Samir Chopra October 26, 2010

Coming of Age as a Fan

I don't think I can point to another series after the 1976-77 one and declaim, "And by that time, my development as a fan was complete." Because while it is easy to point to the beginnings of one's education, it is unwise to mark the end
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Back in 1997, I attended a Yankees-Red Sox game at Yankees Stadium with my friend Tom and his father (the pair are veteran Red Sox fans). Shortly after the game ended, as we made our way out to the car park, I posed a question about base-stealing and its relationship to pitch counts, which was handled rather expertly by Tom's father. He then followed up with a query of his own, "I bet cricket is a pretty complicated game too?" And I replied, "Well, I've been following it seriously for 21 years now, and I keep learning things about it to this day."

Later that night, when I got back home, I wondered why I had said I had been following the game for 21 years. The answer wasn't hard to find:1976 was the year Tony Grieg's MCC team toured India, and I count my relationship with that series as marking the start of my 'serious' love-affair with the game, a series in which I 'came of age' - as a cricket fan. I was dimly conscious of Tony Lewis' outfit in 1972-73, and Clive Lloyd's West Indians in 1974-75 (indeed, the reason Andy Roberts and Viv Richards loom so large in my mind is because they seemed to be the talk of the town in those days). But it was the 'Winter of 1976' that did it for me.

Like players then, fans mature too. From that series I learned about the concept of a draw (the fifth Test in Bombay; the only drawn Test of the series, and which might, ironically, have been the closest and most engaging), different bowling styles (the Indian spinners, John Lever et al), nightwatchmen, captains' innings (Tony Greig's 'made with a fever' 103 in Calcutta), the importance of close-in fielders (Yajurvindra Singh's world-record equalling performance at Bangalore), ball-tampering (John Lever again) and so on. For the first time, I followed scores obsessively, tracked statistics, and started to become aware of the ebbs and flows of a Test. I consumed, rather rapaciously, the three forms of media coverage then available for cricket: newspapers, TV highlights and of course, radio commentary.

And because I was drawn into cricket's present, I was drawn too, into its past: I became a serious reader of cricket's history that year. I bought books, and my library card did yeoman's work. The series being played that season demanded context, and I sought it. And in so doing, the game snapped ever more sharply into focus.

So my relationship with cricket changed in the 1976-77 season; I became aware of the game in a manner than enabled it to lay the foundation of a relationship that has endured. After that season, cricket became associated with Delhi winters (it didn't matter that Bombay, Calcutta and Madras weren't anything like Delhi in the winter; what mattered was that I was in Delhi, experiencing the cricket in my own way). If a winter evening is melancholic for me, it's because I came to associate it with the close of play in a Test match, as the light weakened, and the winds sharpened.

Of course, that series was only the start for with every game, every series that followed, there was more to learn and appreciate. Test cricket, of course, had a great deal to do with it, for it provided the best forum for a measured understanding of the game's varied offerings. And I don't think I can point to another series after the 1976-77 one and declaim, "And by that time, my development as a fan was complete." Because while it is easy to point to the beginnings of one's education, it is unwise to mark the end.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sandip on July 27, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Nice one Samir! I read this a bit late but it certainly evoked the memories. That series was also my first series that I really became entangled with cricket as a life long obsession. And the Calcutta (my hometown) Test was the 1st one I ever watched. On a b/w ECTV. In the neighbourhood our landlord was the only one who had one. My everlasting memory from that Test will be Tony Greig going down on his knees and imploring the Calcutta crowd to support him!

  • MprDave on March 8, 2011, 17:04 GMT

    Thank you for sharing this great information with us.

  • hari murhy on November 16, 2010, 3:44 GMT

    Hi Samir, You article is a good one, reminds me of the start of my cricketing romance in 1974-75. My interest got generated when my mother was reading a tamil magazine and they had given the photos of Westindian players who were touring India at that time. I asked my elder brother. a keen cricket follower, who were they? He then told me the story about cricket and I all of 7/8 years listen to him and became a fan of this wonderful game. The first match i watched was the 5th test match at Mumbai(Bombay) Westindies vs India, the series was level. I still remember the first ball Abid Ali to Greenidge and Greenidge hit it for four. I became a fan of of Greenidge which cumulated in having a meeting with him in 1997. I watched the match of TV shown live in Mumbai DD. This test was highly published in those days because the stadium was burnt on 2nd day and Lloyd hit a 242. My romance with the game still continues even after 36 years. Long live Cricket.

