Recently, I watched in bits and pieces, India winning a test match against England on television. I am one of those cricket tragics, who watches only test matches. The rest I feel does not have enough context. I was thinking a bit about why I think of the long form game with such romance. And I remembered a very blurry memory from my childhood.
I remember as a child (and that would be the 80s) getting a haircut from the local barber shop. The cricket match was playing on a grainy television set in the shop. The great West Indies team were hurting the Indian team (sometimes quite literally with their fast bowling attack) but everyone in the barber shop was egging our cricketers along, at the same time praising the opposition’s quality and excellence. My dad having with a general receding hairline had his haircut in a few minutes. Then it would be my turn. Though I love the game of cricket, I preferred the usual soft toned Mohammad Rafi songs that usually saloons played instead of the West Indies bowling at Indian batsman.
Why you might ask?
Well, the guy with scissors would mutter a cautious word to the Indian batsman. Snip, Snip, Snip he would go around my ears and suddenly groan “Play straight, play properly. Don’t throw your wicket away”.
“Yes, please follow your advice. Don’t cut off my ear now” – I wish I had the courage to say that.
That particular day, I hated the cricket great Kapil Dev. He was not the cautious kind. If someone bounced a ball at 90 mph at this head, he was going to hook it out for a six. Sometimes he would miss, sometimes he would flamboyantly smack it out of the ground for six. While it was all riveting, I hated him for making this man with deadly sharp scissors, very excited. Kapil Dev was getting him excitedly shouting sometimes in admonishment and sometimes in pure joy.
After that near death experience at the barber shop, my dad would take me to the nearest provision store and we would share a cold drink. It was always a bottle of Thumsup. Getting a Thumsup after a haircut, was our tradition. Apparently it was older than even before I could begin to form proper words.
We would walk back home and as a family watch a slow moving and detailed drama called Test cricket. Kapil Dev, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall would usually write unusual twists and turns that made watching a whole day’s game worth the time spent.