Friday, April 1, 2011

Dear Men in Blue

Dear Men in Blue,

You know something, when I first saw you guys, you used to be Men in White. True, you used to take field in blue attire Down Under, but you generally played in white, the way you look the sexiest.

You know something, I used to watch every match you played. Every match they showed, that is. Remember those Doordarshan days when they had only one camera, when we saw the batsman's back for half the match and no boundary was ever tracked till the end? I saw every match they showed.

I have faint memories of 1983, you know. Very faint. Most of it has been built upon stories I've heard from my mother, but I vaguely recall being sleepy-eyed, people celebrating all round me, on the streets, setting off fire-crackers.

I've followed you since time zero as far as my memories are concerned, Men in Blue. None of you were playing then. Why, some of you weren't even born then! I was diligent and persistent enough to obtain permission from a strict father and a somewhat obliging mother who always put education at the top of my priority list.

You know, I used to jot down the complete (or summarised) scorecards of every match you played. And having being brought up on tales from 1983, I was so sure that 1987 shall be ours! The manner we played and controlled matches invariably suggested so.

Let me confess something: when Gooch kept sweeping our spinners, when Gavaskar was bowled through the gate, when Kapil hit that ugly irresponsible hoick and got out, I still had hope that Shastri would somehow squeeze it for us. And when he couldn't, I cried in the bathroom that night.

But it wasn't over. You kept playing, and I kept following you. The 1992 World Cup was at the end of a horror tour of Australia, and we played horribly. It gave birth to a young star who is the Big Brother among you today. But we played pathetic cricket, and though we beat Pakistan, our performance was shambolic.

Did I lose hope? No. Never. I never gave up on you. I followed you for the next four years, yet again: I knew it was coming this time. We shall play at home again. I was there, you see. There, at Eden Gardens, for the semifinal. I remember the 18-year old me shouting till my voice went sore as Srinath took those first three scalps. But suddenly everything went wrong, bottles rained all around me, and Lloyd handed the match over to you.

I was heartbroken. I didn't talk to anyone on my way back and didn't join in the chorus of curses. "Another four years", I thought, and kept on watching and following you guys.

I went to another city for a year, and it was here that I saw your next world cup campaign. Everyone said that we shall win, and despite defeats in the first two matches I had hope in my heart. You won three matches on the trot, and all of us in the hostel became optimistic. Alas, McGrath destroyed it all in a single spell, and we were left, disconsolate, once again, content with the fact that you have, yet again, beaten Pakistan.

I was livid for a while; but what the hell, I said. It's just The Men in Blue - how can one remain mad at you for long? I got hooked yet again. I saw Australians rise to supremacy and became green with jealousy. But then, they were Them, not Us, isn't it?

2003 came, and I wasn't a student any more. This time there were superior forces to convince and coax to get follow you. I took days off to witness your performance - what if this turned out to be the one?

Your performances in the first two matches were abysmal. I was disappointed, but had hope in my heart: and it hurt me when a mob of insane people stoned down your residences and targetted your families. Is this how one reacts if a parent is ill or a sibling doesn't get a job or a child fails an exam? You're family, Men in Blue. They shouldn't have done this.

And how you fought back! Eight wins on the trot - who shall ever forget a performance like that? So what if Australia blew you apart in the final? I was proud of you - and every Indian was, in 2003.

But then, that elusive feeling kept haunting me for the next four years - we were just one match away from the cup, and still couldn't make it.

Doesn't matter, I told myself. It's just a matter of four more years. 2007 shall be ours. It just had to be.

What happened was like this: you lost to Bangladesh. Yes, Bangladesh. And then to Sri Lanka, and were eliminated. You know that you were booed back home. What you don't know that I was in front of the television during the Bangladesh-Bermuda match, supporting Bermuda (in Bermuda shorts) with MS Excel open in front of me, trying to find out whether there's some sort of hope. What you don't know that I woke up in the small hours of the morning, sweating, with real scenes from the Sri Lanka match for dreams.

I had thought I'd never recover from that. But I did.

Then this guy from Jharkhand came to the helm. I know I shall have stern opposition as I utter this, but in my opinion he's the best captain my country has ever produced. The best. And under him things turned again. We rushed up the ladder with an incredible urgency.

2011 has arrived. We have eliminated Australia. We have eliminated the only other team to have beaten Australia. Only one step remains to be conquered now, Men in Blue.

