I was eleven years old when I watched, for the very first time, eleven grown men in coloured uniforms scattered across a playing field. Two men with sticks in a different coloured uniform stood in the middle. I watched with a mixture of curiosity and disdain as one of the men in blue, ran and threw a ball at the man holding the stick.
‘OUT!’ screamed my father, as the men in blue rejoiced. The man in yellow tucked his stick — a bat — under his arm and walked away.
‘Did you see that ball?’ asked my father. ‘It was a beauty!’
I smiled back not comprehending anything. I knew this much – it was the 1996 Cricket World Cup and my father was addicted to it. Like almost every other person on the subcontinent. In fact, I was almost proud I didn’t follow this stupid game unlike the rest of the nation obsessed with it. India was one of the nations hosting the series but I wasn’t silly enough to succumb to it.
‘So what exactly happened?’ I asked my dad, seating myself on our well-worn couch.
He went on to explain the single man in blue — the bowler — had ‘spun’ the ball so well that the man in yellow — the batsman — had no option but to hit it straight back to him. It still didn’t make much sense to me but I continued to watch it to keep my dad company.
There were a flurry of ‘outs’ as my dad rejoiced often, each time taking care to explain to me how exactly the batsman was out. After the 10th man was out, I figured it was the end.
‘So who won?’ I asked dad, knowing he was supporting the men in blue.
‘It’s not over yet. We have to bat now and chase their score.’
That’s when I knew it was going to be a long evening. After almost three hours, India still didn’t win, much to the disappointment of the nation. But that evening was a win for me.
‘When’s the next game?’ I asked.
I spent the entire series supporting the men in blue. I began to understand the rules, the skill required to play the game, the strategies involved. When he wasn’t at work, dad would take the trouble to explain things to me. The LBW rule. The fielding spots such as silly-point or mid-on and mid-off. He spoke about the greats from when he was younger. The men in blue did well until the semi-finals. Dad was disappointed. I mourned with the nation too but only for a while. I’d started developing a soft spot for the team in yellow.
Over the next few years, my love for cricket grew. Dad and I continued to watch games much to the frustration of my sister and mum. I’d stay up late watching series being played overseas. I’d wake up at 5 in the morning to watch a game played in Australia. But dad and I no longer saw eye to eye.
While I supported the Aussies, he branded them as unsportsmanlike. While I cheered their aggressive playing, he argued they were bullies. I held the upper hand as the Aussies dominated the cricket scene year after year. Our conversations were limited to cricket and later, to football. At least with the latter, we supported the same team – Liverpool.
I spent my teenage years talking sport to dad. I’d speak about school, friends, ups and downs of adolescence with mum. But the closeness I shared with her was never replicated with dad. Unless of course, we talked sport. We could have long conversations on tactics and strategies, on series that should have been won or which team deserved a win. Nothing more. Nothing else.
The first time I called my parents after reaching Australia at 21, I spoke in length to mum. After speaking to my sister amidst a lot of tears, she passed the phone to dad. For a second, we were both quiet.
‘Met any Aussie cricketers yet?’ he asked.
I laughed, knowing he meant if I was happy with what I’d seen so far.
‘How did Liverpool do?’ I asked back. He told me about the game I’d missed, knowing well that I’d be fine and that I missed them.
He’s not a man of many words, my dad. Not one for sentiment. But somehow, through our unique language, we have more in common than we realised before. While we no longer just talk sport, and while I still won’t tell him every little thing, we have a mutual understanding that didn’t exist before.
And while he still supports the men in blue, and I go for the gold-and-green, I know in so many other ways, I am truly my father’s daughter.
(c) Sanch Vee @ Sanch Writes (27 February 2017)
Image Source: Pixabay