by Devanshu Mehta
I wanted to tell you about my team. I have two of them.
Maybe you have a team too. In fact, I’m pretty sure you do.
I’m not talking about the team you follow. Sure “India” is my team, but this is not what I mean. “India”, as a cricket team, is an amorphous concept stretched across time and space1.
When I say my team, I mean a specific team, from a specific point in time that will always be my team.
Like I said, I have two.
During the 2003 World Cup, it seemed like destiny that India would win. That they should win. Of course, we hadn’t considered the competing destiny of the Australians, but at the time, if there was ever an Indian team that could have won a World Cup, this was it.
The batting lineup: Tendulkar, Sehwag, Ganguly, Dravid and Yuvraj.
The bowling lineup: Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, and Srinath.
This was a championship team. Unfortunately, so was Australia.
This was also my team. And it wasn’t my team because they were good. It was my team because I had watched this team grow up, as I grew up. Every player on the team debuted after I started following cricket. This really was my team. Nine years later, my fondest cricket memories are of this group.
And one other.
I’ve written about this before briefly, but in the early ’80s, as a kid growing up in Chicago, I didn’t know much about cricket. What I did know was that my father and his friends would talk politics on Sunday, and then suit up for a friendly game of cricket. And then we’d all go for Indian food.
That was before Gavaskar came to town. Some time around the year 1985, a team of Indian international players fresh off their World Cup win, came to Chicago to play an exhibition game. That evening, there was a meet-and-greet with the players over dinner. My father told me about Sunil Gavaskar, the greatest that had ever played the game. And then I met him.
In late 1985, we moved to India. I spent eight months watching cricket and playing cricket before I started school. This is, literally, all I did. My cousins were Shastri devotees. Yes, kids. In 1985, much of India was devoted to Shastri. With good reason.
The 1986 Indian tour of England is my earliest memory of international cricket, and it mostly stems from a poster from Sportstar magazine of Vengsarkar at Lord’s2. Vengsarkar was my new favorite player in the world, replacing Gavaskar3.
That batting lineup had Gavaskar, Srikkanth (Anirudha’s father), Amarnath, Azhar, Vengsarkar, Kapil, Shastri.
The bowling lineup had… err.. Kapil, Amarnath, Maninder, Chetan Sharma, Binny (Stuart’s father), Madan Lal and Shastri.
Ok, so the bowling wasn’t one for the ages, but we beat England 2-0, so there.
In any case, this was my first team in any sport, ever.
And 2003 may have been my last team.
Sure I love the current Indian team but these kids will always be… kids.
Some day, I’ll tell my kid about Tendulkar. And we’ll start all over again with her.
2SportStar was better than SportsWorld, because SportsWorld wrote too much about non-cricket sports, and SportStar had better posters. But in a pinch, either would do.^^
3In the pre-Tendulkar era, my favorite cricketer would change every few months. Some players who have been on the list: Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, Chetan Sharma, Azharudin, Srikkanth, Shastri.^^