BENGALURU: So, it’s here again! The Kumbh Mela of cricket, that comes once in four years. Over the next few weeks, everything from paints to paan masala will be sold using cricket. Personally, World Cups have been pegs of memories, and going through them is like a walk down memory lane of my life.
I started following cricket from the 1996 Wills World Cup. It was a time when cigarette companies were allowed to sponsor tournaments and display ads on TV. Sachin was blossoming into the world-beating champion that he would later become. I was in a hostel, and got my updates from a friendly teacher, newspaper reports, and phone calls from home. The World Cup ended with tears and vandalism in the semi-final and I learnt my first lesson of disappointment.
By the next World Cup in 1999, I was suffering from an advanced stage of cricket-craziness. Britannia had launched an offer called ‘Britannia Khao, World Cup Jao’, where you had to collect wrappers that had ‘runs’ on them. If you collected enough, you could fly to London to watch the matches. I had no passport, but I started eating biscuits with a vengeance. Even though we were strict vegetarians, I started eating cakes that had egg in them. By then cricket was my religion, and Sachin was my god.
By the 2003 World Cup, I was in the phase between two Board Exams, delightfully called ‘Intermediate’. I worked in a travel agency and PCO booth, and we decided to entice customers by showing the matches on a small, black and white television. The customers watched the matches and left for their homes. Sachin played his heart out, but India crashed out in the finals painfully.
The next World Cup in 2007 was watched in Bhang-induced stupor. It was the final-year of graduation. I had spent five years studying Commerce and was as close to success as Goa Gutkha was to overtaking Apple computers. India went to the tournament with a ‘Dream Team’, but ended up with a nightmare result, crashing out in the first round itself.
The 2011 World Cup is a blur of Old Monk-induced memories. It was the last tournament of my hero Sachin Tendulkar, and to see him hold the trophy brought tears to my eyes. The lasting memory of the series is dancing on the streets, with one man waving a giant flag after climbing atop a local bus.
By the 2015 World Cup, I was a humour writer and stand-up comedian. I was making a living by pointing out the funny side of life, but cricket was still an emotional issue. Just like me, the Indian team was looking for change - the old guard had left, and newcomers were cementing their place. India went on till the semi-final but suffered a heart-breaking loss. I swore never to watch another World Cup again.
And here I am! Writing an article about the World Cup months in advance!
If there’s anything I’ve learnt from following six World Cups, it is this - keep your expectations low. For a World Cup in many ways, is like life. If you win, great! If you don’t,well, there’s always another one coming up in four years. This World Cup, I’m supporting Afghanistan. If India wins, I’ll be happy. If they don’t, I will feel like I did my bit for World Peace!
The author is a writer and comedian.