“What a shot from the Master Blaster! He is turning it on here for India” This is probably the earliest memory of mine when I started to follow cricket. I did not recognize this famous voice of Tony Grieg then, all I understood was there are 2 batsmen, 1 wicket keeper, 1 bowler and 9 fielders. At the age of 8, this was all I knew. Every time there was a shot for four, It just made me happy. Whether it was a good stroke or bad, I was too young to understand the difference between cover drive and extra cover drive. It just felt good. TV Show rooms and All India Radio was the only source for me to hear that voice and watch matches. Having grown up in a Gujurati joint family, sports is never given the preference so there was no way I would be getting into it as a player. As I grew, the affection just kept growing, a small tv at home between 13 people is like telling Afridi to play defensively for 2 overs. It’s just not possible. I could only watch glimpses of matches, the little man who was called Master Blaster was hitting a leg spinner straight down the ground for sixes and fours and the crowd was just going mad. Just looking at those scenes made the day for me.
Next, we moved on to a bigger house, two tvs then, and now I had one to watch matches with my Chote Papa (Uncle). Shane Bond destroying Indian batting. I did not understand what was happening. Same players who were playing so well in India, could only edge the ball, miss it and get lbw and bowled. Those were times where I struggled to even remember the field positions. Later, I made a field chart on my studying pad and observed it daily to remember them. Slowly, the game started to take a liking to me. Ganguly and Sachin, two players I really enjoyed watching on the field. The straight drive from Sachin, the well timed square drive from Ganguly, they made me happy but I could not explain it to anyone. Everyday I used to mug up the schedule of matches in the morning before heading to school, just to make sure I do not miss most of the match. I still do, no I don’t go to school, but I plan my day based on cricket matches that very day. It’s just become a habit. The point is, it was the emotion, the clean nature of the game that just helped me learn it and flow with it. There were sixes, fours, umpiring mistakes, fights as well. Howlers were made but they evened themselves out at the end for many.
2007 World Cup was a turning point in cricket life for many people around the world, more specifically Indians. The T20 format caught attention like fish to water. But for me it also started to highlight the best feature of the game, how every delivery could just change the match. Just one ball could make careers, or even destroy them. Ask Misbah, he scooped one when Pakistan would have settled for an orthodox approach, he went for innovation. I had closed my eyes when the ball went up, the voice said: ” In the air and Sreeshanth takes it” I couldn’t believe what had just happened. A World Cup was won. It was how just one mistake from Misbah who batted so well was now responsible for Pakistan losing the world cup. After that too, there have been many instances of closer matches, last ball thrillers. People love such games, as in Shastri’s manual we say: All three results are possible, this is going down the wire. The game’s pace, the natural reaction, the tension of waiting for 3rd Umpires verdict was palpable. But after the Australia-India 2008 Test series things started to change for the game.
Decision Review System was implemented in order to remove howlers from the game. I think apart from that line nothing made sense in what it is but I am not here to take sides on whether I want it or not. Umpires made mistakes before too, but now with the amount of cricket being played and the stakes being high, It is natural to look for methods to get the right decisions. There are so many cameras, live commentary, outrage on twitter, facebook that keep a close eye on the proceedings. Social Media has now made me it possible to follow it anywhere. With so much exposure, things were bound to take a toll. and they did. The decision making umpires have now seem to lost their control over it. More and more doubts are given out or not out. The level of umpiring has gone down. DRS has helped remove some errors, has changed the bowlers bowling round the wicket and still getting many wickets. Batsmen are given out more for LBW decisions than before. Ask Kevin Pietersen, or just watch Watson struggle to get a good stride in and still be out. But what DRS has changed the most, is the simplicity of the game. The instant reaction, the celebrations, and dissent to decisions. It all looks planned. Players manipulate their reactions now. The joy that watching a slow motion cover drive from a batsmen gave is replaced by a black figure holding a bat and a white spot being shown on the bat, the HotSpot. No, it is not bad to use technology. But with the game already being that very close, it feels like being cheated when technology takes the excitement away. I would rather prefer to see the body position, high elbow, the eyes over the ball, the real stuff but it is not possible now. It’s commercial. Commentators discuss more about right and wrong decisions rather than describing that wicket and it’s effect on the match. More statements are given, apologies are demanded. There seems to be an altogether different view of the game with that angle.
Cricket has always had special place in hearts of many people, just the joy of watching it decides how people talk at their work, how they celebrate wins at homes. How defeats are blamed and friends argue about them yet all seemed to be a jolly thing. That has somewhere gone missing as technology now takes all the attention and the game just wonders for it’s presence. Some things in life just need to be kept as they are, too much tinkering spoils the fun. As the cliche goes: Cricket is the game of glorious uncertainties; it’s still alive but the simplicity of the game has been taken away by technology.