The truth is I don’t understand cricket and don’t particularly like it either. To me, it’s just elaborate gullidanda. Though I watch when I have no alternative I could just as easily switch off. More often than not I do. Frankly, cricket bores me.
Mummy, who’s nearly 95, finds my attitude inexplicable and unforgivable. She’s a cricket fanatic and often reminisces about her days at the pitch. She claims she was a nifty bowler. My dismissive comments rile her, even when I’m clearly teasing. “Stop it at once”, she admonishes. “You don’t realise how stupid that sounds!” In her cricket-crazy eyes her son’s indifference is a terrible failing.
Perhaps but the game is my Achilles heel. It brings out the worst in me. On the one occasion I can remember playing — Juniors 3 at Doon School — a lofted catch came sailing through the sky straight to me. I stared at the descending ball whilst cries of “catch it” rent the air.
Unfortunately when you look up you also look straight at the sun and the wretched thing is blinding. The ball plopped
into my outstretched hands but as I blinked to avoid the glare I failed to retain it. The ball fell to the ground and continued its journey to the boundary. I was replaced at a hastily taken drinks break.
This should have ended my hapless association with the game but fate had more misfortune in store. In 1974, whilst at
Stowe, India toured England. The game that followed had the whole School riveted. India began reasonably enough scoring 302 all out. But England were devastating. They posted 629.
Everyone could sense an English victory except me, of course. Misplaced patriotism made me boast we were going to win. To prove my point I placed myself bang in front of the box in the Common Room.
Guess what? India crashed out for 42 runs in 17 overs. It was over before lunch. The next day’s papers said it was
India’s worst ever test score. Alas, no one let me forget it. For the rest of term every sod I met began with the question “What’s the score, Karan?”
Years later, when I began interviewing for the BBC, an early guest was Rahul Dravid. This thrilled my colleagues. It filled me with dread. I knew something would go wrong. I wasn’t mistaken.
It was 1999 and I was a novice. So I researched intensely, consulted widely, wrote careful questions, learnt them by heart and rehearsed laboriously. Then the interview began.
Rahul had just returned from the World Cup in England. That’s also where he played his first match. As the mikes were fixed he told me how fond he was of the country. Recklessly casting my careful preparation aside, that’s how I started.
“It must have been galling to miss a century in your first Test by just 5 wickets?” Rahul stared at me in befuddled silence. I smiled expectantly. Then he threw his head back and laughed uproariously. He was generous enough not to correct me and I only realised what I had said when the interview was broadcast.
Last week I tried my luck again. India’s collapse at English hands was the subject of a prime time discussion. “The problem was the moving ball”, pronounced Tiger Pataudi. “What?”, I said to myself. “I thought that’s what the ball is meant to do?” But sensing danger I bit my lips and kept silent. For once I got away unscathed!
The views expressed by the author are personal