India shares a unique relationship with Australia. We do not have the history of colonisation between us; there is no anger or grudge on them for depleting our economy for hundreds of years. Neither do we share an economic rapport due to intense trade and commerce. Nor do we have a history of diaspora settling down under. India’s relation with Australia stems majorly from one aspect – sports. While we play hockey and tennis against each other – our rivalry is relegated to merely one sport – cricket.
While growing up as an Indian child, we are taught to hate Pakistan as a nation. Most of this hatred found fruit during cricket matches. However, as an adult, I can’t bring myself to hate Pakistan. In a sport criticised for being too long and obsolete, Pakistan brings in a certain unpredictability, an edgy entertainment to the sport.
Australians on the other hand, are ruthless when it comes to sport. They might respect you, but on the field, there are no nice feelings. Even their sporting culture is so starkly different from ours – Australian legends play for a few years and retire quietly. There is no drama of a farewell, there is Vedic outpouring of stats and figures by media channels. In many ways, Australians treat sport like a Buddhist monk – as a rite of passage in life.
Growing up has also changed the way I look at Test cricket. I hated the format as a child, probably due to the drab white clothing. Then there was the format, played over five days. And then, after all the effort, the match could still end in a draw.
As I grew older, I realised that I liked Test cricket for precisely the same reasons. The white clothing bestowed a feeling of a uniform. The five-day format ensured it wasn’t just a battle – it was a war. Played over 15 sessions, with its own ups and downs. Much like a war, the result was heavily dependent on the conditions, pitch and weather. And at the end of it all, it could end in a draw. Much like life itself, not everything existed in the binaries of black and white. There was bravery in avoiding damage too.
Watching an Australian tour is like being an intern at an ancient gurukul. You have to wake up at 5am, complete your morning ablutions and wait for the sun to rise. After gobbling up a quick breakfast, you sit in front of the television and watch the proceedings play out.
Like Buddha warned us, life is suffering. Desires are the exact cause of all pain. And yet, every morning, I wake up and hope for a miracle. Life is suffering. But hope keeps us alive. For, it’s pain that helps us know pleasure. It’s an Australian tour that makes us cherish a Sri Lanka tour.
(The author is a writer and a comedian)