October 1, 2009

The finer details

I have to tell you at the very outset that I share my home with 2 cricket-obsessed males. But I suppose you would've guessed anyway by the dirty heap of cricket whites that can be found heaped in various spots of the house at any given time. And the long line of cricket bats, balls, helmets, gloves , etc., etc. that mark the way from the verandah to the bedrooms. Beautiful urns lovingly placed in various corners of the house become "ideal to store cricket stumps and bats". You get the picture, right?

The first, my husband, is one of those whose every second sentence is about cricket (the sport, not the animal!). His greatest satisfaction is not what he achieved in his academics or career, but that he learnt cricket on his own ("using the stump of a coconut-leaf as a bat"), set up a cricket team in his school and managed to play well enough to get his name and face and team in the papers more than once .

He later went on to climb the ladder of cricket-obsession by leaps and bounds. One of his more crazy cricket-ruled moves was to take admission in a college in a sleepy little town just because there was a better chance of being selected for the state team from there. He lasted just one month before the sleepiness became too much for him and he ran back to Bombay, but that's another story.
He went on to play for his college and then for his company where he immediately chose to work the dreaded night-shift so that it would give him time to play cricket in the daytime!

Post-marriage, my greatest challenge was coming to terms with his obsession with cricket. Heck! It was worse than having another woman in the equation. I could've fought that but how could I fight a sport on a TV set or the brotherhood of a group of grimy, sweaty men ?
There were days when at the end of one match, another would be starting somewhere else in the world, and then another. And my man religiously watched all of them. From the pitch report to the awards ceremony .
His work took second place to it too. If there was a match due to start, all appointments were cancelled.
"Sorry, I'm not feeling well today."
Yeah, he had cricket-fever!

Then, came our son. My husband was so excited about the next potential cricketer in the house that he prepared a professional cricket-pitch in our grounds as soon as he knew that I was pregnant. Everyone, including me, thought he was nuts. He was taking up the most fertile piece of land in our property but did he care? Naaah! He wanted to grow a cricketer.
He went to some of the cricket stadiums to check on what grass they use. Then he bought a huge roller (which needs 3 men to even move it) to roll and level the pitch. And he waited.

As per tradition, I went to my mother's home for the delivery and my husband followed me there. Not to spend time with me but to join a cricket club there. The day after our son was born, the proud new father was very busy... playing cricket in matches all aound the district!

The day our son turned 4, the coaching started. My husband would bowl and our tiny little cricketer would bravely try to hit the ball. Every connected ball was crowed over like it was the World Cup's decisive knock. And every so often the 'coach' would feel our son's biceps to see if it was developing yet. He needs strong arms to hit the ball well, you see.

More than once we had rip-roaring fights in the house because my husband was using a leather ball to bowl to him (if you're new to the sport, the leather cricket ball is what is used by professionals to play. It's the size of a fist and as hard as a rock).
"You'll give him brain-damage", I cried.
"I'm toughening him up," he roared back.
"At least use a rubber ball," I pleaded.
"That'll ruin his game !"

To give him credit, our son was equally mad about cricket. Any attempt to stop the coaching till he was older was met with fierce rebellion from the pint-sized cricketer-in-the-making. He hungered to master the sport.
Every match was avidly watched on TV by father and son. Every ball, every stroke, was dissected and analysed by them. They groaned over every wrong move made by the players and celebrated every major win as if they had played in the match themselves.
The stance, the angle of the throw, the placement of the foot, the crook of the elbow ... surely there was more going on here than a mere sport.
Googlies and maiden-overs were tossed around the dining table with relish.
They played all day long outside. Then when it got too dark, they moved indoors and played inside the house.
"Just a few strokes, nothing more".
It took him several broken pots and urns to decide that he was not made for indoor cricket ... it was way too sissy!

Then when our son was in the first standard, my husband saw the most electrifying notice! A famous cricket club in the city was having its selections. Our son had to, just had to, go for that.
"He's only 6" I said.
"But have you seen his game? He's way better than I ever was at his age. He's better than anyone I've seen. Just one look at his shots and he'll be snapped up like that!"
I guess I don't need to tell you what happened to that episode, right? The coach who was trying out the candidates struggled to keep a straight face but to give him full credit, he did allow our son to face one of the bowlers.
That incident is the source of a lot of hilarity in our family still. That my husband wanted our 6-year old to compete against 16 and 17-year olds and was so sure that he was better than any of them. Few children can claim that their father has so much confidence in them!

Well, he is 16 now and even I can tell (very grudgingly) that he does seem to play well. Okay,okay , so he plays really well. I wish I could be happier about his talent like all those exemplary doting story-book mothers seem to be. Where he goes with his ability is up to Fate but I do admit that I wish his fate was not in the hands of a sport .
If nothing else, he learnt to travel all over Mumbai on his own, toting a cumbersome cricket kit and holding his own in jam-packed Mumbai trains!

