What an invigorating 2011 it has been — a 28-year wait finally paid off when MSD and his men presented the country its second World Cup. Who would have imagined a man from Jharkhand — domestically, a Plate Division team — would pilot the players coming from India’s quintessential small towns. Not after the sway swanky centres and their heroes have had on Indian cricket.
The 1983 World Cup too — as spectacular an achievement as it was — was still won by men from the power hubs. Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath and Kris Srikkanth, all belonged to rich boards. Of course, that didn’t mean a thing once they got together as a team at the world platform — they too had to fight their way up. Yet, that inherent edge, that conviction was so palpable in each of their moves. That is why, the 2011 Cup win is a wee bit more special — this time players from Ghaziabad, Ikhar, Meerut, Moradabad, Srirampur and many other places emerged the real stars. The hegemony in Indian cricket had decisively changed.
In 1997, when I started playing first-class cricket, the ‘real’ matches within the North Zone involved only three teams — Delhi, Punjab and Haryana. The remaining three teams would regularly participate but rarely compete. The reason for their surrender was that they were in awe of the big boys. On one such occasion, a bowler touched the feet of another player from Mumbai, who was also the opposing team batsman. Such was the mindset of a lot of cricketers coming from smaller towns a decade ago. But the IPL changed the scenario. Now, unknown cricketers from small towns were performing on the big stage.
At the risk of sounding cynical, I’d say that kids from big cities are blessed with playing facilities, but they rarely go out of their way to realise their dreams. But for kids from small towns, failure isn’t an option. Take for example youngsters like Saurabh Tiwary, Umesh Yadav, Kamran Khan and Deepak Chahar all of whom hail from smaller towns. They spend their time thinking about the game and ways to better it.
Bigger cities may have a bigger reservoir of talent but kids from smaller towns make up for the lack of talent and facilities with their insatiable hunger to grow.