Watching the All Stars Cricket League was a strange experience.
Firstly, it wasn’t like I had made a slot in my schedule, marked the day, finished bath and food early, and sat down in front of the TV. Naah.
It was a memory at the back of my mind, something I could always get to, after two beers, and catch up on.
That was what it was about. Catching up.
Catching up with those guys I loved and adored and watched and imitated and cut pictures of and stuck to my scrap book. The guys were getting together once again, and it would be fun to see how they’ve aged.
Strangely, the Indian players didn’t seem to have changed a lot. Sachin played a slow, cautious innings, holding it together, the fear of losing early wickets perhaps too deeply embedded in his psyche.
Laxman swung and missed, and went back to the pavilion before you could say ‘Odomos’. Much like he has been doing for Kochi Tuskers, that team where everybody seemed to have elephantiasis. And Agarkar. Agarkar didn’t do much in the match.
Then there was Sehwag, doing what he has been doing all along. My only pang of regret was that McGrath wasn’t in the opposition. I’d have liked to watch Sehwag cart him across deep mid-wicket, all the way to Alaska.
The Indians were just going about the motions.
The Sri Lankans were at it too. Being efficient and productive, diving around and fielding well, and doing their bit for the team. The Australians were fit and effective. In many ways, it could have been the 90s and the players gotten together for a charity match.
Except for a few things.
Curtly Ambrose in my memories was a fearsome, frightful bowler. One who took no bullshit, and gave back in good measure.
Over the years, something happened. I am guessing Ganja.
Curtly Ambrose has metamorphosed into a smiling, swinging guy who doesn’t give a fuck. There must be some greens involved there. Probably because he joined a reggae band after retirement. Probably because his favourite musicians are Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.
But here’s my biggest take-home from the league.
Indians love Pakistani cricketers.
No matter what the Shiv Sena wants you to believe, and no matter how many Pakistanis they ban from playing or performing, the roar you heard when Akhtar came on to bowl, proved that Indians like the guy. The applause that Wasim Akram got when he came on to bowl was further proof of that fact.
I assume if Sachin went to Pakistan, he’d receive the same kind of treatment. It is because we Indians love cricket.
We will play cricket outdoors and indoors. We love Tests, One Days, and T20s.
We will play cricket with cricket balls and tennis balls. When there are no balls, we’ll roll up papers and crunch them into balls.
When there are no papers to tear, we will play book cricket.
The All Stars league was just a way of letting people of my generation revisit their nostalgia once again.
It wasn’t really serious cricket. But who cares?
At least it wasn’t like the IPL, where there is a fake sense of seriousness over trumpets and painted faces.
This was like the cricket matches you play on a team outing with your office colleagues. Nobody cares. It is about playing the game. It is about revelling in it.
I can’t wait for the next two matches!