Dr. Unnikrishnan Menon,
A quick head-up once every five minutes becomes the schedule for the next one hour. Meanwhile, definite signs of intention are on show at the battle-front. The rock has fallen, followed by the not-so-young one, but brash-boy-bravado is pushing things ahead. “When will it rain, in Brisbane?”
Thirty pairs of eyes stared at me, some blankly, some incredulously, none with any comprehension. This was in response to my eager query about any interest in cricket. The setting was a class in medical school, those eyes were all of girl students of the batch, the day was January 19, 2021, the time was around 9 a.m. IST. Delayed resumption of classes forced by the pandemic, a plethora of topics to be covered, and here was the Professor starting the morning class with an out-of-syllabus question!
The day had begun much earlier for me, but not early enough. It was at 5 a.m. IST that the battle had begun, in far off Brisbane. Gabba was the battlefield, where the gladiators would face off for one last time in the Australia-India Test series. The cricket fanatic that I am, I usually do not need an alarm to wake me at the right time. But I was torn between waking up to watch from the first ball itself, and the superstition of India doing well in my absence. The latter instinct won through; the better half woke me at 6 a.m., blandly informing that, “One fellow is out.” Wearily trudging towards the TV, noting that the steady one and the understudy are playing, I settle down in that well habituated position – edge of the seat, barely breathing.
The clock ticks towards 7.30 a.m., without further alarms. Breathing easier, I rush for the much delayed morning tasks. It is, after all, a working day, sigh. Breakfast here, lunch there; nourishment for the long day ahead. I am off to the workplace, while the battle has been re-joined. Luckily, one of the FM channels in my car gives live running commentary – all good for the next 20 minutes. It is over to my mobile phone now – Cricinfo, the saviour. I pray that the data connection holds good throughout.
The day’s work involves a one-hour class for the students, followed by what promises to be a long, dreary committee meeting, where my active contribution may not be called for (fingers crossed). It was the former activity that began with the question from me about cricketing knowledge. That being in the negative, I proceed to my lecture. I pose a weighty question approximately every 15 minutes. The resultant pregnant pause is judiciously utilised to check the score. The last of these checks reveal that the young gun has misfired, sadly short of a deserved century. The stand-in captain is in, gets going, and then gets out. The brash boy has walked in. Will he take the fight to the mighty opponents? And soon it is tea time there. Teaching duty done, I distractedly go through the motions of some minor departmental work, before proceeding to the meeting hall.
It’s 10.30 a.m. – all set for the last session there, and the meeting here. I park myself at the back of the small room, throwing benign smiles all around, before crouching low in my chair. A quick head-up once every five minutes becomes the schedule for the next one hour. Meanwhile, definite signs of intention are on show at the battle-front. The rock has fallen, followed by the not-so-young one, but brash-boy-bravado is pushing things ahead. “When will it rain, in Brisbane?” The refrain that had been ringing in my head since morning is now getting softer and less insistent. It seems to have been replaced by, “When will this damn meeting end?” I hope no one notices the wild gleam in my eyes, as they stay glued to my mobile. The boys are indeed playing well; the capitally named fellow beautifully too. Do I, along with a million others, dare to dream the impossible? As the meeting proceeds; I’m beyond edge-of-the-seat now. All I can think of is my freshly minted plan of rushing home to catch the finale, using the cover of lunch-time.
It's noon – last hour and a bit to go, depending on how the battle proceeds. It definitely is looking good from an Indian viewpoint. I have begun to play dumb charades with the meeting coordinator, trying to inquire the status of proceedings. Finally, it’s all over, the meeting, that is. I rush out, sans courtesy. By the time I reach my car, the chase is down to under 50 runs. I get on the road, and soon wish that my vehicle was an ambulance, to cut through the midday traffic. My grip on the steering tightens involuntarily. It is now them (Indian batsmen) versus me. And then I see Red – at the traffic signal. It’s all over, bar the shouting, there, and simply all over for me here. Brash boy hits the winning runs, whilst I cool my heels in the car. I want to shout, scream, run out, but the signal soon changes.
I complete the formalities – reaching home, joining the family members in celebration, before settling down for the post-match discussions to spice up my lunch. A never-to-be-forgotten day in the life of an Indian cricket lover comes to an end. It was all play, and some work, but never a dull moment. Impossible is nothing, and as they say: in life, as in cricket.