My six-year-old friend Vasudev has taken to cricket. Not in an air-fairy manner, but in a possessed-by-the-will-of-the-cricket-gods kind of way. He was not always like this. Earlier, cricket was almost like something he took to only because his birthday gifts included a bat and a ball. And like the bicycle, scooter and drums, as the seasons changed, so did his curious little interests.
On my jaunts to his room, I used to request him to put on the cricket channel. He would comply, but shift from Pogo rather grudgingly. I would invariably feel the guilt of denying Vasu his daily dose of toons and make a hasty retreat, handing him the baton, the remote control.
Still I felt there was a hidden, almost waiting-to-be-tapped, love for the game. On the few occasions that we knocked around in the basement and the street, he showed enough guile to take the ball on the half volley and smash it past my waiting hands. When he was just a kid, little man Vasu floored me with his wide, unconventional batsman’s stance.
Next came the summer holidays, and Vasu was flung into a cricket camp. And I thought only Sehwag was batty enough to play through the Delhi summer! Yet, the fervour was missing — possibly in both Sehwag and Vasu.
But then came Twenty20. An entire nation embraced this idiosyncratic form of cricket. I was glad to observe that Vasu and his grandpa were both showing signs of excitement — they were the new converts, diligently watching every match. And by the time India had smoked both Australia and Pakistan out and won the Cup, both were yapping more cricket than me.
Vasu is now fixated on even re-runs of antiquated games. We sit and watch no-brainers like India Blue vs India Red. We chat on Uthappa, MSD, Yuvi and Irfan. I sense the pulse and impatience of young Indian fans. If a six-year-old city kid has forgotten about Sachin and Sourav, what will happen in a few years? How many heroes can the Indian cricket assembly line produce? Boy, it’s going to be tough capturing the ever-changing imagination.
Meanwhile, a minor setback. Vasu has not made his cricket team. He tells me this as cheerfully as if he’s on the T20 victory parade to Wankhede. At first I don’t get it. Shouldn’t he be upset? And then I think about Uthappa and Gambhir, who, in spite of their setbacks, have came back stronger. I smile. And ask him my pet cricket question, “Who is your favourite cricketer today, Vasu?” Wouldn’t you just love to know what he says?