  • Madappa Prakash on November 15, 2010, 0:46 GMT

    Hi Samir, You've been quiet for a while. I was looking for a blog from you, but could not find it. In any case, have you watched Daniel Vettori on the field? I've been watching him in the recent India vs NZ test matches, and am impressed. He really seems to enjoy his cricket. A lovely sight to watch. Can you write about him? I don't know much about him.

    Cheers,

    Prakash

  • Ramkumar on November 10, 2010, 5:45 GMT

    For me, it was the Ind vs SL match, when Azhar made 199. It was on the tv, and when India surpassed SL's score in the 1st innings, I was bemused the game didn't end. There was a elderly who tried to explain me the nuances of test cricket, but I, a 10 year old by then, couldn't understand all of it, though I pretended I did. Kapil Dev scored 160+ in that match. My son was left clueless why the match continued when NZ got all out for 459 against India's 487 at Ahmedabad last week. I told him test cricket is too complex and I had promised him I'll explain the nitty gritties in 2 years time. He'll be 8 by then. Kids are smarter these days compared to 80's. I believe.

  • Jaideep on October 28, 2010, 9:51 GMT

    Nice article. For me it was the 1976 Bombay test vs New Zealand with Gavaskar scoring 119 - think it was his first century in India and Venkat getting to 100 wickets. India won that match and the series. This was followed by series as described by the writer. The TV highlights were a joke if anyone can recall. There was no editing to speak of back then and you ended up watching a bowler walking upto the top of his bowling mark and batsmen playing defensive strokes. In sharp contrast were the highlights from Australia during that marvellous series in 1977-78. Also remember the live relay from Pakistan in 1978. Their coverage seemed to be better than ours. We lost the series badly but Gavaskar's batting stood out. Remember the stylish Zaheer Abbas - (we celebrated in school when he got out for 42 in the 3rd test), Imran Khan, Sarfaraz Nawaz and of course the street fighter Javed Miandad. I still remember their run chase in the 2nd and 3rd tests. Bedi's career ended in that series.

  • Sanjeeb kumar on October 28, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    1976-77 series against England was the one which marked my beginning also as a serious cricket fan, so serious that in less than ten years I listened to running commentary of a Kerala Tamil nadu match in a language which to this day I am not aware, could have been tamil or Malyalam, Sunil Walson had taken 8 wickets for Keralaanand the local paper delivered in my village did not cover and obviously BBC's Sports Round Up didn't, I am not aware of the outcome of the match. MCC's 1979 tour of Bangladesh aws aseries which I followed ball by ball on radio Bangladesh and the high point was the Bangladesh Central Zonenumber 11 Alok Chakraborty playing a fast bowler called Wilson for the last few balls to draw the two day match.John Jameson and Richard Hutton were amongst the test players who were playing for MCC and the name familiar to most of us would be Mark Nicholas.

  • Ramesh on October 28, 2010, 4:48 GMT

    For me it was the 1979 season when India ended up winning tests at Madras against WI and Pakistan. I was all of 9, but my love affair with the game had started.

  • Amit on October 28, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    Ah, wonderful memories. For me, it started with 1971 test win for India at oval, the day after chandra took 6 wkts and Solkar took some fabulous catches, when India was set to chase 170 to win the series in england and I was ramping up on my numbers as a 6 year old. All neighborhood kids were made to sit by our parents with a paper and pencil when the countdown began. When Engineer hit the final, the entire city of Bombay erupted and the celebration seem to have lasted for weeks. There was no TV coverage and the commentry thru shortwave BBC. My obsession with cricket has never waned, except from 87 and 94 before internet days (remember rn to get news) when I moved to US.

