Samir Chopra’s nostalgic blog on Cricinfo recently, about following cricket as an ex-pat, got me reminiscing about my own sojourns with the internet and cricket on foreign shores.
Most of my time while studying at the College of Wooster was spent following and playing cricket, in that order. Studies took a back seat but over six years on, I have no regrets. I'm doing what I want to do.
Having waded through a sea of memories – staying up all night to iron on logos to white jerseys, getting up at dawn to roll out the mat, taking a stinging catch to my left at slip, hitting a straight six, to name a few – I focused on the many nights and mornings, depending on where India were playing, in which I had logged on to the internet to follow the ball-by-ball scores. I have not included memories of watching cricket on the internet or on satellite, though those would have made for some great stories, considering they frequently involved inter-state trips in my trusted Olsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
Maybe I can relive those memories another time.
My first memory of ball-by-ball commentary is not as a student in the USA, but rather in high school in the foothill of the Himalayas. It was 1998, and the internet had taken its sweet time to come to Woodstock. Dick Wechter, the computer lab monitor in the high school library, was kind enough to allow us cricket freaks to pop in to check on the scores during breaks. It was he who suggested we try this website called cricinfo.com, where we could follow the score ball by ball. Needless to say, given the absence of television and radio, we were fascinated.
It took some getting used to, this pattern of watching the screen refresh and the batsmen’s score tick over, his name highlighted in red followed by a sequence of dots, digits and random letters denoting extras, boundaries or wickets. But it was a new experience and one we eagerly savored. I still remember waiting impatiently for the page to refresh – and mind you, we had a slow connection those days – so that Sadagoppan Ramesh could get to his maiden Test century. A couple of us cheered when it finally did and Ramesh’s digits changed from 99 to 100.
Thus began my relationship with Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary. Years later I would go on to type out many, many games on Cricinfo’s CMS, but at that time I had no inkling of what my future held.
Cut to the Wooster campus. It was late at night and my roommate Ankit was trying to sleep ahead of a big Biology exam. But India are playing Australia in the ICC Knock-out in Nairobi and I have to keep abreast. A fellow cricket enthusiast, Ehtesham, comes to inquire the score and I make him sit with me for the entire night. Yuvraj Singh, in his first international innings, plays a blinder of an innings that deflates the mighty Australians. We never saw a ball of that match on the net or on video since, but almost every shot of Yuvraj’s innings of 84 is in my mind. As he galloped to his half-century from 46 balls, Ehtesham and I sat transfixed on the screen of my clunky PC. Yuvraj square-drove, we purred. He flicked off the toes over midwicket, we shook our heads. When he put Glenn McGrath away between cover and point, I rushed to shake Ankit from his sleep. When India won, and the night began to fade away into dawn, Ankit was on his feet in celebratory jig. Biology be damned.
There were many other memories of following live scores on the internet. Andy Caddick’s demolition over against West Indies at Leeds; India’s famous chase of 326 in the Natwest final at Lord’s, when I was the only one left to sit in a room on campus during the summer of 2002, because at 87 for 5 the game seemed over; Mohammad Kaif’s century in his very next match, against Zimbabwe in the Champions Trophy; Mervyn Dillon’s last-over brainfreeze against South Africa in the same tournament, and the words of Cricinfo’s Travis Basevi – “Dillon, you idiot!”; Nathan Astle’s stunning assault on England in Christchurch; South Africa’s tour of England in the summer of 2003; Daniel Vettori’s maiden Test century, against Pakistan in Hamilton; Mohammad Ashraful’s giant-slaying Cardiff century; India’s implosion in the final of the TVS Cup; Tendulkar’s 141 in a lost cause in Rawalpindi. There are so many memories, and I can recall exactly where I sat and how I reacted during each match. The cups of coffee drank, the pizzas eaten, the jokes shared, the abuses given, the shots shadow-practiced in the middle of the night, the morning classes skipped because Dravid was batting in the eighties, and the excuses given for being late to work.
Like they did so many times on my PC screen, these magical moments will forever refresh themselves in my mind.