Sometimes, often on a sunny day, a bunch of clouds comes and blocks out the sun, even if only for a while…and the world around you changes! Sometimes this change causes a certain relief… you wipe off the sweat take a deep breath, let the breeze fall flat on your face…enjoy the those small moments of calmness and even if for few moments feel relieved from your day to day headaches. But sometimes it’s different. Its like waking up from a dream and realising that things are changing…have changed…and you are left with a sinking feeling in your stomach which you might have felt before the exams you were not prepared for. There is so much left to do!
The day Saurav retired was one such occasion! (Now am sure you were expecting something little deeper than this…but bear with me!) In our day to day job, we often lose the time, in the sense we don’t realise how time has gone by…that’s why engineering college just seems like a matter of yesterday…school in Kolkata…last week…Patna….last month maybe! And then one of these days you realise ….its been a long time since!
The T.V. at my home in Patna was 11 months younger to me. Those times colour T.Vs had just been launched in Patna, and my dad got a brand new Telerama Colour T.V. And that is why a lot of my early childhood memories consist of … Karamchand, Vikram aur betal, Football world Cup ’90 (for me it used to be yellow vs stripes and not Brazil vs Argentina), Wimbledon….etc. My conscious entry to the world of sports that is by the time I had started playing cricket etc and started understanding the game, kind of coincided with the entry of Sachin and Kambli. Being a left handed batsman myself my favourite was Kambli while my best friend, Amit’s (yeah…back then it was a rule to have best friends!) who was right handed, Sachin! In a matter of a year or two, I changed loyalties however. Let me give you a slight bit of insight about Bengali mentality- education is a must! ...higher the better…it doesn’t matter if you are the king of the world…but if you are a college drop out…too bad, lad!…you aren’t good enough. So Kumble and Sreenath in a way chastised cricket as a sport in my family… they were engineers after all!
I have never really been a die hard fan of anyone, ever… I mean, it’s not that unless its Amir Khan’s movie, I won’t watch a Bollywood movie…but cricket somehow condensed to a single entity- Sachin! The way he demolished bowlers was nothing less than watching Stallone taking on a Vietnamese platoon on his own in Rambo-II. I remember, those days if anyone asked me a synonym of devil, I would have said- Courtney Walsh, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis…’cause somehow they bowled those perfect out-swinging good length deliveries, or those in-swinging Yorkers, which used to catch my hero off-guard, and would stop him from another century or India from another win. People can talk about team game and all but back then Sachin carried the fate of the team, except on those odd days when someone else stood up and took the lead.
Then came a left handed batsman, who at least on the off-side “was next only to God!”… Saurav Ganguly. Of course being a bong myself, I have more than one reason of being extremely proud of him, but the reason I was really proud of him was…he was the only batsman in the last decade and half, who was a worthy companion of Sachin on the pitch...who even in all the brilliance of the little genius had his own aura…who made the bowlers soon realise that Sachin was not their only worry…in some cases much worse! I had never before seen a pace bowler of the stature of Shaun Pollock being so rudely mocked at…when he stepped out nearly half way down the pitch and hit him for a six over long on…or for that matter any spinner worth his name, in similar disdain, over mid-wicket.
Together and individually, they have crushed several bowling attacks, given several bowlers nightmares (quite literally)… raised sand storm on the field (Sharjah Cup, Finals)… mocked British hypocrisy right in their holy grail of cricket (Lords, Natwest Series Finals)…while I enjoyed every moment of it...tried to emulate them on field (don’t even compare…it’s a sin!)…prayed for them (more than I ever did for my IIT entrance exam)…sat on my couch in same position for hours at end, because that was lucky for them…jumped around with that pure exaltation of having achieved something amazing…as if their success was my own!
And now I will see them no more on field…through the time, I had kind of taken their presence for granted…how much ever we criticised their form, performance…age…I hadn’t prepared myself for their final departure. Ganguly’s retirement, as I said, was a harsh wake up call…a sure sign of the departure of my childhood heroes…of a change I have seen happen over the years but never really accepted… of a realisation that –“Dude! You are no more a college going student…you are no more safe from the worldly headaches…there are no more safe havens…You are on your own…Are you really up to it?”… I don’t have any pre-rehearsed answer for this…but so far things look nice…kind of promising…We won the first two matches against England…We should win this series…things are good for now…may be this will last a little more… by the time get used to the change…to the absence of my heroes!