  • Pramatha on October 27, 2010, 18:38 GMT

    For me it was the winter of 1969, when Bill Lawry's team toured India. NZ had toured in November but somehow I didn't get into it. But came the Australians, and the petrol pumps were handing out stuff for kids with pictures of team members. The Delhi Test was televised (yes it was). Watched it too, in school (which had just bought a TV) and in a neighbours (everyone and their grandmother was at that neighbour's, the sole owner of the neighbourhood TV). And we won!!!

    But it was the Test match before that that really got us hooked. Paul Sheehan scored a century. The name sounded so different (and I was attending an Irish catholic school !). Then came the debutant Vishwanath's century in the second innings.

  • Sandip on July 27, 2011, 4:42 GMT

    Nice one Samir! I read this a bit late but it certainly evoked the memories. That series was also my first series that I really became entangled with cricket as a life long obsession. And the Calcutta (my hometown) Test was the 1st one I ever watched. On a b/w ECTV. In the neighbourhood our landlord was the only one who had one. My everlasting memory from that Test will be Tony Greig going down on his knees and imploring the Calcutta crowd to support him!

  • MprDave on March 8, 2011, 17:04 GMT

    Thank you for sharing this great information with us.

  • hari murhy on November 16, 2010, 3:44 GMT

    Hi Samir, You article is a good one, reminds me of the start of my cricketing romance in 1974-75. My interest got generated when my mother was reading a tamil magazine and they had given the photos of Westindian players who were touring India at that time. I asked my elder brother. a keen cricket follower, who were they? He then told me the story about cricket and I all of 7/8 years listen to him and became a fan of this wonderful game. The first match i watched was the 5th test match at Mumbai(Bombay) Westindies vs India, the series was level. I still remember the first ball Abid Ali to Greenidge and Greenidge hit it for four. I became a fan of of Greenidge which cumulated in having a meeting with him in 1997. I watched the match of TV shown live in Mumbai DD. This test was highly published in those days because the stadium was burnt on 2nd day and Lloyd hit a 242. My romance with the game still continues even after 36 years. Long live Cricket.

  • Madappa Prakash on November 15, 2010, 0:46 GMT

    Hi Samir, You've been quiet for a while. I was looking for a blog from you, but could not find it. In any case, have you watched Daniel Vettori on the field? I've been watching him in the recent India vs NZ test matches, and am impressed. He really seems to enjoy his cricket. A lovely sight to watch. Can you write about him? I don't know much about him.

    Cheers,

    Prakash

  • Ramkumar on November 10, 2010, 5:45 GMT

    For me, it was the Ind vs SL match, when Azhar made 199. It was on the tv, and when India surpassed SL's score in the 1st innings, I was bemused the game didn't end. There was a elderly who tried to explain me the nuances of test cricket, but I, a 10 year old by then, couldn't understand all of it, though I pretended I did. Kapil Dev scored 160+ in that match. My son was left clueless why the match continued when NZ got all out for 459 against India's 487 at Ahmedabad last week. I told him test cricket is too complex and I had promised him I'll explain the nitty gritties in 2 years time. He'll be 8 by then. Kids are smarter these days compared to 80's. I believe.

  • Jaideep on October 28, 2010, 9:51 GMT

    Nice article. For me it was the 1976 Bombay test vs New Zealand with Gavaskar scoring 119 - think it was his first century in India and Venkat getting to 100 wickets. India won that match and the series. This was followed by series as described by the writer. The TV highlights were a joke if anyone can recall. There was no editing to speak of back then and you ended up watching a bowler walking upto the top of his bowling mark and batsmen playing defensive strokes. In sharp contrast were the highlights from Australia during that marvellous series in 1977-78. Also remember the live relay from Pakistan in 1978. Their coverage seemed to be better than ours. We lost the series badly but Gavaskar's batting stood out. Remember the stylish Zaheer Abbas - (we celebrated in school when he got out for 42 in the 3rd test), Imran Khan, Sarfaraz Nawaz and of course the street fighter Javed Miandad. I still remember their run chase in the 2nd and 3rd tests. Bedi's career ended in that series.

