Hometown Hero

Jan 15, 2017

Wow!! This is why we watch live sport.

The excitement of being in the moment, performing when everyone is watching must be something else altogether.  I am getting old by the day but I still feel the same nervousness and heartache when the target gets closer. It probably is the same for any sport one follows and may be cricket is the chosen one for me. I enjoy other American sports – I truly do. But I just cannot bring myself to the same level of commitment as a spectator.

This morning was another one of those bilateral 50 over internationals that people complain of lacking significant context. Maybe six months from now it will disappear from the archives of memory – only remembered as a hyperlink in a footnote of a larger narrative in Cricinfo or Wisden. Why then would I bother setting things aside just to follow a newer set of players under a new captain achieve a target with hurdles along the way?

Kedar Jadhav is a guy I have been following in IPL. He is not dissimilar to many other names I have come across over the years – Atul Bedade, Kanitkar, VB Chandrashekhar, Yusuf Pathan and hundreds more. There is a story behind every name. Some shone brightly under the spotlight and then faded away. Some had fate playing different games on them.

The story plays out differently with stand-out highlights along the way. Today’s would be a game that will have a place in any future narrative that plays out for Jadhav. Here is a guy playing in front of his home crowd with his parents, wife and little girl among the many cheering him on. How many times have we seen this in sporting movies and biopics. They follow a template and it would seem we would be immune to the tricks of the template. But we are not – every one of those stories tugs at our emotional selves and we forget for a moment that we are but inconsequential bystanders.

Scorecards and statistics are what will remain but what of the feelings of the spectators on the ground cheering for their hometown hero?  As someone watching on TV the sense of déjà vu is inevitable – the mind went back to a game in Bangalore with the local boys Kumble and Srinath guiding the team to victory using their batting skills with the camera panning to images of their nervous parents in the crowd. You could not have scripted a blockbuster sport movie any better .

And what do we say of Captain Kohli that has not been said already? This was his first match as captain after Dhoni relinquished the captaincy in the limited overs format and what a way to take the baton!! The shots he played will replayed in highlights packages and written about by writers with greater literary flourish but for me it was a vindication of years I have spent following this game. From my callow youth to a stage which people have labeled mid-life crisis, cricket has been a constant.  Self-imposed exiles from and renunciations of cricket worship have not lasted long.

Its at moments like today when Kohli and Jadhav were making things look easy that I feel my years have not been wasted. We seek pleasure, thrill and reflection with our experiences in life and I have got more than my share with my cricket watching experience.


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