Goodbye to all that: the departure of India's stalwarts has consequences for cricket and cricket lovers
The events of the last few weeks are freaking me out. Anil Kumble has gone, Sourav Ganguly will go, and the other three may not be far behind. I assume there is a large group of cricket fans in their mid-to-late 20s, like me, who are grappling with the implications. This transition is messing with our minds.
Let me explain. For many of us cricket began in November 1989. Pictures of what went before are too hazy. I remember Allan Border lifting the World Cup but don't recall what I was doing then. So I can't connect Australia's World Cup win to my own life.
Sachin Tendulkar spoilt us. He commanded that we sit in front of the television sets. He ensured we got late with homework, he took care of our lunch-break discussions. He was not all that much older than us, and some of us naïve schoolboys thought we would achieve similar feats when we were 16. We got to 16 and continued to struggle with homework.
Then came Kumble and the two undertook a teenager-pampering mission not seen in India before. Tendlya walked on water, Jumbo parted seas. Our mothers were happy that we had nice heroes - down-to-earth prodigy and studious, brilliant bespectacled engineer. They were honest, industrious sportsmen, embodying the middle class.
When we thought we had seen everything, they reversed roles - Tendlya bowled a nerve-wracking last over in a semi-final
, Jumbo played a match-winning hand
with the bat. We were such spoilt brats that we pined for openers and fast bowlers. We cursed the side for not winning abroad. Such greed.
Economists would probably have predicted the bursting of the bubble. We had a deluge instead. One fine day at Lord's
we got a glimpse of two new saviours: Delicate Timing and Immaculate Technique. Suddenly my group of eight friends was split into two camps. You were either with Ganguly or Dravid. In that period we even took Kumble and Tendulkar for granted. It was adolescent indulgence taken to the extreme.
When we played cricket on the streets, we had a number of choices. Left-handers were thrilled, defensive batsmen were happy, extravagant stroke-makers were delighted, the short boys didn't need to feel left out anymore, spectacles became cool, and freaky bowling actions were no more laughed at.
In such a state of bliss did we live our lives. We flunked important
exams, shed tears over girls, crashed bikes, had drunken parties, choked
on our first cigarettes, and felt utterly confused about our futures. But
every time we felt low, we had an escape route. One glimpse of
Dada stepping out of the crease, or Jam leaving a sharp bouncer
alone, or Kumble firing in a yorker, was an uplifting experience. So what
if India lost? Could any of those Pakistani batsmen even dream of batting
like Sachin or VVS?
| My generation needs to brace itself for this exodus. Some of my friends have been talking of needing to revaluate their own careers
I remember Ganguly and Dravid soaring in Taunton
, mainly because it was the
day I got my board-exam results. And boy, did that provide some
much-needed relief. I remember Tendulkar's blitz against Australia in Bombay
because my dad, who thought cricket was a waste of time, sat through every ball. So connected were these cricketers to my growing up.
Now, after close to 20 years, my generation needs to brace itself for this exodus. Some of my friends, crazy as this sounds, have been talking of needing to revaluate their own careers.
Others are realising they need to recalibrate their childhood definitions
of cricket. "Part of me just died," said a college friend who was the kind
of extreme cricket buff who memorised scorecards. "No Dada, no Jumbo. I'm
positive I'll stop watching after Sachin and Rahul retire."
These players were not only outstanding cricketers but also great
statesmen. However hard they competed, they were always exceptional role
models. Now we dread the next wave of brashness and impetuosity. Harbhajan
Singh and Sreesanth are talented cricketers, but there's no way anyone
would want a young kid to emulate either. The younger crop seems worse - a
visit to some of their Orkut and Facebook pages tells you enough - and things may
only get cruder in a cricket world when you can make a million dollars in
a little over three hours.
"Our childhood is ending," said a friend from school, and in some way he
was probably spot on. Tendulkar's retirement may mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but for a generation of 25- to 30-year-olds it will mark the end of the first part
of their lives. Switching on the television the day after will be a
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is a graduate student in Chicago and a former assistant editor at Cricinfo