When I was a child we did not have a TV in our house. Mom would sometimes visit the neighbour’s for the occasional Chitrahaar or Sunday movie. Visiting more often was considered impolite. The problem arose when a five-day Test match was in progress. I would die to watch the match but mom refused to let me park myself in front of the neighbour’s TV set. I had the radio and listening to the commentary wasn’t as rewarding as seeing the match.
I remember once mom popped in next-door and I tagged along, my eyes glued to the blue screen. And watched Sunil Gavaskar hit a perfect cover drive. It was sublime! Mom literally had to drag me home. I was so reluctant because the Little Master was batting. Back home, mom took me to task for behaving like a moron. I was deaf to her ranting as I played Sunny’s cover drive in my mind.. in slow motion.
That was the 1976 India-West Indies series. There was a brilliant fast bowler, Malcolm Marshall, who was scalping our batsmen. Only Gavaskar braved his bouncers. No way was I going to miss the battle between the willow and the cherry!
I asked my friend who lived next-door if I could watch the match at his place. He was more than willing. Next day, at 9.30 am, I went knocking on his door. He came out sulking. He had guests at home, so no TV. I was shattered!
I returned home. Mom instantly knew something was wrong. She was mad when I told her I had planned to watch the match at the neighbour’s.
The next five days were spent trying to convince myself that the radio was better than a T.V. Roberts, Marshall and the Windies stumped Team India. And life went on.
The next match was in Delhi. By then I had told myself that cricket was a waste of time. My uncle stopped by and when he tried to discuss cricket with me I told him it was a silly game. He was perplexed!
The next morning, mamu woke me up early saying he wanted me to accompany him to some place important. Turned out, it was to the Feroz Shah Kotla ground where India was playing West Indies.
Yipee! I was watching a match ‘live’ for the first time and I can never forget the moment! Lush, manicured greens.. and a throbbing mass of 35,000 fans! India won the toss and elected to bat. Gavaskar walked out.. the roar that greeted him was deafening!
I was watching my idol like a hawk.. the way he sauntered to the crease.. took guard.. looked around the field.. and finally, nodded to the bowler to signal that he was ready. So was I.
Ready, steady, six!
That day Gavaskar mauled Marshall.The fastest bowler who had humilated us in the earlier match, was hit to every possible part of the ground. One particular short is etched in my brain.. a leg side flick for a six.
When Gavaskar walked past my stand, I shouted out to him. I think he turned and looked in my direction. I was over the moon!
Later, I found out that this outing had been orchestrated by my mom. She knew how upset I had been. After that day, my desire to watch cricket on TV vanished. I had seen it live!
(The writer is a music composer)