I do not know about others, you see. But I do care about myself. I have been watching and supporting you blindly over a quarter of a century. Every four years I anticipate this. And get heartbroken. And start afresh. And wait for four more years.

A quarter of a century is a long time, do you realise that? You couldn't win it for us, but I know you tried. I do. That's why you'd never find me abusing you. I have faith in you, and I always have. I never switched channels when Tendulkar got out. I kept hope when Jayasuriya and Afridi spanked you for fifty from the first five overs of the match.

I knew that if I kept faith in you, you won't turn me down. And you really haven't, over the years. You have made me smile in the worst of moments. You have made me overlook wars and earthquakes and tsunamis and terrorists and riots and Fardeen Khans. You have made me fight back from the toughest of corners. You have been my confidence. And all that's been for a reason.

This is it, guys. This is as close as I've seen you come. Win this for me. I know I've never painted my face or danced or screamed or set off crackers. I've never bought a real Indian jersey. But I've laughed and cried with you, and I'm typically a miser as far as emotions are concerned. I've loved you unconditionally, irrespective of your defeats, especially overseas.

Do it this time. Please. For me, if not for anyone else. It's been a long wait.

And if you really cannot, then there's always 2015. Then 2019, 2023...

Yours forever,
Abhishek.


24 comments:

  1. hobe ebar asha kori!! sachin r ekta performance ontoto team r kaj e lagbe!! tahole aar oi bodnam thakbe na je or performance team r kaj e lage na!! lekhata khub sundar - we will never lose hope - ebareo na hole khela thik i follow kore jabo!!

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  2. Well done Abhishek. Every word straight from the heart and God willing we will fulfil our dreams of watching India lift the World Cup tommorow! Chak de India!

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  3. Excellent!!!
    ... Nicely composed... proper structuring and transition of the sequences...and well expressed thoughts of a True Fan... of Indian Cricket Team..

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  4. Dear Fans,
    Thanks for your love and support, and above all patience. Its just a matter of another 24 hrs. We will have a CUP of coffee together after that..
    Yours sincerely,
    Men In Blue

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  5. super like....excellent....true blue blood :) and 1.2 billion wishes with you...

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  6. Touche... Men in Blue do it for me too.

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  7. cHAK dE iNDIA......

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  8. amrai world cup jitbo!!Men in blue will rock!

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  9. My boyfriend couldn't convince me to watch the entire match tomorrow. This post did. Love you. Love your blog. Love the Men in Blue.

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  10. poignant piece!

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  11. Abhishek da - awesome !
    Sure hope all our wishes come true tomorrow !

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  12. If someone wants to learn what "heartfelt" is, they should be an Indian cricket fan... and then read this piece.

    This has been a really exciting and excellent world cup. Perhaps it's because we have all grown up. Or because our fans have: we are not violent "stoners" any more, one hopes. Perhaps because we have peaked at the right time. Because we have a team with self-belief and crisis experience that plays like Australia used to. Or maybe because we beat Australia when it mattered - and Pakistan when it mattered.

    Having said that, let me take away from all this serious emotional stuff and merely quote Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, in asking you to remember one tiny fact:

    Scrimgeour turned slowly on the spot and exchanged an incredulous look with Fudge, who really did manage a smile this time as he said kindly:

    "The trouble is, the other side can also be called the 'Men in Blue', Abhishekda." :)

    Chak De, India!

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  13. begins as a love letter and ends with a mellowed father marrying off his daughter,throughout gives the feeling of a shy child's longing for a lollipop his mother just won't buy.
    life goes on...hope persists

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  14. I have no memories of 1983. I remember 1987 ... the one time when I surely believed we would win. And went through similar sentiments during the match. Finally, I could not believe that what happened had indeed happened, and kept thinking that was a nightmare.

    Will that change tomorrow?

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  15. Indiaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!! India !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  16. are u single? I need someone like u.......

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  17. CONGRATULATIONS!
    fellow Indian
    sachin and you can now die in peace.

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  18. You did not answer then, but today we know who the tortoise was.

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  19. http://sports.ndtv.com/world-cup-2011/news/item/171558-indias-cup-of-joy-overflows

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  20. They haven't disappointed u, for that matter, they have surpassed all our expectations!!! Dhoni was THE man... rising to the occasion when it mattered most... But my player of the final was Gautam Gambhir... The team would have been lost without him last night... He showed that u do not need 2 b a maverick 2 be a WC winner... The correct technique still works wonders these days.... Love u Gauti!!!!
    We all are BLEEDING BLUE!!!!

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