Beer and Viv Richards on Pearl Harbor Day
In high school, playing hooky to play or watch cricket was a common pastime. In those years too, I discovered the illicit pleasures of cold beer. I was underage as far as alcohol consumption was concerned but the illegality of a pursuit has never discouraged the young. I quickly discovered that beer made many things better, the most prominent being that it turned the formerly intolerable--like boring people at a party--into tolerable. But the one thing that it made almost heavenly was cricket.
Now, it wasn't that one could buy and drink beer at cricket grounds in India but rather, that if the stars aligned i.e., school had been skipped, beer procured, a suitable drinking venue secured (read: a fellow juvenile delinquent's home) and a game was on, a live telecast with a cold beer handy suddenly became the cricketing experience par excellence.
Such a moment occurred on Pearl Harbor Day 1983, the date of India's fourth one-day international against the West Indies at Jamshedpur. The West Indies, determined to make India pay for the World Cup loss inflicted on them earlier that summer, had already wrapped up the series 3-0 but weren't quite done cuffing India around the ears just yet.
On that day, I had decided to cut school, and watch the cricket with a bad-boy friend of mine, who had promised me that he would raid his Dad's beer stash and chill a few for the game. I called in sick; my mother did not track the cricket calendar, and did not realise a one-day international was on. There was nothing fishy, then, about my waking up in the morning with the moans and groans. Shortly after she left for work, I caught a bus and headed over to the venue of my perdition. The game began at 9:30 AM; the first beers hit our gullets at 10 AM. (Some 18 years later, at the Adelaide Oval, while waiting for Australia to take on South Africa in a Test, I would break this record of mine for early-in-the-day beer consumption by downing my first beer of the day at 9:40 AM.)
The beers were refreshing; what made them even better was the Greenidge-Richards show that followed as the two put on 221 runs for the second wicket at approximately eight runs an over. Richards smashed 149 off 99 balls; Greenidge was sedate in comparison, scoring 110 off 134 (though he did hit more sixes). The West Indies ended up at 333 off 45 overs at 7.4 an over, a staggering run rate for that period, and even for this one.
Yes, we were intoxicated; drinking on an empty stomach will do that for you. But an equally contributory factor was the batting: we hooped and hollered, drunkenly cheering on the carnage, oblivious to the fact that Indian bowlers were being put to the sword.
Judgment clouded? Yes, perhaps. Nationality forgotten? Definitely.
PS: I do not remember if my friend's father noticed the missing bottles or if my mother was surprised by my rapid recovery.
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here