Cricket: The great unifier

For those of us who are fans of cricket, it is so much more than just a game. It is an emotion, a craze, a passion, a bond with each other as Indians and a whole new definition of patriotism. Winning the world cup in the recently held T-20 ICC tournament was an occasion that reminded me that as a nation, we are doubly united every time India is in a cricket world cup final!

It was building up over the entire tournament when India kept winning against most of the countries including our arch-rival Pakistan and slowly it dawned on us that India was going to be in the finals. However, after the debacle in the Test world cup final against Australia, which was such a shocker for the entire country, especially because we hadn’t lost a single match up until the final, we were a bit wary about becoming complacent too soon and preferred to keep our fingers crossed.

The day arrived and my husband and I were looking forward to an evening full of vigour, hope and excitement. Our son, an ardent cricket buff who has recently moved to Gurgaon after he got married, made me courier his favourite team India blue jersey so that he could cheer for India and create the vibe for the match!

When the match began, the biggest dampener was that within a few overs, our top order collapsed including Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and unbelievably Suryakant Yadav! I could not believe our luck that our best batters were being sent back to the pavilion by the South African bowlers. Filled with anger and frustrated disbelief, I changed the channel. However, missing out on the final was not an option and within seconds, I switched it back on. My husband’s wise comments like “Anything can happen in the game of cricket“ helped me to calm down.

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Sure enough, what followed was a wonderful partnership between Kohli and Axar Patel—two of my favourite players—and then onwards we kept shouting, screaming and getting worked up over the entire match which was a beautiful symphony of our team coming together to win!

The best part about an exciting match is how we relate small, insignificant things to the fate of the batter or a fielder missing a catch. I genuinely believe (Based on verifiable incidents) that if both the batsmen are playing well and I have to take a washroom break, one of them will get out before I can position myself in front of the TV again… where we sit, how we talk and who goes out of the room, sometimes even what we wear impacts the fate of the players. It is absolutely ridiculous but true that all our superstitions revolve around this game, no matter how rational we are in our everyday lives! Of course, there are some rules as well. Praising the batter who is playing an exceptional game is a complete no-no, because then he will get our ‘evil eye’ and get out. If we change our seat and the batsman gets out, all hell breaks loose and the family members start to blame that person who caused this debacle. Basically, being Indians, all our rational thinking goes out of the window when India is playing in the finals!!Sometimes the commentators’ high praise leads the batter to fail, too, or that’s what a lot of us believe. It is amazing to see how the most rational of us behave in a totally childish and ridiculous way when we are in the throes of a cricket final!

Food and cricket are both metaphors for love and passion and that is the reason why in our family world cup finals are always accompanied with pizza and garlic bread sticks! I can recall the world cup final of 2007 that we had won so vividly after so many years. In that year, a new beer called Fosters was launched in New Delhi. They published a big advertisement in TOI inviting people to get free cartons of beer if they just signed up to wish creatively what they wanted on the day of the world cup finals! Needless to say, as both my husband and I were fond of beer, I decided to write “Eat our favourite pizza with Fosters beer”. At that time, my son was in school and was extremely fond of pizza.

Sure enough, I think if I had asked for anything that day, I would have got it. Two cartons of Fosters were delivered to our home in the afternoon and the pizzas in the evening! That evening turned out to be perfect and India’s victory was the icing on the cake. It took us many weekends to finish the beer of course.

Coming back to some traditions around cricket, New Delhi’s India Gate is a place which celebrates Team India’s victory every time we win a cricket final. Multitudes of people, old and young, men, women and children reach India Gate from every corner of Delhi NCR and carry flags, dance and play music to express their solidarity and joy. It is an atmosphere of sheer abandon and an indescribable feeling of being truly Indian. This time around my son and his wife drove from Gurgaon to India Gate at midnight to join this revelry. It was an extraordinary experience watching him on my phone video wearing the team India jersey, happiness writ large on his face and dancing with his wife to celebrate India’s victory.

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Later, I saw the same celebrations on Instagram at various places all over the world…Dubai, London and New York. Indians are the same everywhere and the faith in our country is restored in me.

In a nutshell, what we realize is that this sport, cricket, has the ultimate power to bring all of us together… to feel proud of our team and our country, to enjoy life to the fullest and to see what we don’t see often—our beloved cricketers feeling emotional, being human and most of all elated beyond all expectations.