Of the insatiable and ubiquitous itch to watch cricket

India v West Indies: Group B - ICC Champions Trophy

Shikhar Dhawan

There comes a time in everybody’s life when the sense of ‘I would rather be somewhere else’ sets in so violently, you begin feeling an itch in your consciousness, a persistent and niggling itch which can never be reached regardless of how hard you try.

You shift your concentration to something irrelevant, and it’ll overpower that within a few seconds of resistance. You begin speaking loudly to drown it out, but your speech begins to describe this itch in angry and impatient terms. That’s when you realise there is no escaping it. And so you leave.

Over the course of the past few weeks, my access to a television has been reduced to ‘non-existent’. I am dependent on the holy powers of the Internet God to provide me with any news of the outside world and any game cricket has to offer. I’ve had to pry my eyes for any source of updated commentary (and avoid any tempting links to live streams in the fear of running out of free data), the kind which updates itself before a heartless Facebook friend puts up a revealing status update, and live on my cricket without the power of vision.

It’s been harder ever since the Ashes began, and harder still yesterday, when Stuart Broad decided to tear through the Aussie middle-order, and Shikhar Dhawan decided to toy around with the South African bowlers.

Though both matches were being played at vastly different parts of the world (or two different tabs, in my case), both elicited a common sense of excitement in me which I hadn’t felt in a while. India had recently won a tri-series and a tour to Zimbabwe without much of a sweat, and the only thing I was looking forward to was to watch Cheteshwar Pujara and Parvez Rasool don the blue jersey, as well as see an epic face-off between the English and the Australians.

Unfortunately, neither happened. India tinkered with their strategy, but not with their team. Australia prayed for a miracle, but forgot to turn up in the process.

It’s amazing how both games extracted all the right emotions from completely different set of events. On the one hand, from rolling to such a commanding position in their chase of 299, the Australian batsman were outgunned by the sudden outburst of inspired bowling by England, and Stuart Broad in particular.

The joys of watching a bowler running in with the wind in his hair and motivation in his stride is nothing like anything. I imagined these things while reading the commentary, even caring to add an inspiring background music for added effect.

The neighbouring tab had descriptions of the most violent batting I had heard of in months. The poor South African bowlers were playing host to a savage bunch of cricketers intent on making bowlers weep. Every second Dhawan shot read ‘four’, and before I knew it, he had reached 200 epic runs, and with overs to spare, even a 300 looked handsome for the southpaw.

There are so many different facets of the game, each so important to the run up of the final result. The bowlers heaped the pressure on the batsmen in Durham, and the batsmen heaped the misery on the bowlers in Pretoria. Both equally destructive in the course of the match, but both different ways of torture.

Batting and bowling are often placed as polar opposites on the cricket field, yet when either of them seem to be doing their job to suppress the other, there’s no differentiating in the kind of appreciation we profess.

There have been tons and tons of anecdotes of how a simple game of cricket turned days, months, and even the lives of common people into something far more exciting. But what’s amazing is that each of these anecdotes are vastly different, with different backgrounds, cricketers, contexts and results. And they all come together to express the most wonderful feeling of joy.

That itch was entirely satisfied by the end of the day, after the English retained the Ashes and South Africa ‘A’ put up an incredible fight.

But the funny thing about these itches are that once they are satisfied, you seem to want more. And that’s when we look forward to the next match in the hope that we’ll have another day of epic cricket.

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