**Q: What’s common between a train, a plane, an office and your home?
A: All have people who know all about cricket and insist on letting you know.
With the Cricket World Cup now having reached the semi-final stage, there is little else anyone wants to talk about. And while a sports-challenged person like me would perhaps choose to lock herself in her room after, of course, getting it sound-proofed to keep all ‘cricket’ firmly out of it, work, social commitments and the annoyingly obligatory requirement for Vitamin D means one has to step out almost daily.
Home is where the noise is.
In fact, one doesn’t even have to leave the house for the ordeal to be unleashed by cricket enthusiasts-you can find plenty of them within your family. The past few weeks have been particularly excruciating as I’ve been waking not to the gentle sound of music nor even to the not-so-gentle sound of the rather judgmental cleaning-lady‘s, ‘Wake up, who will go to the office, me?’, but to parents, brothers and uncles discussing the previous night’s match or the relative merits of Indian batting and Australian sledging.
An attempt to reach for the remote control for the briefest glimpse of the television for potential business stories of the day feels like major breach of cricketiquette as more than one disapproving pair of eyes tell me better than to interrupt (what I’m sure is the fifth repeat telecast of) match reports or discussion.
Caution: Men at work
The scene at the office is only slightly different. In fact, ‘cricket at work’ is even more unnerving because my workplace is full of that special category of evil men who possess the skill and the knowledge to string one intoxicating word together with the next, creating the magical and all-engulfing web of cricket reports and analysis.
Also called sports journalists, these men, with their God-like ability to prove the same LBW decision both right and wrong, kick-start their day with pronouncements on what to expect from the Wankhede pitch and end it with whether the expectations were met or not.
Either way, the story is a winner.
Pretending to focus on yet another inspiring quarterly performance report of Air India, I listen to these men and pick from them whatever pieces of cricket wisdom I can. I wait with bated breath for the moment such conversations begin to steer toward what I know, which could be a singular catch or a crucial expensive over that won/cost Pakistan their match. However, what could potentially be my moment of glory comes and goes even before I can clear my throat, because the men can’t possibly linger on the Ghost of Cricket Past and must move on to more important business: The next match.
You can run, you can hide…
It is perhaps this overwhelming world of cricket that I foolishly hope to escape with my trips out of Delhi. Within a short span of a couple of months, I visited Patna, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Hyderabad, only to realize that it had been incredibly optimistic of me to expect any relief from the relentless and all-pervasive world of cricket.
My train journey from Delhi to Nagpur, which could have been perfectly peaceful, remained anything but, what with my father, a couple of Hyderabadi gentlemen, a young lad from Haryana and three fresh-out-of-college-about-to-join-TCS fellows discussing cricket till the loud wails of a (by then exasperated) toddler prevented them from going on any further.
Our day of arrival at Nagpur coincided with the India-South Africa clash in the city, making it absolutely impossible for the taxi driver to not boast about the same and the ones that his city had proudly hosted earlier.
The bus journey from Nagpur to Hyderabad was characterized by a general air of sulkiness as everyone including the driver, the conductor, my father and most passengers were in a foul mood because by that time, it had become clear that the Proteas will indeed beat Dhoni and Co.
The flight back from Hyderabad to Delhi was perhaps the most agonizing. A failed TV screen and a fully booked airplane meant there was no way I could have escaped the non-stop chatter of the two boisterous and deceptively emaciated-looking teenage co-passengers, who had enough cricket within them to fill from cover-to-cover the hallowed jubilee edition of Wisden, Sportstar or some such.
If you can’t lick ‘em.
The battle between me and cricket is as one one-sided as an inebriated Canada-Dream World XI clash. Clearly there’s no escaping cricket in India. But if there is one thing that the Sachins and the McGraths have taught me, it is to never give in.
And so, the only option left for a cricket illiterate like me is to take the good old Indian method that sees most of us cruise/pant through the toughest exams-cramming. I have decided to read as much as I can on cricket. I plan to religiously go through pre-match reports, match reports, post-match reports and all other kind of reports that sports media deem fit to be shared with the rest of the world. I will try not to worry too much about Boria Majumdar getting jostled by ecstatic/homicidal fans while listening to him answer in a frighteningly angry voice Arnab Goswami’s mile-long questions after each match gets over. I will also ask my brother, however reluctant he is, to (re)draw, label and explain the cricket ground on a sheet and elaborate on the differences between a hook, a pull and a cover drive.
The effort has to be made because it is not just about the World Cup, which, though seemingly endless, will end in less than a fortnight. It has to be made because it is important that we keep trying to learn new things and explore unfamiliar territory, however overwhelming and noisy it may be. It is important because the brain, God’s most precious gift to human kind, must be challenged constantly to keep it fit and agile.
But mostly, it is important because a seemingly innocuous snore fest of a story on the relative merits of buying advertising rights for World Cup and IPL act as a constant reminder of yet another threatening event looming large.
*The title has been copied verbatim from a friend’s write-up for a college mag article. I think her name was Swati, and I am sure she was a computer science student.
**The blog was first published on the website I work for, http://www.dailybhaskar.com.