  • Sanjeeb kumar on October 28, 2010, 4:49 GMT

    1976-77 series against England was the one which marked my beginning also as a serious cricket fan, so serious that in less than ten years I listened to running commentary of a Kerala Tamil nadu match in a language which to this day I am not aware, could have been tamil or Malyalam, Sunil Walson had taken 8 wickets for Keralaanand the local paper delivered in my village did not cover and obviously BBC's Sports Round Up didn't, I am not aware of the outcome of the match. MCC's 1979 tour of Bangladesh aws aseries which I followed ball by ball on radio Bangladesh and the high point was the Bangladesh Central Zonenumber 11 Alok Chakraborty playing a fast bowler called Wilson for the last few balls to draw the two day match.John Jameson and Richard Hutton were amongst the test players who were playing for MCC and the name familiar to most of us would be Mark Nicholas.

  • Ramesh on October 28, 2010, 4:48 GMT

    For me it was the 1979 season when India ended up winning tests at Madras against WI and Pakistan. I was all of 9, but my love affair with the game had started.

  • Amit on October 28, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    Ah, wonderful memories. For me, it started with 1971 test win for India at oval, the day after chandra took 6 wkts and Solkar took some fabulous catches, when India was set to chase 170 to win the series in england and I was ramping up on my numbers as a 6 year old. All neighborhood kids were made to sit by our parents with a paper and pencil when the countdown began. When Engineer hit the final, the entire city of Bombay erupted and the celebration seem to have lasted for weeks. There was no TV coverage and the commentry thru shortwave BBC. My obsession with cricket has never waned, except from 87 and 94 before internet days (remember rn to get news) when I moved to US.

  • Pramatha on October 27, 2010, 18:38 GMT

    For me it was the winter of 1969, when Bill Lawry's team toured India. NZ had toured in November but somehow I didn't get into it. But came the Australians, and the petrol pumps were handing out stuff for kids with pictures of team members. The Delhi Test was televised (yes it was). Watched it too, in school (which had just bought a TV) and in a neighbours (everyone and their grandmother was at that neighbour's, the sole owner of the neighbourhood TV). And we won!!!

    But it was the Test match before that that really got us hooked. Paul Sheehan scored a century. The name sounded so different (and I was attending an Irish catholic school !). Then came the debutant Vishwanath's century in the second innings.

  • anil on October 27, 2010, 16:58 GMT

    Remember the jokes about "Jaan Leva". lol. (Was it because of John Lever's Vaseline use or was it Bob Willis who used it?).

  • Anand CV on October 27, 2010, 16:40 GMT

    The article brought back memories of a test match. It was November 1976. The test match, India Vs NZ at Kanpur. On the last day of the test, it was gloomy with an overcast sky. RJ Hadlee was bowling very fast. Gundappa Viswanath reached century on the last ball of the drawan test. The pitch was almost unplayable. GRV was a great batsman-became the first Indian batsman to score century against all the test playing teams.Even now, Gavaskar considers GRV as the finest batsman ever played for India. Many people talk of several knocks of GRV-but he may rate this innings very high- and so do I.

  • shiladitya on October 27, 2010, 8:32 GMT

    An article very relevent to me ,i wonder howmany of us can think that they are the biggest cricket fans.But one thing is very strange that all the fans follow cricket bcas of one favourate player at a time and i am a proud fan of following cricketers over the years ,reasons i do not know. Sunil Gavaskar,Karsan Ghawari,David Gower,Azharuddin,Mark Waugh,Ajit Agarakar,Rahul Dravid (presently),Waqar Younis,

  • Madappa Prakash on October 27, 2010, 1:09 GMT

    Dear Samir, I watched the match in Bombay. What stands out in my mind is R.K. Laxman's cartoon in the Times of India. Tampered ball or not, the Indian wickets fell regularly, was the gist and jest of his cartoon. I wonder if others remember it and I wonder if it can be brought to life again. I mean in terms of that very cartoon.

