As the day started on Friday, there was a flurry of activity in our entire campus and sitting at Building 1 of Microsoft's headquarters I didnt have to guess too hard for the reason. It is the India's world cup decider. The desis were moving all around, made all the cafeterias and building lobbies to beam the cricket matches and few conference rooms were totally dedicated for the telecast, people were paying $200 at home for a dish subscription for the series, all the 100+ cricket teams in the campus were busy trying to "learn" from the "masters"... all this to much bewilderment to the non-desis most didnt know what this game is about and people like me were taking great joy in explaining this mediocre game to his Ukrainian office mate. By, afternoon the "campaign" was history and everybody returned back to work in great disgust, agony and shame and our internal mailing lists were flooded with patriotic Indian slamming their lousy team.
In all this, I wonder should we still place much importance to this game, where a water-boy of a third rate team of a game played by less than dozen scattered countries part of a long-dead colonial empire make millions at the cost of his poor fellowmen from the shanty villages and congested cities.
Make no doubt, I am (atleast was) a huge fan of this game and there used to be a time where I used to watch every game from the English County season to Duleep and Ranji Trophies, leave alone things as great as ODIs and Tests. We used to play in the street (and get scolding from homes where we hit the balls into) after every match and used to passionately discuss our hero’s techniques. In the train commute and school, we used to play book cricket, sponge cricket and a dozen other innovations including word games and used to remember every possible statistic about those "heroes" much before internet or cricinfo came. We used to call Vaas with his full name - "Warnakula Pettabente Ushanta Joseph Chaminda Vaas" and celebrate Apr 24 with great pomp.
If I say cricket was a passion, it would be an understatement. It was much more than a religion for us and for years in our secondary school, we couldnt think of an hour we lost track of our gods. We watch matches with passion, then follow the highlights and analysis with even more passion and then wait for next morning newspaper to read every word about what each and everyone think about the game. It was a way of life for us. We used to get up at 2am for the New Zealand based matches and go to sleep at 4am for those West Indies based matches.
And for most Indians - from those poor villagers to army men to auto rickshaws to every common man in the street, cricket is not as big a concern for them as a sport much as much as the patriotism for their nation; they dont care whether Aussies win their Ashes or the South Africans gave their big chase or how classic Lara hits against England. For them India is the dream and Indian matches are their carnival. They dont care whether the batsman keeps the bat straight and hits the drives in the "V"s or whether the pace bowler gets outswing at good length outside the off-stump. They only care whether the batsman and bowler wins for them.
I cant forget the spectacles when I was traveling Calcutta when "dada" was tormenting the lankans at Tauton in WC1999 looked liked as though hanuman was burning the streets of Lanka. And when Tendulkar hit the 143 against the Assies in the pre-Birthday game in 1998, people were wondering whether the storm was from the desert or from the Tendy's bat. And we had nice laughs when Sidhu was in full form saying "Drown a lucky man in water and he will come back with a fish in his mouth" during the legendary Natwest finals with Yuvraj and Kaif. How many can forget the Tendulakar's golden arm in Hero cup match against South Africa, the legendary finals in 1983 that I would have watched a dozen times, the Titan cup splendor when two great nations - SA & Aussie were subdued with great pomp following the winning of a dirty trophy named Gawaskar-Border Test trophy against Aussies. Or how about Ganguly's legendary opening series in England, Assaruddins innings in Eden Gardens and Green park, Tendulkar-Ganguly partnerships, Javagal Srinath's genuine pace bowling... I could keep adding a million more pages if ever I have to recollect what l remember of Indian cricket.
All these golden experiences are blotted by what happened later. The first disaster happened in 2000, when Cronje accepted to match fixing in the Ind-SA series when India took the ODI series and SA took Test series. I wrote a couple of articles to letters to editor in 1998 about match fixing, but never though things would be as ugly and never thought Jadeja and Azar would be a part of it. It was a deep pain for me - as I watched through all the matches even during my crucial board exams and this was a treason to me. Cricket never looked the same like before to me, and even though I watched a lot of matches including the Sachin's power pack against Pak in last world cup, things were never the same.
Even then, as a shameless Indian I was limping to take a look at our TV in the lobby. My ligament was torn during skiing last week and with all bandages I strained through the stairs just to take a glimpse at what was going on. And what I saw was unforgivable. Its not a loss that matters. When Sachin hit that 143 against Aussie in the desert storm, no body in the world mourned for India's loss, and even Aussie's were thinking that they lost much after the match ended their way. It is the way of they play. To see a "star studded" team representing 1.1 billion poor people who pour millions into their pockets and keep in them in the same league as Diego Maradonna and Michael Schumi... making their worst ever performance in the World cups since 1975 (winning just one match against a non-test playing team) and also making Rs.163 crore loss for their sponsors... I think let-down was too small a word. It was treason.
Dear Indians, forget about this shameless team of a mediocre sport and grow up.