December 2, 2008

When cricket becomes irrelevant

Aakash Chopra
Smoke billows from the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai after terrorist attacks, 29 November 2008
 © AFP
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Dear readers,

As I'd mentioned in my earlier post, we have been closely following the events in Mumbai and were deeply concerned and disturbed. As of now (the time of my writing this blog), the operation against the terror attack has come to an end but I'm still glued to the news channels to know as much as I can about it.

We [Delhi] were scheduled to play a Ranji Trophy game against Orissa two days after the terror attack in Mumbai. Playing cricket in these circumstances is the last thing on our minds but a man's got to do what a man's got to do.

We observed a two-minute silence before the start of the game and both teams wore black arm-bands to show our grief for the victims in Mumbai.

I've never been involved in match like this, where the first thing one would ask on entering the dressing room, whether it was in the morning or at lunch time, was to turn on the news. Everyone would just watch the news in silence. Talking or discussing about cricket was left to be done on the field and as soon as we were off the field everyone wanted to know what was happening in Mumbai.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to playing a game of cricket in these circumstances. Since playing any sport is a form of entertainment, one thought would be to stop playing the game in such times. Our country's security was at stake and our fellow Indians were suffering and here we are playing a game of cricket! But on the other hand, if you stop living and put everything on a hold, the whole purpose of these terror attacks is served. They say cricket, or for that matter any sport, can be a ray of hope in these days of gloom. Well, honestly, I don't know whether that's true, or what is the right thing to do in these circumstances, but since we had a match scheduled, we played.

Even after our dismissals, after a few minutes of reflection and thought, we would soon get involved in listening to the horrific stories emerging out of Mumbai . How was the whole plot planned? How did the terrorists manage to get into Mumbai and how much ammunition did they have at their disposal? While these questions kept resounding in our heads and on all the news channels, we were also feeling very proud of our security forces who kept fighting the terrorists while risking their lives. There was so much everyone in the team wanted to share and know about the events in Mumbai. Not even once did I hear anyone discussing the game and how to tackle Mohanty and Co on a track that was posing all kinds of problems.

While we were on the field we were totally focused on our aim, but once off it, we were in a different world with no connection whatsoever to what was transpiring on the field. It was a strange situation as we kept moving in and out of two completely different worlds. We would still celebrate a wicket while fielding or feel equally sad when we saw our stumps uprooted but everything else seemed so trivial as soon as we crossed that white line (boundary rope) and started watching the news.

However much I try, despite our first win of the season, I can't really write anything on cricket this time. Please bear with me.

God bless, always.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Janina on (March 2, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

I agree, it is a bartehe of fresh air in some ways, but the toxicity of the air, the humidity and the inhospitable attitude of the majority of the big city dweller knocked it down a few pegs. Its unfortunate that i wasn't able to connect to the city as you were, but thats the beauty of individual experiences i suppose. We took a cab around town as well, missed the markets however as we'd shopped so much in Rajasthan. I can understand why people would like it,especially if you've been traveling for a while in India and are completely exhausted, but I still have to say that I prefer Dharamsala, Jaipur and Pushkar over Mumbai as I liked that they were not western at all and yet completely manageable for a westerner. Let it be known however, that I did enjoy Mumbai a good deal more than Delhi, as well a some other big cities that we have visited here. As I mentioned in my blog, I think Mumbai is worth a visit for sure, if even just to form your own unique opinion of this very unique place.

Posted by Abhishek Dutta on (January 2, 2009, 18:40 GMT)

Sir I really liked your article. You write beautifully. Wish you all the best for the upcoming matches and IPL 2009.

Yours sincerelely,

Abhishek Dutta

Asansol West Bengal

Posted by jeewan arun persaud on (December 17, 2008, 23:50 GMT)

Good writing Akash.I also think that India should not go to pakistan.Pakistan should show some form of brotherhood and cooperate with the Indian government,and stop use "cricket"

Posted by Ganesh on (December 8, 2008, 6:31 GMT)

Awesome thoughts Aakash. I loved this honest lines "They say cricket, or for that matter any sport, can be a ray of hope in these days of gloom. Well, honestly, I don't know whether that's true, or what is the right thing to do in these circumstances, but since we had a match scheduled, we played. "

Would encourage you to write a book on 2003-2004 India tours, I see couple others have also requested the same.

Posted by anne mcgrory on (December 3, 2008, 14:20 GMT)

Cricket really isn't important given what has happened to the people of Mumbai. But... I have been following various blogs in the Guardian about England's departure from India & the possibility of their return (or not) for the test series. May I ask what you & other Indian cricketers feel about this. Do you feel that currently cricket is so irrelevant that it doesn't really matter or... would England's return offer some sort of solace/support?

Posted by Aarati Agrawal on (December 3, 2008, 11:55 GMT)

Aakash, I think you are a great writer. It was a pleasure reading your column. Can't wait to read your book, Beyond the Blues!!! Eagerly waiting and hope it comes out soon. =)

Posted by Karan Puri on (December 3, 2008, 8:52 GMT)

Mr. Chopra, I was privileged to watch you bat for India in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04 and enjoy your brand of batting in the domestic circuit today as well. But not only are you a gifted and thoughtful cricketer, you are articulate and measured with your words as well. Here's wishing you all the best in both arenas. And please don't worry if you can't write cricket just yet. I think we're all with you on this one.

Posted by deepak nair on (December 3, 2008, 3:05 GMT)

akash chopra you write beautifully! hope you write a book sometime, if you have notes you should write a tour dairy of the australian and pak tours in 2003-2004

Posted by Vishal on (December 2, 2008, 23:50 GMT)

Very nicely written article. I also read an article by sambit bal on cricinfo on "india should go to pakistan" . Its nice to see that cricinfo has hired sensible people like you who know when is the time not to play cricket.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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