March 17, 2007

From One World Cup to Another

ESPNcricinfo staff
The World Cup, coming as it does every four years, offers an occasion for stock taking

The World Cup, coming as it does every four years, offers an occasion for stock taking. I reference my life with each World Cup, reflect on how things were with me when the last one was played and reassess how they are now. Do you do that? If you are a true fan, I think you would. It’s just one of those intersections between sport and life that is so much part of being a fan.

I missed watching the most pivotal moments of the 1983 World Cup final: I was waiting for a takeaway in a Kolkata restaurant, and remember how, as the radio relayed that Richards was out, I ran around the deserted restaurant, along with the waiters, head steady, arms outstretched, body tilting from side to side. I was 13.

In 1987, I was for the final, at the Eden Gardens as Border held aloft the trophy. In 1992… well, never mind.

What I associate most with the World Cup final of 2003 is this: lying with my daughter on my chest, trying to get her to sleep after India got slaughtered by Ponting and Co. I remember the clink of ice in the glass of vodka by my side. I remember some fireworks going off; they sounded a little desultory, a little jaded. People had bought them just in case India won. They were letting them off anyway. No shame in losing to the best side in the world, I recall thinking. I remember thinking about the book I was then writing… about India and cricket and being a fan.

This time around, my girl is five years old. She recognizes the Indian players. She can tell a Steely Dan song from its opening riff. And so boundless is her energy that it’s impossible to get her to sleep before very late. We live in Mumbai these days. My book has been published. (You can’t call yourself a writer because you’ve written a book. You have to have a of work to be able to do that. A writer is all I’ve ever wanted to be. Now I can at least say I have written a book. A start.)

But the thing I most notice this time is the creeping up of middle age. This is the first World Cup that we in India will be able to watch only if we stay up all night for days on end. I find that I can’t do that any longer. (Coming up soon: Tips on how to stay up – or try to stay up and fall asleep on the sofa.) My eyes burn if I haven’t slept well. My legs feel heavy. The day job, all nine or ten hours of it, takes too much out of me. And the cricket, so central to life once (the rest of life was what happened between overs), is having to be accommodated into the rhythms of the soon-to-be-middle-aged, salaried, hardworking parent’s life.

It’s quite a realization. Have you had that recently? And how has your life changed over the World Cups, since World Cup since everything in Indian cricket changed for ever, in 1983? I look forward to hearing that. Keep the comments coming in.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You