If I were to look back and identify the defining series that gave me my cricketing mojo it will have to be India's tour of Australia in 1991-92. I was eleven at that time and even though the tour itself was a complete disaster in which we won next to nothing, my memories of it are more vivid than almost any other Cricket I have witnessed since.
Srikanth in the one dayers, a nerve wracking tie with a first innings score of 126, inconsistently immense seam and swing bowling by Prabhakar, Kapil and Srinath, Azhar's century in Adelaide, Kapil's four hundreth wicket and of course, the coming of Tendulkar. Though he had played a few tests before and even made a century, that summer was when the age of Tendulkar began for me.
It has been coming for some time now but the current series with the Aussies has finally decided it for me. My days as an avid, nervous, fidgety, cynical, heartbroken, mildly jingoistic, rapturous - sometimes all at the same time - Indian cricket fan have finally drawn to an end. The Indian cricket fan mostly plays out games in his/her dreams. Dreams of perfectly played matches or innings or spells or even a single delivery or a shot. Dreams of future matches in which Tendulkar scores a double in a come from behind win against the Aussies at the MCG, or a Sehwag double hundred in a single session or VVS playing to leg (and then to off) to the same delivery. But the present is seldom agreeable. For every well played win there are at least two inept defeats, for every moment of genius there are at least five instances of apathetic nothingness. For every display of steel there several balls of cotton.
It is defintely not a job for the impatient this, following Indian cricket and its players. People who do, and there are a lot of them, need an avenue to isolate themselves whenever an adverse event occurs. There are those that turn to sarcasm and humour, there are those who will blame either or all of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly. Some stop talking about it until the series tides over, some turn to F1 or the Premier League, and a significant number takes solace in trolling Rediff message boards. But these attempts seldom help. The pain lives on in our collective memories. And the dreams become more bizzare. How about a Tendulkar triple on a seaming Durban wicket in which no other batsman crosses ten? That would help ease the pain would'nt it.
But I shall not complain, at least not today. There have been moments, I must say, when it has almost been worth it. And there have been moments when the defeats have been personal. But some of these men who in all probability played their last test in Australia, are childhood heroes. A breed that is forgiven everything. I have never cared for the hundredth hundred if you ask me. The man has already done enough and more. And so have the others.
So what exactly is the legacy that my generation of cricket fans can hold on to? Some say this has been the greatest generation of India's Cricket. If that is the case, then it has been an underwhelming one purely in terms of results. In terms of skill, maybe the greatest, but only by a whisker. Their predecessors were no rabbits. Names like Gavaskar, Viswanath, Wadekar, Mankad, Bedi, Kapil Dev, Amarnath are not easily bettered. What will I tell my daughters about Cricket when they grow up, especially if we are still living in distant Switzerland then? They will probably have a thing for Ice Hockey or god forbid cross-country skiiing or worse still curling. Will they ever be able to appreciate the feeling that grabbed their father when Tendulkar would hit McGrath down the ground, when Laxman drove Warne inside out almost for an entire day at the Eden, when Kumble had that look in his eye with his jaw sticking out or everytime that Sehwag walked out to bat? Probably not.
I find it hard to relate to the Dhonis, Kohlis and Gambhirs of this world. Fine cricketers no doubt but they have never influenced how my day pans out if they were to get out cheaply. Tendulkar's wicket (and Sehwag's, Laxman's and Dravid's to an extent) but Tendulkar's above all, has the tendency to send a few million people into a mildly depressed stupor for the rest of the their day in which they do what they are supposed to do but bereft of all joy and vigour. Does Rohit Sharma do that to you?
My favourite Indian Test Cricketers who made their debuts in the 20 years since I woke up to Cricket, in no particular order are: Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid, Azhar, Ganguly, Kumble, Srinath, Kambli, Raju, Sehwag, Munaf Patel, Akash Chopra and L Balaji.