One cold, shivery morning last week, a familiar face from the past stared at me from the newspaper pages. It was a face that suddenly bestirred memories of a time when a stream of words from the radio commentator would conjure up images in our mind’s eye of a short, squat, plump man who could mix power and grace in his stroke-play to decimate the best of fast bowlers.
The face ignited memories of an era when an Indian defeat was the norm and any innings of defiance against the odds would inject hope in us that we, too, would one day play and win like “them”. That wordsmith Allan MacGillivray would create a vivid picture of Vishwanath, standing up on his toes and cutting the world’s fastest bowler Jeff Thomson repeatedly to the point fence, and tell us, “This is magic. Each time he does it, I look for the ball in the air but it speeds all along the carpet like a bullet. I wonder how he does it.” Listening to these words on our transistor sets, while following India’s fortunes in Australia, would make us feel elated at David giving it back to Goliath.
Those pre-television days, when cricket was not played every second of the day, making remembrance of the past a pleasure and not a burden, were very comfortable and satisfying.
As nostalgia died down, the picture of Vishwanath, whom we all had suddenly remembered because the Indian board was giving him a lifetime achievement award, became just a smudge on the sports pages, which were screaming with headlines of how Dhoni and his men are the best in the world.
There is little doubt this Indian team is promising to unleash a string of stirring wins that will take us to that pinnacle of world cricket, which we dreamed of when Vishwanath was counter-attacking one of the most fearsome pace attacks ever seen with the flourish of a master conductor.
I wonder what memories future generation would have had of the “Little Wizard” had he played in the present era. Since there is so much cricket these days, and one wakes up every day to a new match, a new feat, a new win shown live on our TV screens, it becomes almost impossible to cherish and differentiate one moment of elation from the other.
Perhaps it won’t take long for the latest memory of the Pathan brothers swinging the bat to send the ball soaring into the space and making India win fade away, only to be filled in by another such grandstand image.
Do human beings have enough storage space in their data banks not to delete the moments that they fervently celebrate every day?