"Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we have no place to go, let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!"
As it beautifully snowed outside while the cozy fireplace crackled in my room on a wonderful March evening at the gymkhana lodge in Darjeeling in the year 1996, my first memory of cricketing drama unfolded at the Eden Gardens. While I can never forget the sight of Vinod Kambli crying, and the spineless Eden crowd, the world cup semi brought a moment which would bring a semblance of profound clarity for me later in life.
The Indian run chase was going smoothly ahead, and the air was abuzz with excited expectations. And then, out of nowhere, Sachin Tendulkar was out stumped off Sanath Jayasuriya. Even to a young fellow's eyes, it was obvious the massive change that happened thereafter. Not only did the Indians unfold, even the fans deflated, the cheers got lower, and the Lankan bowlers seemed twice as menacing. As a child, seeing my elders deflate because of one man's dismissal seemed peculiarly strange.
For a while, then, I struggled to understand the phenomenon of Tendulkar. It was only in 1998 after the twin Sharjah centuries did I understand: When you can have Sachin win you matches in that classy style, why would you want victory any other way?
That is the essence of India's fascination with cricket and Tendulkar. The prospect of winning not through grinding stubbornness, but in style. That is the essence of the devotion of every sports fan when it comes to the superstar, the maverick who can turn it on, who revels in glory, who smirks in the face of adversity, and whose audacity knows no bounds. Why else would Warne be loved so much? Why else would Messi and Ronaldo be fighting like two crazed roman centurions in a fierce race for the biggest honor? Why else would Lara play those incredible shots and take just six months to snatch back his record from Hayden?
From that World Cup, I still have memories of Aravinda de Silva waving a private middle finger to the Indians and Aussies in the final, I still have memories of Jayasuriya's eyes lighting up as he hit those wristy sixes, and I still have memories of a proud captain lifting the trophy. Through all these years, such memories flash in bright lights in my head. Sachin's Sharjah twin centuries and the Chennai masterpiece, Lara's Bridgetown 153, the Ponting 140, and so many more. Michael Bevan has been one player who I have massively enjoyed in the one-dayers and that 180 he scored against the Rest of the World was incredible.
It's the reason sportspeople become sportspeople. To play and to win in a manner befitting the vision they possess, befitting their talent, befitting the grandest stage. Why does the world need them?Exactly.
Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive - Howard Thurman