INDOMITABLE INDIA OVERCOMES INSULT AND INJURY TO SNATCH EPIC DRAW THAT FEELS LIKE HISTORY – The Times of India front page news heading on the Indian cricket team’s historic feat in the Sydney test had reminiscence of a past long past. The story of grit and determination of Ashwin and Vihari match ours when as kids we struggled to watch cricket and that of Team India’s when their struggle in overseas tests for most of the times was about securing a draw. Those were the days when cricket was love, and watching it on television was a luxury we didn’t have for most of our childhood. We had a Konark Black and White Television set that too without dish connection which meant we could watch only what was broadcast by Doordarshan. This limited our scope of visual treat to only a few one day internationals and fewer test matches and almost no overseas game. However, this would not dent our spirit and we would device ways to access dish connection through whatever means possible. We would puncture the dish cable passing along our window and connect it to the TV set through a thin wire that won’t be visible to any passerby. The desi jugaad would also not work so easily and many a times multiple punctures were required before the haziness faded and ESPN and Star Sports logo appeared on the screen. Managing to get a spot free screen would be our very personal achievement no less significant than the achievements of Indian cricket team which like our’s were far and few. However even this wouldn’t last long and our tampering with the cable had effect on the picture quality. People who had subscribed from the service provider started complaining after which a thorough inspection was carried out and our mischief was exposed. The service provider removed the entire length of cable and came complaining to our house. Thankfully, things were settled without much fuss.
But it wasn’t long before the Television set broke. It was a night around Diwali time; we had closed all doors and windows for the fear of moth and were watching television. My father was posted in another district and used to commute by train. Usually he would be back by around 9 but that night his train got late. He reached home at around 10 pm and rang the bell. We used to live on the first floor and our landlord lived on the ground floor. The TV volume was high and so we could not hear the sound of the bell. There was no mobile phone back then and so he had no other way to reach out to us but by ringing the bell. Just about the same time our landlord opened his door came out in his portico saw my father and went back inside without opening the main gate. My father got angry at the landlord’s gesture but as is typical of him didn’t say a word. After around half an hour we realized that the bell was ringing and rushed to open the main gate. Already furious at our carelessness when he saw that the television set was the reason behind it he burst out. One swing of the hand and the television set smashed to the ground. With this our visual treat even on Doordarshan finished.
When television failed All India Radio came to the rescue. The radio had its own advantage. On radio we could hear the commentary of all the matches which India played around the world. Besides of course its commentary stayed one ball ahead from the television. It may sound funny but such was our love for cricket that we have heard more radio commentary in our lives than watching it on television. And then there were power woes that spoiled our experience. Those were the days when only a few people had colour television and fewer still had UPS. People kept a rechargeable battery to power up in times of outage. Some households got a generator point connected to their mains. By some divine rule it always happened that the power woes worsened on the eve of World cup and other ICC tournaments or an Indo Pak rubber. That one prestigious family in the locality which had the dual facility of uniterruptible power supply and colour television saw a huge gathering in their drawing rooms. But this gathering was limited to only a few big matches. It was bad manners to visit friends and relatives for watching every single match and it was also laden with risk of the parents finding it out.
Struggling to get the updates on cricket we started reading newspapers. While people started reading from the front page our focus was sports news. We started reading from the back and read all that was written about the previous day’s cricket developments. A habit that stayed with us for quite long time. And then there was Cricket Samraat, the quintessential delight, a collection of which along with the trump cards was the most cherished possession we had once.
Times moved on and with the retirement of the legends we adored, our love for the game waned. I personally haven’t seen even a full over of cricket match for quite some time now. Not even the spectacle of twenty twenty serves as any encouragement.
However, when I woke up on Tuesday morning and read about India’s heroics on the front page. I yearned to know more. Ashwin and Vihari’s knock at the Sydney Cricket Ground were historic for they not just managed to steer India away from the jaws of a certain defeat but stood ground even as they battled personal injuries. The report by Avijit Ghosh was similar to the times when India used to be an underdog in overseas tour. In those days the country celebrated even a draw as an emphatic victory in overseas matches. The front page heading that read INDIA…SNATCH EPIC DRAW THAT FEELS LIKE A VICTORY, hence was so relatable. It had a sense of nostalgia in its wording and in detail. Returning to the good old habit I had left a long time back, I swiftly turned to the last page, and what a view it was.
BRUISED INDIA BATTLE TO STALEMATE – AMIT KARMAKAR
ASHWIN & VIHARI: BRUISED BRAVEHEARTS – VIVEK KRISHNAN
IT WAS MIND OVER MATTER FOR VIHARI – VVS LAXMAN
WITH TIME THIS WILL MORPH INTO FOLKLORE – AVIJIT GHOSH
Ashwin & Vihari had batted together for 42.4 overs in the face of a blazing Aussie attack. While Vihari pulled his hamstring and couldn’t run between the wickets, Ashwin had severe back pain. By the time the game ended Vihari had survived 161 balls and stayed unbeaten on 23 while Ashwin was not out on 39 from 128 balls. As per TOI report not since the Oval in 1979 had India batted so many overs to save an away test. Post-2002, India had never even survived 100 overs in the fourth innings. The old timers were quick to draw parallels with some of the historic matches in the past. This innings by Vihari and Ashwin reminded them of Kapil Dev’s heroics when with a fractured toe he bowled India to an improbable victory in Melbourne, 1981, and the fearless Anil Kumble who returned to the ground and bowled with a broken jaw in Antigua, 2002.
I went through all the columns and imagined what a treat it would have been to watch these two bravehearts on the pitch. I might add that it was the first time I saw the photo of Hanuma Vihari and perhaps can’t spell the names in the playing eleven. Quite a shift from the times when I would remember the names of even the Ranji players. My disillusion with cricket aside, the sports does have a huge following even in today’s generation. Why did then this historic achievement didn’t make it to the news the way it should have been. I didn’t come across a single social media post talking about India’s achievement, which in captain Rahane’s words was “As good as a victory”, or Vihari’s mention which according to the skipper “was even more special than his only century”.
The achievements of Ashwin and Vihari deserved more appreciation, but perhaps in New India its only victory that matters. Nevertheless, boys. Congratulations. You have made us proud. Cheers.