So why am I telling you all this? So that you'll know the depth of cricket passion that reigns in our home (among the males, at least) . They play cricket as if their soul depends on it. They watch cricket as if getting up from their chair while the batsman is still batting will put a jinx on it. They talk cricket as if that is all that matters to them.

Yet, a few years ago , my husband took me out to this swanky restaurant in a popular 5-star hotel. We found that the Italian restaurant had a fixed menu for the day and it was vegetarian. Since we were not in the mood for vegetarian Italian cuisine, we walked out, planning to go elsewhere instead. Just as we were walking down the passage, Sachin Tendulkar, one of India's greatest cicketers ever ( or maybe that's one of the world's greatest cricketers ever) was walking in with his wife.
My husband, the cricket-mad, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-of-the-year cricket freak didn't twitch a muscle.
He didn't recognise him!
"It must be because he wasn't wearing cricket whites," he argued when I teased him about it.

Then, last year, we took our children to the same restaurant to celebrate (I forget what) and guess who was sitting at the very next table?
Mohammad Azharuddin, another cricket icon, who captained the Indian team for so many years (but who unfortunately went down in a blaze of controversy).
Neither my cricket-obsessed husband nor my equally cricket-mad son even recognised this cricket Great sitting just 3 feet away from them!
But I did.

Moral of the story : men may see the overall picture but it takes a woman to see the finer details!


  1. Ha ha ha... this is such a superb post... Yes.. they sure need the woman in their lives!!

    But I tell you Sunita, Cricket obsession is better than Golf obsession for sure!! My hubby was cricket obsessed... would watch cricket every day.. and then wander off to play once a week.. But now with Golf... he plays golf everyday.. and the tv stations only have golf on.. Its worst than having another woman I think!!!!

    *sigh*... I share the pain/joy!!!

  2. Ah-men!
    Golf, huh? Well,Patricia, then you must be waiting to come to India on holiday because as far as I know, there's no golf on the Indian channels. Or does he switch to cricket here?
    From one sports-afflicted woman to the other, it really is worse than having another woman. Doesn't it make you feel mean and nasty objecting to something which is after all, great for your dear husband's health? aaaargh!

  3. Wonderful. So hubby flirts with 'Cricket' while you with 'Garden'. That makes it even. :)

  4. That should make us the made -for-each-other couple, right Nebu? Both of us track in a ton of dirt in our own different ways! :D
    Actually, it's not a mere flirtation ... it's more like a deep-rooted lifelong commitment.

  5. I loved this one - had me laughing and shaking my head all the way! Why? Because I have the same thing going on at home! Well, not identical, but similarly crazy. The son is a basketball maniac, the husband is a politics-junkie. Both equally ridiculous, in my opinion. Our apartment is a veritable minefield of balls and shoes, and 25 years ago I'd never have believed that I would be having the kind of "conversations" I have today.
    Your last two anecdotes were the best! And so perfectly representative of how men and women differ!

  6. Kamini, scratch a little and I guess we'll find that we all have similar stories, hmmm?
    The 'minefield' sounds so familiar! ;D
    Would you believe my son has more pairs of shoes than I do? And that's just counting his sports shoes ... there's one with spikes for bowling, another for batting, normal all-purpose sports shoes, football shoes,sprinting shoes .... somewhere Nike / Reebok must be laughing. I think he's trying to meet their annual sales target!
    Politics? Your breakfast / dinner conversations must be very interesting!

  7. "It was worse than having another woman in the equation"

    hahaha....my favourite line in this post.

    Sunita, I now know what you meant when you mentioned earlier that you have two of the greatest supportest of Indian cricket at home. The 'boys', as men are called in cricket, should be utterly heartbroken to see the exit of their team from the Champion's Trophy. It is the same for me, believe me, with us having crushed the hosts in the first game in such convincing manner. England really spoiled our party.

    Do the boys have 'a team' that they support in IPL or do they support several teams as their favourite players are spread all over?

    I propose a book.

  8. "The 'boys', as men are called in cricket"
    Is that because they still have to grow up, Amila? ;D
    Heartbroken? I think it's more like a mixture of utter despair and disgust! I'm sure you recognise the feeling?
    IPL makes it a bit complicated doesn't it? One is so used to supporting the home-team and all of a sudden the home-team is in 5-6 different camps. I think my son favours whichever team is smart enough to snap up his favourite bowlers. But at heart, I think they're both Mumbai loyalists.

  9. I was referred to your blog.... and had a wondeful time reading it.

    Would you believe cricket leaves me cold ? An Indian male (hopefully there are others) who just doesnt care about cricket ? I mean I have nothing against it, would watch it on TV IF I didnt have anything else to watch but there it ends.....

