Feb 22nd 1992– It was just the day after my 9th birthday and I was quite on cloud 9. I had devoured the contents of that week’s ‘The Sportsar’ World Cup Edition, I had a good birthday and that cute Gujrati girl in my class consented to sit next to me in our hindi class. Quite a charmed life it was! As Feb 21st gave way to the 22nd, the little suburb of Adayar in Chennai had more snores than the sounds of TV sets being on. I was sleeping in a small room next to my grandmother. It was 3 am. Quite the time, when Sachin Tendulkar and I were batting in our partnership for the ‘C Block’ team, tearing to shreds the bowling of the B block team. My little dream was not progressing much, due to the noise in my room. I hazily stared at the light source at the end of the bed, and the TV was on. My grandmother was fumbling with controlling the voice on the TV. My parents were asleep in the other room. The next 5 minutes were spent getting used to the bright light that invaded the privacy of my dreams of batting with Sachin. The immortal voice of the holy trio of Richie Benaud, Bill Lawry and Tony Grieg got me wide awake. My first cricket world cup had begun.
Tony Greig and Bill Lawry were shrieking at John Wright’s wicket off the bowling of Craig McDermott, as the Kiwis and the Aussies opened the 1992 World cup. My granny in Tony Greig’s shriek and words was “Alive and Kicking” listening to the match commentary, even though she understood little of their accents. She fervently got up at 3 am and followed the scores and kept giving her version of her analysis that usually differed from mine. She would say The Indian team should drop Shastri and Manjrekar, and try out Amre to bat, as they used to slowdown the innings. Her other gem used to be being David Shephard’s virtual soul mate, being superstitious when it came to nelson scores(111,222). She’d say if a team actually reached the nelson’s score, without bypassing it they would win. As a 9-year-old kid, her word was the bible for me though I never checked if her predictions on nelsons actually worked. She didn’t have much knowledge about the game, but many years of cricket on radio and newspaper reading had made her a fairly discerning grandma when it came to cricket. To come to think of it, she would have made a good fantasy cricket player, but back in the days, computers and televised cricket were rare to come by.
The World cup in 1992 with the Indian team in the Australasian continent was my first experience getting up with her and watching cricket matches. My parents never exuded so much interest for a live match. My parents preferred to watch cricket, as long it didn’t interfere with their household chores and sleep. They never took offense to me getting up early or sitting up late, watching cricket on the television, until I got caught for dozing off in school due to lesser sleep at home.They then asked me that pertinent question that every Tambrahm parent asks “Cricket a Soru Poda Pogarathu?” [Is cricket going to feed you?]. I’d happily say yes. Watching cricket for a profession looked far more interesting than clocking hours in a bank. My grandmother never quite understood the fuss behind me occaissonaly sleeping in class, and gladly allowed me my transgressions of waking up in the morning. When the world cup was around, a few marks lost in remembering where Cape Comorin was on India’s map, could be traded happily for watching Kapil Dev take a wicket or for Manoj Prabhakar getting one to swing in. Thanks to my granny’s passion, I decided to let the cricket mood set in. I started putting cricket pictures, neatly cut from the Sportstar magazine all over that room, with a huge poster of the fixtures. Thanks to that image, I always will know the 1992 World Cup grounds at the back of my hand from Pukekara Park to Albury to Ballarat to Mackay.
Quite a few moments from the 1992 World Cup come to my mind, when my granny and I watched the world cup in the first week. The standout moments in the first week were
- Disappointment we had when Javagal Srinath got out at Perth, giving India a 9 run loss in the opening game.
- The way Australia were mauled by South Africa at the SCG, and had lost 2 in 2 then.
- The way West Indies polished off Pakistan with a 10 wicket victory in a 220 chase.
Cricket was fun with my grandmother, with both of us seeming to enjoy the white ball, colour dress version of the game, a pleasant change from the ‘whites and leather red’ version that we were used to watching.
