Cricket is not just a game for me. This is an overused cliche and yet, true. I have been watching Cricket since I was 8, but I did not have the understanding or appreciation of the game until the 1992 world cup when I turned 11. India used to have a terrible record playing away from home but the expectations were sky high. During that world cup, I truly fell in love with Cricket. The large stadiums in Australia, the Sydney Cricket Ground pavilion, the colored clothes, Sachin Tendulkar’s midas touch, Martin Crowe’s swashbuckling style, Imran Khan’s command. It was a first for me and it was magical. Cricket was made even more magical by two very special individuals, my grandfather (Fondly called Dada) and Sanjay Fua (My Dad’s Sister’s Husband).
Dada was the textbook definition of a grandfather. He lived for us, played with us, told us stories and took us on long vacations. His tiny appetite did not stop him from ordering everything he wanted to taste at restaurants because his allies, i.e. us were always up for sharing with him. He had an extremely liberal view on religion and a strong moral compass. He is also the reason why I quit wearing leather and goods made from animals. His family was everything and the only thing that mattered to him. His knowledge about the game of cricket was masterful. Ask him about any player on any team, how the wicket was going to play out in Durban or Lords or Eden Gardens, he knew everything. Dada could have easily replaced any statistician with his number crunching abilities and he did not need to learn machine learning or AI. All this meant that my love for cricket was inevitable.
In our lifetime, we sometimes come across individuals who fill the room with their presence. They carry their hearts on their sleeves and their boisterous charm is too hard to resist. That’s our Sanjay Fua! My elder cousin and I were extremely fond of him. In a lot of ways, Sanjay Fua and Dada were the yin and yang. While Dada had a calm demeanor, Sanjay Fua brought high tides of energy and fun! Before we could take a breather from one burst of energy, the next one was coming. Whether we were playing cards, carrom or going on long bus rides across India, it was his shenanigans that took center stage and gave us belly aching laughs. He also injected the excitement of cricket in us.
India was not playing well in the world cup and they were up against Pakistan in their next encounter. While we had a lot of expectations from our cricket team, the non-negotiable was that we do not lose to our neighbors. The tension and excitement reached its zenith when the two geopolitical rivals clashed! We were consumed by this rivalry and it was as if each one of us had an important role to play in the game. Even our daily backyard cricket games somehow had the extra degree of seriousness during the days leading up to these rivalries. The nation stood still as massive drama was about to unfold.
I, though, don't remember the game. I only remember the contrasting energy Dada and Fua brought. Dada had a special corner in the living room where he would watch the game from. Fua had rules - no one was allowed to move from their place while the game was going on. If you needed a bathroom break, you better pace your liquid intake and plan your bowel movements between overs. Dada would make carefully calculated predictions. Sanjay Fua would cheer, scream, and agonize like a kid. We had front row seats to this everyday theater. Their unplanned chemistry transformed our living room into a stadium and unbeknownst to them, created the glue that held our family together.
Even Though, we are engrossed in our lives, in different parts of the world today, every time I watch a game of cricket, I am immediately transported back to our living room in Mumbai.
Lets go Dada and Fua, the game is about to start!