Sunday, March 11, 2012

The day (my) cricket died

The title is borrowed from Don McLean’s famous song American Pie – the day music died. On Friday, cricket died, at least for me. 

Of all sports, cricket stands unique. For it’s not just a sport. It’s a way of life. It’s where (at least in theory)  gentlemen rule . Where fair play reins supreme. Where there is class abundantly in display. Where you simply don’t do something, that’s “not cricket”.

That era is long gone of course. Modern day cricket more resembles a gladiatorial contest, where anything goes. But even in the modern day Colosseum, one man stood apart. He stood for the old way of cricket.  The way cricket was played through most of its history. And he proved that you could do that and still be immensely successful. But alas, he has now decided to hang up his boots. It was coming, perhaps even a long time coming. But still, when it came, something of cricket died for me.

He was the last of the gentlemen left standing on the cricket field. Soft spoken and humble. Would do anything for the team  - keep wickets, open the batting, come at number 6, whatever,  without a fuss.  No bling bling. Despite being incredibly handsome, no off the field  escapades to fill up Page 3.  Courteous to a fault to teammates and opponents alike.  Worlds like sledging were utterly alien to him.  Even staring at an umpire for an awful decision giving him out would be unthinkable – the raise of an eyebrow would the maximum permitted dissent. Who else in the world is capable of saying  “ I laud the selectors who have a thankless job – they had, on occasions, more confidence in me than I had in myself” !!

Even in the way he played, it was all about the spirit of cricket. No agricultural shots, thank you. The front foot would face the direction of the shot. Bat and pad close together. All grace like a ballerina. Grit and determination in plenty. Stoic defence – boring to many but invaluable to the team and brilliant to a connoisseur. 

A great student of the history of cricket  - he is an acknowledged expert in the game’s history. A man with huge respect for the game’s traditions.  Wonderfully articulate –see this earlier post of mine. Even the way he went on Friday was understated and all class – if you ever want a model for a going away speech, look up what he said.

His place in cricket’s Hall of Fame is assured, of course. His exploits on the field need no further mention – a few tons of newsprint have just done that yesterday.

I don’t think I’ll be a hard core cricket fan anymore. The game has changed , as it indeed should. But not in the direction to my taste.  I’ll still go to the odd game.  But the heart won’t beat to that seemingly  impossible rhythm.  The spirit of cricket was the reason I played it, watched it and followed it with such intensity. But now, the expression “its not cricket” cannot be used anymore. The last of its upholders won’t be there.  

For,  Rahul Dravid has retired.