  10. Hi Ashvin! It's great meeting someone from the 'highly endangered species' list . And even nicer to hear that you enjoyed this blog.
    Oh, I don't think your kind is extinct ... yet ... but highly deserving of being way up on the protected species list :D
    I can easily believe and understand how it leaves you cold. In a more advanced state it can make you gag and puke and turn green! :D

  11. That was fun reading and reminded me of something I wrote some years ago..


    well, I do not know how and why, but this introduction by the English really got the Indians (except most malayalees) interested. what If I told you (you can tell your hubby as well)- the first ball in India was bowled by the British in Kerala(whether it was hit or went through or got somebody out - i do not know) . More on it another day, I will write about it.

  12. Maddy, I don't know how and where you get all these very interesting snippets of information. That should make a great post!
    I can just imagine what those first malayalis who saw cricket being played thought of the whole thing ... "first he throws away the ball, the other guy doesn't want it either so he hits it away, then all of them immediately decide they all want it and keep running after it ... and they spend the whole day doing this!"

  13. And like they say, the devil is in the details! :-)

  14. Ha! No can do, Anil :D
    The actual phrase is "God is in the details", attributed to Gustave Flaubert.
    So, where we? :D

  15. Hi Sunita,
    I guess this is a very familiar scenario in most Indian urban homes.
    In my case, my son , now eighteen years old, was crazy about cricket, played in the school team till about the eighth standard and just when it was developing into a magnificent obsession , we[my significant other and I] decided that enough was enough..Luckily my husband's interest is restricted to watching the matches on the telly although he has done his bit in ferrying my son to cricket coaching classes. My son still claims that the loss is Indian crickets'.
    Now his attentions are diverted to football and basketball. He plays basketball and very keenly follows all football matches -EPL etc Now his ambition is to become a football manager preferably to manage a team like Man U...To him, Man U is the ultimate and he dreams of the day he can watch a live match.But ask him about Indian football - zilch.
    I dont know which is worse - a cricket ball flying around the house or a basket ball being thumped all around!!!
    As a mother, my concern is that he can do less with the sports bit and get on with his studies. He is studying BCom ,IInd year and preparing for the CAT next year!!!

  16. I'm glad to know I'm not alone in this, Arundati! :D
    I can fully understand how he finds football more interesting ... it's a more fun game, isn't it? And definitely a young man's game!
    Actually, can you blame him for not knowing much about Indian football? Is there anything to know ... apart from Baichung Bhutia? When a country with such a gargantuan population like ours has to get players from African countries to pad up its football teams, it doesn't say much about the quality of football among Indians, does it? That's my uneducated opinion anyway.
    All the best for his CAT preparation... I hope it sees you still sane at the end of it! ;D (I'm still recovering from my son's Std X Board exams)

  17. OMG Sunita that was sooo funny. I would have loved to have seen their faces when you told them ha hah ha. I am still cracking up ROFL. I am not a big fan of cricket ...only when we are winning so you know that I won't be watching the game for many years LOL. Perhaps one day young Junior will be touring the West Indies. Did your husband ever made it out here for the world cup? Mind you the West Indies are a mess now ..the board and the team need firing. Who is your husband favorite West Indian Cricketer?

  18. Oh you know men, Helen ... they absolutely refused to believe it. Then they tried to act as if it was no big deal :D
    I think we have the same tastes in sports. I love watching cricket only when India is playing well ;D
    My husband was a great fan of the earlier West Indies team of the '70s and '80s. They were almost unbeatable, weren't they?

  19. Lovely post:)..even my son was great fan of Cricket in his childhood, but no more.

  20. Thanks, Renu. So, has your transferred his affection to something / someone else? Or has he just grown up?

  21. It was quite surprising for everybody in the family that when he grew up he was the captain of his TT and badminton team..cricket was lost somewhere in growing up:)

  22. amazing description of a cricket crazy family

  23. Wow! That's a big switch, Renu. But at least he stuck with sports.

    Only the male half, Anna. My daughter and I are totally unaffected by the cricket-bug ;D

  24. I just enjoyed your description of the cricket craziness shared by your hubby and son. My hubby's family is equally cricket-crazy, and that includes my MIL and FIL. In the beginning, I had a hard time learning to eat before the game started, then at their lunch break and tea times, and sitting around the TV and watching the game intently the rest of the time. Since I am not conversant with all the terms, I would retire to the background and sit with the newspaper, only to be told not to turn the pages so noisily!

  25. The in-laws too, eljay? Wow! That must've been one tough initiation into the family! But I can identify so well with the mealtimes set by match timings. And the bit about the newspaper was just too, too funny! :D

  26. Ha ha ha! I identified with this perfectly, Sunita! Yes, we have the same discussions, the bowling sessions followed by a crash and breaking session! So far I cannot claim that they haven't recognized cricketers. They seem to recognize the Thane cricketers too! But one thing, it is I who managed to get the autograph.:)

    Beautifully written. I am going to have my husband read this tonight!:)

  27. See what I mean, Harini? You need a woman to get the finer details! Like getting autographs. Or even recognising the cricket Greats away from their home-ground.