I was brought up in a family that had a budding cricketer. Even before that, we are a family of cricket lovers. Amma’s cousins were professional umpires and Thatha (who lived with us) was an ardent follower. As a young girl, my dream was to be the first woman cricket umpire to stand in an international men’s cricket match (of course, then I grew up)!
I followed cricket like there was no end to the world. I worshipped Ganguly and Geoffrey Boycott for pronouncing Ganguly’s name so beautifully.. I had his name carved to my desk in school. I had a pen friend to whom I wrote an entire match commentary as a letter once. The day India lost the one-day series to Pakistan in 1998, I cried my heart out.
While I was going to give my SSLC math exam the next day, Australia were playing India less than 10 kilometres away from home. I was banned from watching the match because I had my exams the next day. My brother who was 8 at the time went ahead and watched the match. I, the rebel that I was, watched the entire match at home on TV. When India won, I knew I would have a good exam the next day (I scored a 98 and got cursed about it later).
I am digressing; I was saying that I was brought up in a family that had a budding cricketer. My brother was 8 when he first started playing cricket. Someone who I thought was too small to even throw the cricket ball well went on to represent the state under-13 team soon after.
He was a star in my family. Everything we did revolved around his busy schedule. He got a bike earlier than I did, he was given more money than I ever got and he made us all immensely proud. Out of his entire match fee while playing for Karnataka U-13, I got a finger ring for Pongal. Life was smooth.
While he spent all his time playing cricket, triumphantly if I may, Paati was after my life. Teach him physics, teach him match, teach him this and that was all I got to hear all those years. I did. My boy never once said he wasn’t interested. He learnt like we all did (in a Tam-Bhram family, you know what I mean). He scored marks just as much as I did (much to my shame that I didn’t even play cricket).
When he crossed 13, hell broke lose. He wasn’t going past the zonals team. Every year, we all waited for his name to be announced in the State Team squad and we are waiting 7 years since.
One day, my brother and I got some private time and we got into a conversation. He said something that broke my heart. He said that cricket did not feel like the dream it used to anymore. Every time he takes his run up, he is praying to a million gods for a wicket that his hand shivers. He does not enjoy the playing anymore and is mostly worried about the outcome. And in years when the outcome was indeed outstanding, he was still not on the notice board list.
When we came home after that, Amma was yelling at him for being late and not going to bed on time. He is always given lessons about how he should eat, when he should sleep and what he should do in the best interest of his cricket. Even now, the whole world talks about him becoming like Dhoni. Amma would say “Ashwin is a Brahmin and he made it to the squad without eating egg” (like she knew). They used to talk about Murali Vijay as an example as well – until of course I fell so loudly in love with him. Ah! Digressing.
When you grow up and want to be like Dhoni, the world does the same thing they did in school to you. They’ll tell you that you aren’t good enough, they will blame your bowling action, they will talk about your attitude, and they will curse you for reasons you cannot fathom. If you didn’t end up being a cricketer, your manager will do all of this in your appraisal meeting. This is how the world functions and that is a bitter truth.
As someone who grew up with a cricketer full of beautiful dreams of representing his country, I can tell you Prakash Raj is keeping kaadhula poo!