In a tropical country far far away, around the same time, a small boy watched engrossed, as a few of his countrymen battled it out on foreign lands that had nice sounding names like Sydney, Adelaide and Tasmania. Though the group of men did not do well, one lad with mad curly hair was busy driving his bat through covers, midwicket and the hearts of every person fortunate to see him play. I fell so much in love with him and the game that he became my synonym for eveything that was beautiful, and there developed a love for the game that was passionate, unadulterated and often bordered on the extreme. Over the years, my immature teenage mind confused this love for Indian cricket with patriotism and every win, facile or great, made the so-called Indian in me even prouder. In 2002, it wasnt just Saurav who waved his shirt on a Lord's balcony, so did seven boys on a college mess table in Belgaum, Karnataka.
Summer holidays came and went, but they always brought with them, in the Narayanan household a new scorebook made from cheap notebooks. Each of these scorebooks would have a picture of Sachin ( cut from an 'India Today') on its cover. And displayed proudly on the first page were the names of the eight Sector 55 Noida boys who would, "of course", one day play for India.
Over the years we woke up at 430 am to watch, groggy eyed, our heroes play test matches Down Under. We ran to tea shops (they usually had transistors) when electricity cheated on us and Robin Singh stood between South Africa and victory; we rode our bikes all around Noida that 2003 night when India beat Pakistan in the worldcup; we played in the rain, we played in the hottest June afternoons, we played on blisteringly cold december Delhi mornings. We did it all.
And now Lalit Modi tells me and the English County board that ODI's have reached their saturation point, test matches are redundant and that franchisees should buy out players if their national boards dont allow them to play in these commercial leagues. Lalit Modi and his rich friends believe, and maybe correctly, that players can be tempted to play for franchisees even if they are not allowed to represent their countries, on the basis of superior money power. Now Mr Modi, how do I explain to you that to my once teenage mind, India, cricket, glory and pride were all synonyms. How do I tell you that though you call test matches redundant, I still like to set my alarm so that I can see Lee bowl to VVS at six am. Will you ever understand that for me Sachin was the most handsome man and throughout my boyhood days I wanted him to marry Steffi Graf, that beautiful girl from Germany. You my friend understand business, I know love.
The BCCI might still exonerate you Lalit, but even at the cost of introducing an expletive for the very first time in my cricket writings, fuck you bastard, and may the lord strike you so hard that you suffer much more than those poor innocent Bosnians ever do.
To the glorious game, its traditions and all its lovers, a silent nod.