, the conditions may decide the outcome of this game. Since English pitches will suit their style of play a lot and also their record against India in ICC tournaments is very good. India have not won an ICC tournament since the 2013 champions trophy and also India are yet to beat NZ in an ICC tournament since the 2003 World Cup but at the same time NZ have never been able to cross the line in ICC tournaments since beating India in the ICC knockout 2000 so I have a strong feeling that it will be a close game and India are going to win the World Test Championship 2021 because I believe that the experience and the fearlessness Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri have injected in this team, this team believes it can win from anywhere. Wish them all the best and I hope they win the World Test Championship final and bring joy to the faces of so many people who are having tough times in this Pandemic. Chak de India.
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