    Cheers,

    Prakash

  • Venkat on October 26, 2010, 23:52 GMT

    Thanks Samir for bringing back memories. I have a foggy memory of the Australians touring India in 1969 - my uncles listening to the radio commentary and fretting over how difficult it was to get Walters and Redpath out. Gavaskar's debut series is the first series that is clearly etched in my mind. Sardesai and Solkar doing much to save the 1st test in that series. The 1974-75 WI team saw the debut of Greenidge and Richards. Richards scored just under 200 in the 2nd test; but what I remember was a fabulous catch he took at forward short-leg to dismiss either Gavaskar or Engineer in the 1st Test - the ball came of the top part of his boot and he dived behind to hold the ball.

  • Nadeem Jaffery on October 26, 2010, 19:30 GMT

    And the feeling of association of winter with cricket is indeed very very true !!!

  • Nadeem Jaffery on October 26, 2010, 19:29 GMT

    Excellent piece indeed !!! Made me recall my first true encounter with this magical game and that was the year 1975. Newzealand touring Pakistan and the debut series for Javaid Miandad. The memorable 163 in Lahore and the unforgetable 206 in Karachi. Clearly recall him getting to a double hundred with a six !! Next was the Pakistan tour to Australia and the famous win at SCG. Majid Khan playing Dennis Lillee without a helmet and later on gifting the hat to the great fast bolwer. The rise of a new star in the form of Imran Khan !! Man !!!! I am getting starry eyed !!!

  • patabhiramamurthy on October 26, 2010, 16:07 GMT

    cudnt agree with u more..although the 74-5 series against windies was a shade better in terms of results for india and mind u Grv was in rip roaring form unlike in 76-7 against the english!simply adored and swooned at his wizardry and artistic brilliance...plus there was the charming/debonair/mystical Tiger patuadi on!The 76-7 series was on the heels o our famous trip to the carib and the Antipodeans before that and to listen to rickety Radio waves and wallow our times as only dreamy school kids could do was stuff scripted n sheer magic..and further on to listen abt peter toohey(WHATA PLAYER!)/craig seargent/wayne clark/Bob simpson/Thomson on that sublime tour to Aus is another refreshing abiding and enduring memory.CHEERS..u must b an incurable diehad romantic of the game hooked on to the game perpetually!

  • Raja Sengupta on October 26, 2010, 12:40 GMT

    This article certainly resonated with me in more ways than one as my cricket watch started in 74-75 with the West Indies team in Eden Gardens and the debuts of Anshuman Gaekwad and Karsan Ghavri. I still remember Vishwanath's century. Just one minor point - the photo shown cannot be that of the 103 Grieg scored in Calcutta. This shows Engineer as the wicketkeeper. Kirmani played in that match and if my memory holds, had scored around 25 in the first innings. It was an attritional match in which Tolchard made his debut and scored 67 odd. Just a minor points. Nice article

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  • Raja Sengupta on October 26, 2010, 12:40 GMT

    This article certainly resonated with me in more ways than one as my cricket watch started in 74-75 with the West Indies team in Eden Gardens and the debuts of Anshuman Gaekwad and Karsan Ghavri. I still remember Vishwanath's century. Just one minor point - the photo shown cannot be that of the 103 Grieg scored in Calcutta. This shows Engineer as the wicketkeeper. Kirmani played in that match and if my memory holds, had scored around 25 in the first innings. It was an attritional match in which Tolchard made his debut and scored 67 odd. Just a minor points. Nice article

  • patabhiramamurthy on October 26, 2010, 16:07 GMT

    cudnt agree with u more..although the 74-5 series against windies was a shade better in terms of results for india and mind u Grv was in rip roaring form unlike in 76-7 against the english!simply adored and swooned at his wizardry and artistic brilliance...plus there was the charming/debonair/mystical Tiger patuadi on!The 76-7 series was on the heels o our famous trip to the carib and the Antipodeans before that and to listen to rickety Radio waves and wallow our times as only dreamy school kids could do was stuff scripted n sheer magic..and further on to listen abt peter toohey(WHATA PLAYER!)/craig seargent/wayne clark/Bob simpson/Thomson on that sublime tour to Aus is another refreshing abiding and enduring memory.CHEERS..u must b an incurable diehad romantic of the game hooked on to the game perpetually!

