What makes people take their life over a mere sport? Like the Kolkata man did over Dhoni’s run out, widely regarded as the pivotal moment in India’s dashed hopes of making it to the World Cup final. This sport has made grown men and women break down in ways completely unimaginable. The World Cup final proved that nice guys do not finish last. While England won, based on some archaic rule, underdogs New Zealand, won the hearts of anyone obsessed with this sport, which is often called the gentleman’s game. And in this final, it appeared the nicest boys in the game lost to the inventors and often the ones most vilified by Indians worldwide, thanks to our colonial past.
Sports, religion, culture and life. There seems to be no semblance of a difference, given the behavior of cricket teams on the pitch; like the laidback party vibes of the West Indies, a modern South Africa, emerging from the shadows of apartheid, not to speak of Pakistan and Bangladesh forever trying to assert their stamp over their proverbial father, India.
Meanwhile, India struggles with the worst hangover ever. A sport that is tailor made to the age old Indian values of guru-shishya, discipline, mindfulness, rigor, slogging without reward, and a deep defiance to the colonial sword of the British.
For every Indian kid taking up the willow, it is akin to brandishing a sword at their colonial former masters’ throats. Like a rebel call, any cricketer drawn from the subcontinent, male or female, looks at the game as a way to express themselves so they may each serve as a role model of taking down the bastion of British imperialism.
This is why the Indian diaspora, from US TO UK to India to Australia and New Zealand, descended in droves for the UK-hosted World Cup. We believed that we would be valiant. The finals, won by the hosts in a contentious contest and after dubious decision making, reminded us of our own nebulous and dysfunctional relationships with our families and loved ones. Pakistan and India – when it comes to cricket it is the closest we come to war. The many moments of cross border valor on the field have been highlighted amply on YouTube. It’s made legends of ordinary cricketers like Venkatesh Prasad and Gods of mortals like Yuvraj Singh and Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin is God. Not because of his array of shots for every ball, but his grit, disciple, single minded devotion for the sport and his record against Pakistan. Sachin against any nation could have been equally heroic, but against Pakistan, he proved his mettle time and again. And that’s what the legends will retell. A 16 year old boy, bloodied by the fearsome twosome of Pakistan; Wasim and Waqar. How this little boy defied them, and took the feared Pakistani and subsequently other opposition players to the sword, has led to generations naming their young infants, Sachin.
Why do Indians relate to cricket at such a deep level? It is pretty obvious that we are a one sport nation. It’s because through cricket we have found a way to throw off the colonial shackles. To beat the inventors of the game that rampantly abused our emotions for three centuries. Every far flung six, or blow at 90 mph at their heads, is a reaffirmation of our masculinity. That’s why this puzzling game which depends on weather, statistics, skills, fitness and an assortment of colorful men endures. We don’t need more teams, we need more competitive teams. The game that led to nations wanting to destroy the inventors of the game on the field, has taken unprecedented proportions.
For every time a Mahendra Dhoni lifts the cup, a young boy (and now lass) realizes that the best revenge is to keep beating the English. In this most baffling, romantic, frustrating and tearful of sports, cricket for Indians isn’t just passion, it’s an obsession. The next time, India will host the World cup. And after the hoopla over the current champions, England dies down, Indians will be collectively bleeding blue. And screaming for the Cup that brought the entire British empire down, in a glorious heated Indian summer sunset.
Currently, Virat Kohli, the much tattooed and omnipotently talented batsman is leading millenial India’s charge into the dawn. His rebellious, foul mouthed, gladitorial beard and impeccable physique have not only inspired a generation of cricket fans, but inspired a clone army. The Give Blood or Bleed Blue army. A fitness icon, he has inspired a new India to go fearlessly after what is s yours, and sometimes even after what is not. He is the direct descendent of Sourav Ganguly, the blue blooded Royal who made Gods of gifted but unsure youngsters. Under his tutelage, India witnessed the renaissance of cricket. Coinciding with the liberalization of India, a whole generation learnt to dream big. No dream was out of reach. And you could scream open lunged at the wide heavens while you brandished your shirt, naked torsoed and aggressive to the core, like a victory flag at Lord’s, like Sourav did. This openly victorious walk of Godly stature, and defiance, and the proof that yes, we could be the Gods on Earth, in something led to an open revolution.
From the cricket obsessed Google CEO Sunder Pichai to every actor who dreams of starring in the next cricket legends’s biopic, to the school boy and girl who know that their dream is just a stroke away. For this is the a game of Gods, played by and for romantics. For every heartbreaking win and every exhilarating shot out of the ground, a new generation is captivated by the imagination of the game. To know that you don’t have to be the fittest, the strongest, the most powerful. What you need is a stroke of luck, reasonable talent and timing, a vibrant personality and a screen presence. For when the lights go down, we need Gods to merge into our consciousness. They glance at the sun superstitiously, adjust their pads, tweak their helmets, but never lose sight of the fact that they’re still chasing down the glory of the British empire on behalf of each and every one of us!