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How the T20 World Cup Took My Ailing Anna to an Older Cricket Era

How Anna and Amma hosted the Indian cricket team for breakfast in the West Indies in 1971.

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The recent T20 World Cup transported my father to the cricketing era of 1971. (Photo: AP)

On Saturday evening, in addition to chatting about the awesome weather (rain in March!), I ask Anna if he would like to watch the India vs Pakistan T20 World Cup match.

I hope watching the match will break the cycle of lethargy and depression.

It doesn’t.

Anna has never been a big cricket fan. He is probably a part of the 1 per cent of Indians who are not cricket crazy. However, I was banking on the legendary rivalry between the two teams on the cricket field to snap him out of his current state. He is not even remotely interested!

Virat Kohli, during the India-Pakistan match on March 19, 2016. (Photo: PTI)
Virat Kohli, during the India-Pakistan match on March 19, 2016. (Photo: PTI)

He decides to nap before dinner instead.

India, of course, wins the match and the city resounds with the sound of crackers in the middle of the night. I worry that Anna will be woken by the sound of bomb ladis. That his sleep will be disturbed. That he will call me in fright. Nothing happens and the rest of the night passes peacefully.

How Anna and Amma Breakfasted With Team India in 1971

I tell him on Sunday that India won!

Still no interest.

Then I remember a story about my mother and cricket. Actually, about my mother who watched Sunil Gavaskar’s famous test début in Port-of-Spain in 1971.

Anna was working for the UNDP in Trinidad & Tobago. The West Indies had, and probably still has, a vibrant Indian-descent population that embraces and celebrates all things Indian, including Indian expats. So, when the Indian team came to play against the West Indians in Port-of-Spain, Anna got tickets for my mother and himself, to watch the match at Queen’s Park Oval.

Sunil Gavaskar’s famous test début was in Port-of-Spain in 1971. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="https://singhiv.wordpress.com/2015/08/25/sunil-gavaskars-amazing-test-debut-in-the-west-indies-in-1971-excerpt-from-indra-vikram-singhs-book-dons-century/">singhiv.wordpress.com</a>)
Sunil Gavaskar’s famous test début was in Port-of-Spain in 1971. (Photo Courtesy: singhiv.wordpress.com)

Amma and Anna spent the first three days watching the match at the Oval, from start to finish.

Of South Indian Breakfasts in the Windies and Gavaskar’s Absence

On the fourth day (the rest day), some members of the cricket team came home for breakfast at 7 am. Amma made idli, sambar, chutneypudi, ghee and of course, coffee. The table groaned with food, and there was not a quiet place in the house. The little kids (like me and my sister) watched as Gundappa Vishwanath devoured more idlis than we had ever seen anyone eat before. S Venkataraghavan played chess with my brother. Sadly, Sunil Gavaskar didn’t come to breakfast that morning.

On the fourth day (the rest day), some members of the Indian cricket team came home for breakfast at 7 am. (Photo: iStock; Representative Image)
On the fourth day (the rest day), some members of the Indian cricket team came home for breakfast at 7 am. (Photo: iStock; Representative Image)

I think that 7 am breakfast went on till noon with many rounds of coffee and home-made ompudi.

The following day found Amma and Anna back at Queen’s Park Oval watching the match.

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“When we came back from the West Indies, everybody thought the win was just a flash in the pan” – Ajit Wadekar. (Photo Courtesy: <a href="http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/813005.html">espncricinfo.com</a>)
“When we came back from the West Indies, everybody thought the win was just a flash in the pan” – Ajit Wadekar. (Photo Courtesy: espncricinfo.com)

Before the Cricketing Craze was Born...

After the match ended, Anna asked Amma how she liked watching a test match. India had won and Sunil Gavaskar was a sublime batsman.

Amma was non-committal at first. Then she said, “I don’t understand this game. A man at one end, throws a ball over his head at another man at the opposite end, who swings a bat in the air. And they do this for 5-6 days at a stretch! Isn’t there something better they could be doing?”

Amma clearly did not understand the game of cricket!

Anna smiles as I recall this story. He tells me that Amma never went to see another live match even though there were plenty of opportunities. She found cricket boring. Then he tells me that Amma echoed the sentiments of Lord Wavell.

Lord Wavell created a huge controversy in the late 40s when he said that cricket was wasted time and effort.&nbsp;(Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)
Lord Wavell created a huge controversy in the late 40s when he said that cricket was wasted time and effort. (Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)

“Who Lord Wavell?” I ask. “What did he say?”

Anna tells me, “Lord Wavell created a huge controversy in the late 40s when he said that cricket was wasted time and effort.”

I respond with, “Really?” hoping to get him to talk more. He obliges.

“Yes,” he says. “Lord Wavell said it was the height of absurdity that 22 men could spend 5-6 days playing a game, and that too for months on end. And that the British had created the sport merely to provide a spectacle for large crowds of people, wasting a colossal amount of time, money and manpower.”

Insightful, that Lord Wavell chap, I think to myself.

Little did Lord Wavell know the spectacle the game of cricket would turn into!

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(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)

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