The match which we vividly remember were the last 10 overs of the India Australia game at the Gabba. My granny felt that India had a chance chasing 234 despite being robbed off 3 overs in a crazy rain rule. She was praying for Ravi Shastri to get out, after he trudged his way to a 60 ball 20 odd. Both of us remember having a collective gasp seeing Sanjay Manjrekar swat Merv Hughes to the midwicket boundary for a 6. Maybe her prediction was working, until Kiran More had his stumps shattered by Tom Moody and we lost the game due to a lazy Raju who forgot to run off the last ball. My grandmother never managed to forgive Raju whenever she used to see him on television in the subsequent matches. There was redemption in 3 days when the scene shifted from the Gabba to the SCG,when India took on Pakistan and beat them convincingly. Even though I had school, I came home just early enough to see Aamir Sohail, fall to Sachin’s gentle medium pacers. She and I would celebrate in our own way, resonating to the high pitched tone of Tony Greig,who also added character to the whole celebration. While there very few India moments to rejoice to except India beating Zimbabwe in a rain affected game, our love for the game kept us hooked on to the live telecast and the highlights. On reflection, that quite defined my world back then.
Back in the 94-96 season, I remember using my school’s( Bala Vidya Mandir-Adayar) PCO booth to figure a hack to get cricket scores. I was already reprimanded for bringing a radio set to school in 1993, during the India-England series. A reprimand was like the equivalent of a parking ticket and I could not dare to bring a transistor again to school. I still needed to find a hack to find the live scores in between classes Thanks to my grandmother, I found one. When I dialed a number from my school PCO without putting the coin in, it would ring and I would hear the person on the other end, but they would hear me only if I put in the coin. So I would tell my granny to recognize that if no one spoke on the phone from the other end for 10 seconds, it would most probably be me. She just had to tell the cricket score and tell me who’s batting. I had figured a hack, but the lady at the admissions office near the PCO figured out, I was upto some mischief in coming 4 times a day, daily to speak on the phone.[Google and Cricinfo were yet to happen]
My grandmother was hooked on too watching cricket till 1998 , when the tele-serial world invaded her “Cricket watching time”. My granny who would usually a Bangladesh vs Kenya game, with enthusiasm slowly grew out of the habit of watching cricket,and changed her stance to “watching India matches only”. With time her eyesight, went on the Downhill and her earlier Glaucoma condition flared up again. My grandmother could then only make out that a ball was being bowled and hardly had any idea as to how the match would go on, and this reduced her interest levels and she would hit bed by a predefined 10 pm bedtime, which made me wonder,how her interest levels in watching cricket has ceased over time.
10-12 years back she could see only 10% from her eyes and when my grandfather passed away(2005), she couldn’t even see his dead self properly. It hurt me a lot when she told me that, when we were by our grandfather’s side. She became a little isolated in her thoughts. Cricket was hardly in her mind. My mother was still trying to see if something could be done to rectify and restore partial vision, so she consulted many eye specialists. A few doctors who said, that she would never see, in years to come, were proved wrong when a doctor in the Egmore Eye Hospital(Chennai) suggested an operation. With nothing to lose, we went ahead and did the operation. In less than two months, we saw that her vision improved dramatically and she was able to see with both the eyes and perfectly. It must have been a feeling of rebirth for her, getting her eyesight back. That was in September 2006 during the DLF cup in Malaysia, as shown in the image. Its 9 years post that now. Her eyesight again has gone back to being bad, but her enthusiasm in cricket has not dulled one bit.
Come February 14th, with the Cricket World cup beginning, I am going to make my granny my valentine, tell her opinions beaming from twitter on the match, tell her what the commentators are saying, and wait to listen to her quips and pulse on what’s happening. Maybe I can relive the Australian summer of 1992, sitting in Chennai with my grandmother and my new TV, maybe when I hear Bryan Adams strumming “Summer of 69”, I’d look back at the summer of 2015 and possibly say “Those were the best days of my life”.