I can't be at Trent Bridge right now.Nor could I be at Lord's or Old Trafford or Edgbaston.The time,the money and the circumstances don't permit me to be.I feel deprived.I try to make it up with my own ritual that I follow every day the test match is being played.And I did that today.
I put an alarm for 3.00 pm.I get off the bed,mostly fast asleep after the highly strenous morning four lectures.At least it seems that way.I take my ID-card from my wallet.Reminds me of the days when I stood in the student ticket lines for matches at Keenan stadium,waiting anxiously with ID-cards in hand.I switch back to the present.Submit my card,enter my name in the register and take the remote and TV-room keys.Now I've got the pass to the stadium.To entertain myself between breaks,I take a book along with me.Last time it was 'An Equal Music',this time it's 'Is New York burning'.I am alone in that room.A hostel has people with varied tastes.And a Govinda movie is much more entertaining for the majority than this trivial tussle between bat and ball.That's why I am so particular with the timing,lest the room be booked by people to whom my tastes seem outrageous.
I pull up the matresses,make myself comfortable.Matches in England are more of a picnic and outing than a one time experience.So unlike India,where there is hardly enough space to crawl on one knee,let alone read a book.But I have written about that already in that long post of mine.Anyway I get into that picnic mode.And I'm off to another world.The sound of leather ball on the well varnished bats is music to my ears.The site of professional sportsmen wearing white flannels giving it their all for their pride is an inspiration.I soak in the moments.
I was there when poor Kasprowicz got out,and Brett Lee looked on helpless.I was there when Lee saved the final ball,and jumped in the air with ecstacy.Not physically but in some sense of cricket-spiritually.The Gods I worship wear white flannels and are masters of their art with the red leather ball and the shining willows.My spirituality,the transcendental state of mind comes by watching them on the green carpet they choose to exhibit themselves on.I am not talented enough to follow my Gods in that field,but this way I pay them my regards.
I used to wake up early,with understanding parents letting me watch the matches as they were aired live from Down Under.Me and my brother used to creep under that warm quilt with dawn breaking out outside and watch in awe as the Australian summer produced one historic performance after another.Never remeber being sincere in waking up that early any other rime.And I would rush home from school to watch the telecast when the series shifted to the northern hemisphere.Even remember putting up with mild resistance from bored cousins who thought there were better things on show.How wrong were they.
I have seen a million replays of the ball of the century,equally amazed each time.I was there when Gough took that hat-trick and the Barmy Army burst into celebration.I was there when Vaughan single handedly put Aussies to task with his brilliant centuries.I was there when Australia lost out to England in England chasing some 100 odd to win.Listened to that on BBC radio,with shocked commentators hardly able to utter a word to describe the match.I was there again when Caddick took that last wicket in the final Test down under to end Australia's winning streak and salvage a win after four losses.Still remember how the news reader on BBC radio interrupted the main news broadcast to convey this pround moment for the poms.I was there when Steve Waugh scored a century batting on with thigh a strain.There when Caddick's bouncer fell Langer and blood spurted out after he had scored his century.There when Butcher brought back memories of Botham's test at Headingley 20 years on by solely leading England to an improbable victory.My brother points out I missed one of the landmark moments that defined the ashes series that year.Steve Waugh's last Ashes match,he is on 97 and he hits a 4 to get his century on the last ball of the day.Says it choked him,must have made everyone in the stadium cry;and then applaud.This is what emotions are made of. I have been there everytime I could.
And now the memories come back flooding to me,as the fickle English rains stop play yet again on the 1st day of the 4th test match.I can't miss this for anything.Maybe someday I will get the chance to enter the hallowed gates of Lord's and see the Gods in Paradise.That would be salvation enough.
Ashes to ashes,dust to dust,
I'll be there someday,I know I must.