Still rerunning in my mind images of the just-concluded India v South Africa Test series — for my money, the most absorbing Test series of recent times — I am forced to come to this conclusion: our daughter will not grow up to be a cricket fanatic. No, she won’t even grow up to be a proper cricket fan, I think.
That’s not because of, but in spite of me. Not that it really matters.
She keeps up, sort of, with the score; she knows when an India Test match or one-day international is on; but her day does not — as mine did when I was nine, and still does, when our girl is nine — arrange itself around a day’s play. She doesn’t think of cities in terms of their cricket grounds.
She doesn’t feel like hugging complete strangers if India wins a tight game. She neither tenses with anticipation before a crucial match nor has the goofy grin of the morning after the match has been won.
From when she was very little, I began to get her to watch sport with me (or at least to get her to watch with me the three sports that I closely follow: cricket, football and tennis). It was in part so that the demands of fatherhood did not cut into my sport watching hours (there are too many things in any case that do that); it was in part trying to develop a shared passion; and it was in part so that she learnt that there is this avenue of endless delight and enjoyment to be had, lucky child of liberalised, globalised 21st century India that she is, at the flick of the remote.
It worked with the tennis. And it worked very much with the football.
She agonises through Arsenal’s incomprehensible draws against Wigan or Manchester City; she thrills to Barcelona’s thumping of Real Madrid; she weeps when Argentina makes a mockery of itself; and, wound up, whistle blowing and fist pumping, she has stayed up all night and bunked school to watch Spain win the World Cup.
What happens when it comes to the cricket?
Does she find the Test match too long, too convoluted? Does she find the passages of play in which nothing is ostensibly happening (and, yet, everything actually is as the balance of a game wavers and tilts) to be passages in which nothing is happening?
Does she not appreciate the narrative of a match, its battles within the larger battle, its great ebb and flow? (She does for other sports, then why not in this instance?)
I don’t know. I never do. When it comes to parenting, I always have more questions than answers. Sorry, I have only questions; I never have any answers.
Do you know? And, no, before you say that for the next generation, cricket is no longer as much of an allure as it was for us, check the number of children at stadiums across the world. Hell, I have a friend whose little boy knows by heart — forget about the serious stuff — the transfers and signings for Australia’s domestic Twenty20 championship.
But, as I said, it doesn’t really matter.
All parents can do is to offer alternatives to a child, to make her aware of what she has at her disposal. Look, this could be enjoyable… See, that might be exciting… The fun then is to sit back and watch her choose.