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Hit or Miss

Love at second sight

How the IPL is helping rekindle an old affair with cricket

Muttiah Muralitharan visits a refugee camp for tsunami victims, Kinniya, January 3, 2005
Muttiah Muralitharan and other Sri Lankan players were actively involved in rehabilitation work after the tsunami in 2004 © Getty Images

For someone who missed last year's IPL season and who hasn't watched a cricket match in four years, I'm a pretty suspect person to be saying anything about cricket. So how do I explain the validity of this column?

What can I say? Love runs deep. I'm a lapsed cricket fan, hoping for the flame to be reignited.

My fascination with cricket started as a child, watching games on a fuzzy black-and-white television with my father. Early highlights include a sighting of Viv Richards in the Taj Hotel, and seeing Australia beat India by one run at Chepauk Stadium during World Cup 1987. In the ensuing years I adored Kapil Dev and Imran Khan alternatively, and then I went away to university in America, and everything collapsed. In a country where cricket was a foreign concept, and at a time when the internet wasn't around to keep us connected, I quickly lost touch with the game.

Then, a funny thing happened. In the late 1990s, while travelling around in Sri Lanka, I had a serendipitous encounter with a man who some consider the best spin bowler in the world: Muttiah Muralitharan. What started out (and was later abandoned) as a freelance interview about racism in cricket, led to a long-term involvement with his biography (due out only when he retires, which at this rate could take a while). Bam. I was in again. Watching matches in exquisitely beautiful stadiums in places like Dambulla and Galle, meeting cricket players, learning all about the degrees and angles in the arm and elbow legally allowed for a bowler. It was fascinating, and watching cricket in Sri Lanka turned out to be a very enjoyable experience, complete with cheerleading bands and dancing girls.

Then: another googly. The tsunami in 2004. At the time the waves hit, the Sri Lankan cricket team was in New Zealand. Murali was in Sri Lanka resting a shoulder. The team was recalled because the country was in a crisis situation, and my interest quickly moved beyond cricket into seeing the humanitarian aspect of the game. I saw how the entire team, spearheaded by Murali, arranged supplies, went on trips to the north, south and east of the country, interacting with people and really getting involved above and beyond what they needed to do. Afterwards, things waned. I watched cricket but wasn't really into it. There seemed to be too many matches played and too much to keep up with. I moved on to tennis.

And then, last year, the itch started again. I was out of India while the sensation we all now know as the IPL was on, and when the Chennai Super Kings were runners-up, I'll admit I felt a bit like the jilted girlfriend. People who didn't know the first thing about cricket were completely hooked on the game; they knew the names of players and teams; they had their favourites and their crushes. How amazing, I thought. The game has reinvented itself; it happened in India, and I missed it!

And so this is where I stand today. Ready to be enthralled all over again. I've gotten over the disappointment of the tournament being shifted to South Africa. I'm just happy that for the next six weeks I'll be watching along with millions all over the world. I'll be turning my poet-dancer eye to different aspects of the game - so don't expect detailed match reports or analysis; it'll be quirkier stuff. There'll be a few hits and a few misses, but all in all I hope to entertain, and of course, to share the love.

Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai

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