Coping with the absence of live cricket

By now, I have learnt how to pronounce “Labuschagne” correctly. The trick is to realise there are two ways to do so – the native “scarred-knee” pronunciation wins you South African friends, while the “Shane” pronunciation is reserved for general reference, especially when feeling nostalgic about Mr. Watson. Having gone through the collection of the allrounder’s failed lbw reviews, I recommend any cricket fan to do so too during these times, when there isn’t enough entertainment.

Nostalgia has taken me down a strange route during this pandemic. Being a 17-year old student who spends a lot of his time indoors, I haven’t been affected by the lockdown as severely as the extroverted or the underprivileged. But, I’m a cricket aficionado and the lack of any live sports has affected my schedule. It has made me dig deep into the archives. It took me the first week of the lockdown to realise that, unlike many around me, I do not have much to be nostalgic about.

A ball-by-ball telecast of the World Cup final in 2011, when Yuvraj Singh carried India to the title was one of the few great moments I could revisit, but the 1992 World Cup final, the 1996 India-Pakistan quarter-final clash and even the Murali-Emerson-Ranatunga drama, which were all part of ESPNcricinfo’s retrolive coverage, were all first-time experiences for me.

I had the same affinity for clumsy accumulation of cricket books as Dean Elgar has for runs. I owe a great deal to the precious data and information I have received from books, which were worn with creases by the time I was done reading them from cover to cover. Shane Warne once stepped on his stumps when he was on 99 – both the form of dismissal and the quantity of runs scored confounded me. One of these books was also where I learned about the 2003 World Cup final. No Indian adult has ever spoken to me about it. After a brief look at the scorecard, Ricky Ponting made me realise why.

The back pages of the newspaper would be the first ones I turned to as the years went by, in the hopes of finding headlines of Sachin Tendulkar scoring another century. More often than him, however, I would read about this young man called Virat Kohli. The eras were changing, but it took a long time for me to grow used to his tattoo-wielding wrists and expletive-laden demeanour. It was the 2016 T20 World Cup which made me embrace his genius. I became a quintessential cricket fan around the same time.

There has been no looking back when it comes to loving the sport. I have witnessed some of its greatest moments in the past few years – such as the Kusal Perera heist in Durban and the Ben Stokes miracle at Headingley – as well as its worst moments – be it the time when the Australians tampered with the ball, or any time someone tries to do the Naagin dance in jest.

Everything, including cricket, has come to a standstill amid this pandemic. I attend my online classes, log into my tuition, and participate in video calls with friends and family. Life gives us more opportunities to connect than we realise. But the prospect of live cricketing action remains uncertain. I have taken up this downtime to go through the old reels. There is plenty in store for people like me, who want a slice of the game before T20 cricket revolutionised it. There is a sense of calm in watching Rahul Dravid showing restraint outside off on a first day of a Test match in swinging conditions. There is tragedy in watching Lance Klusener and Allan Donald missing the World Cup final. And there is joy in watching Shane Warne wheeling away for hours.

There is an inescapable pleasure in watching cricket, in playing cricket, and engaging with the sport – be it with the willow or the pen. There’s also an inescapable sense of disappointment on days when things don’t go one’s way. But the greatest lesson from cricket is that life goes on. It morphs into different forms, it engages in debate, it causes heartbreak, and it gives the greatest joy. No matter what happens, cricket goes on. And we are better off because of it.

Abhijato Sensarma is a 17-year old student who loves cricket and is a regular feedbacker on ESPNcricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary.

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