Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hero

Recently, I made a quiz on myself.
This is not as narcissistic as it just sounded because Facebook allows you to do these silly things very easily and on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I created a quiz - "How Well Do You Know Diptakirti Chaudhuri?" My wife got a creditable 90% but my sister was the only one who maxed it. She even left a comment at the end - "Phoolon ka taaron ka..."
The one question my wife got wrong was about a hero of mine, whom I have never talked about in the last six-odd years of my married life and that's why my wife never knew about him. On the other hand, the man was an obsession during most of my childhood and that's why my sister doesn't remember anybody else.

The real answer to the question - "Who is my favourite batsman?" - is not the belligerent Behala boy but an even more belligerent Antiguan - Sir Issac Vivian Alexander Richards.
And I write the 'Sir' reverentially, not alluding to his Antiguan knighthood but the joy he gave to me during at least a decade of watching him play cricket.

I don't remember the runs he scored (8000+) or his batting average (must be 50+) or the number of centuries (low 20s). Yet I remember my mixed emotions of horror and exhilaration as he pounded hapless Indian bowlers to mountains of runs. In those days, there was no chance of watching any country play cricket unless they played India.
The first time I remember seeing him bat was at the 1983 World Cup Final - when he scored some 30-odd in what seemed like no time. And after he got out (a dismissal I don't recall seeing), I felt a twinge of regret.
However, this regret went away totally when West Indies came for the 1984 tour of India, a stated 'revenge' tour.
And boy, how he scored!
The number of runs just paled into insignificance as he sauntered around the pitch, chewing gum, adjusting his county cap (never a helmet - mind you!), checking the field from the corner of his eye and smiling imperiously once in a while.

That 1984 series was the first full season of cricket I followed religiously and from then onwards, I was just floored by the man they called King.
As a 10-year old, I felt that if you had to bat, you had to do it like Viv. Hell, if you had to live, you had to do it like Viv.
Not the dour defence of Gavaskar, not the studied technique of Vengsarkar, not Gower, not Border, not Greenidge, not Lloyd, not even Kapil's flashes of flamboyanc. Nobody did it like Viv. Two World Cup Finals - he imprinted his style on. The third was cut short by Kapil's Catch of the Century. He scored 189 single-handedly in an ODI at a time when 220 was a reasonably safe score. He never wore a helmet in his fifteen-year long international career.
And when he was in Calcutta for a Test, he arrived at Saturday Club for the New Year's Eve party in a blazer and was denied entry. He was accompanied by Neena Gupta.
I could only worship him for all these.

Recently, I read somewhere that Shivnaraine Chanderpaul has approximately the same average and number of centuries from a similar number of Tests as Richards. With no offence to Chanderpaul, I was rather shattered by this piece of statistic. I mean, how can you even name him and Viv in the same paragraph?
How can you?
But then, I learnt that a young colleague was named Issac by his father in deference to Viv's first name and wondered that it is indeed a tribute to a man that a cricket-lover in a foreign country names his son after him.
Quite befitting.
After all, how many West Indians would have named their sons Sachin?

This is the thing about childhood heroes. You never grow out of them.
All through the IIFA awards, I was getting quite pissed off with the rather blatant promotion of the Bachchan family - and maybe even with Amitabh.
Then Boman Irani passed on the mike to him and he rattled out the way-too-often-heard lines from Kabhi Kabhie.
And I wanted him to go on. And on. And on...

2 comments:

Roger Rabbit said...

We Indians have been quite generous in naming our sons after our friends from that island. Even Sunny had named his son after another West Indian legend. In Calcutta, we even celebrate the day Franck Worell donated blood.

Talking about Viv, there's a famous anecdote: Viv ducks a bouncer from Lillee who comes up to him and says, "In case you didn't see it, it was round and red". Next ball.. bouncer...Viv hooks... ball lands in the stands. Viv walks up to Lillee..."You know how it looks like. Now go fetch it."

White Magpie said...

The swagger was unmistakeable. My most unforgettable shot of his was him hitting Maninder Singh behind the bloody stumps for a six. Unimaginable and utterly humiliating.

BTW, I think he scored 191 not 189. On being asked why he didnt score a double and play safe, he replied,"I didnt know I was on 191. I was playing for the crowd."


Totally unforgettable dude.