  • Nadeem Jaffery on October 26, 2010, 19:29 GMT

    Excellent piece indeed !!! Made me recall my first true encounter with this magical game and that was the year 1975. Newzealand touring Pakistan and the debut series for Javaid Miandad. The memorable 163 in Lahore and the unforgetable 206 in Karachi. Clearly recall him getting to a double hundred with a six !! Next was the Pakistan tour to Australia and the famous win at SCG. Majid Khan playing Dennis Lillee without a helmet and later on gifting the hat to the great fast bolwer. The rise of a new star in the form of Imran Khan !! Man !!!! I am getting starry eyed !!!

  • Nadeem Jaffery on October 26, 2010, 19:30 GMT

    And the feeling of association of winter with cricket is indeed very very true !!!

  • Venkat on October 26, 2010, 23:52 GMT

    Thanks Samir for bringing back memories. I have a foggy memory of the Australians touring India in 1969 - my uncles listening to the radio commentary and fretting over how difficult it was to get Walters and Redpath out. Gavaskar's debut series is the first series that is clearly etched in my mind. Sardesai and Solkar doing much to save the 1st test in that series. The 1974-75 WI team saw the debut of Greenidge and Richards. Richards scored just under 200 in the 2nd test; but what I remember was a fabulous catch he took at forward short-leg to dismiss either Gavaskar or Engineer in the 1st Test - the ball came of the top part of his boot and he dived behind to hold the ball.

  • Madappa Prakash on October 27, 2010, 1:09 GMT

    Dear Samir, I watched the match in Bombay. What stands out in my mind is R.K. Laxman's cartoon in the Times of India. Tampered ball or not, the Indian wickets fell regularly, was the gist and jest of his cartoon. I wonder if others remember it and I wonder if it can be brought to life again. I mean in terms of that very cartoon.

    Cheers,

    Prakash

  • shiladitya on October 27, 2010, 8:32 GMT

    An article very relevent to me ,i wonder howmany of us can think that they are the biggest cricket fans.But one thing is very strange that all the fans follow cricket bcas of one favourate player at a time and i am a proud fan of following cricketers over the years ,reasons i do not know. Sunil Gavaskar,Karsan Ghawari,David Gower,Azharuddin,Mark Waugh,Ajit Agarakar,Rahul Dravid (presently),Waqar Younis,

  • Anand CV on October 27, 2010, 16:40 GMT

    The article brought back memories of a test match. It was November 1976. The test match, India Vs NZ at Kanpur. On the last day of the test, it was gloomy with an overcast sky. RJ Hadlee was bowling very fast. Gundappa Viswanath reached century on the last ball of the drawan test. The pitch was almost unplayable. GRV was a great batsman-became the first Indian batsman to score century against all the test playing teams.Even now, Gavaskar considers GRV as the finest batsman ever played for India. Many people talk of several knocks of GRV-but he may rate this innings very high- and so do I.

  • anil on October 27, 2010, 16:58 GMT

    Remember the jokes about "Jaan Leva". lol. (Was it because of John Lever's Vaseline use or was it Bob Willis who used it?).

  • Pramatha on October 27, 2010, 18:38 GMT

    For me it was the winter of 1969, when Bill Lawry's team toured India. NZ had toured in November but somehow I didn't get into it. But came the Australians, and the petrol pumps were handing out stuff for kids with pictures of team members. The Delhi Test was televised (yes it was). Watched it too, in school (which had just bought a TV) and in a neighbours (everyone and their grandmother was at that neighbour's, the sole owner of the neighbourhood TV). And we won!!!

    But it was the Test match before that that really got us hooked. Paul Sheehan scored a century. The name sounded so different (and I was attending an Irish catholic school !). Then came the debutant Vishwanath's century in the second innings.