The new religion

It is no exaggeration that cricket as a game is religiously watched and enjoyed in our country today by practically everyone - irrespective of age and disposition. During 1940s and 50s when only Test matches were played, we as kids used to sit with our ears glued to the bulky radio sets listening to the lively running commentary of the matches by Vizzy, Berry Sarbodhikary, Pearson Surita and AFS Talyarkhan, whose clarity and precision never failed to give a clear projection of the proceedings on the field.

This ‘luxury’ was obviously limited to urban fans who could follow English commentary.
With the advent of telecast of the game -- in both its long and limited over forms -- from mid 1970s, cricket acquired a new dimension, becoming a national event viewed by millions in every nook and corner of our land, especially whenever India took on other international teams. One sees masses of fans even in public places where TV sets are on, watching the game transfixed, oblivious of their errands. No wonder that a chap travelling with me by GT express missed the train when he rivetted himself on the platform at Nagpur watching the India-Pakistan One day International.

The mesmerising spell cast by the game has understandably become a matter of concern for the parents of the children appearing for Board exams whenever the matches are played during the crucial exam months.

It is indeed amazing that the fans, irrespective of the generation gap, meticulously grasp the finer aspects and rules of the game. In the recently played first One-dayer at Jaipur between India and South Africa, India won the match just by one run when Tendulkar flung himself acrobatically at the ball and prevented it from touching the boundary. It was so close that the third umpire had to take a call. This was a point of contention between me and my friend with whom I was watching the match. It was my friend’s 95-year-old mother who resolved our dispute by explaining that as per ICC rules the benefit of doubt goes to the fielder if tele-replays are inconclusive!

Cricket fever has its amusing side too. While waiting for my turn at a saloon, I happened to witness the second ODI recently played between India and South Africa at Gwalior when Sachin broke the world record by hammering a double century.

The barber boy who was all the while intently watching the telecast while trimming the moustache of a customer was so excited that he flicked off a good part of the customer’s carefully groomed moustache! Though angry initially the sportive chap pardoned the boy and reconciled to his Charlie Chaplin cut!

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