The last time India won the World Cup (as literally every Indian knows) was in 1983 when it was held in England. At the time my dad, a lifelong cricket fan living in Minneapolis with his wife and two young sons, was given the serendipitous opportunity to go on a prolonged business trip to London.
He'd been living in America since the late 1960s and in the pre-internet days his only means for staying in touch with cricket team he loved were international newspapers in public libraries, word of mouth from fleeting phone calls, hours pouring over the the Wisden Cricket Almanac (which always just seemed like a boring fat yellow book that would only make cameo appearances in random boxes whenever we moved). Can you imagine being in England at exactly the same time the cricket World Cup was taking place? Sometimes work and your personal life can intersect in a positive way.
Dad declined the offer.
He felt that the opportunity was unfairly given to him because there was a colleague who was overlooked by his seniors because of internal politics. Dad stayed in the US, the other guy went to England.
Fast forward 28 years and dad and I were watching the cricket final in my cousin's apartment with a dozen or so friends. We were streaming the game through the internet and had it linked up to a nice big TV where everyone could watch in relative comfort. With the exception of the video stream having buffering issues throughout the 8 hour match (oh Willow TV...) there really wasn't much more you could ask for (the mid-match dosa run was also helpful). Heck this beat past World Cups where my friends and I would gather in cramped Manhattan bars, sitting on painful stools, while people walked in your way. The difference was like between flying Air India economy class and Kingfisher Airline’s first class.... or well...any class not on Air India.
Dad pretty much sat in one chair throughout the match and was in anguish for a good deal of it. A strong Sri Lankan finish to their innings coupled by a poor Indian start made our festive 5am party seem like a dour 9am funeral procession. My perpetually optimistic and religious dad seemed to be losing faith. It looked one more chapter was being written in the book of disappointing Indian sports, politics, and cinema events.
But slowly the tide started turning. From the depths of despair the Indian team moved us to cautious optimism, then to pained delight, and finally the brink of euphoria. And through all that I was sitting right in front of my dad.
Through thick and thin my dad had tried to find a ways to follow his team throughout the years. The internet of course was huge towards his cause. When I was in high school we had dial-up connected to the house computer, located in the bedroom I shared with my brother. Dad would sit on the computer all night to follow the text bowl-by-bowl summaries. It's one thing if you're following last few minutes of an important European soccer game that's not on TV by reading one line summaries of play. I still do that today on occasion. But it's a little bit different when you're following the 2nd day of the 3rd Test of some random cricket tour. For 8 hours. In the middle of the night. That’s a bit nuts. This dedication of course was of little consolation to my brother and me. We hated the whole thing because the pitter patter of the keyboard and the small desk light made it a difficult to sleep.
In 1983 my dad couldn't even see the matches, let alone read the play-by-play, let alone really know what's happening on a daily basis. I mean yeah he followed the improbable championship run, but he literally didn’t get to see it. And now in 2011 he was watching everything happen again. For the first time.
You know the rest, through some brave and steady batting, the Indians finally won on an emphatic sixer by captain M.S. Dhoni. The apartment with about a dozen of us viewers exploded, players on TV were crying...and... well amidst all that I was starting to feel this weird saline stream on my cheek.
It's a funny thing to cry during sports. I've cried before during games, so it's certainly not my first time. When dad and I attended a 2006 world cup soccer match between the US and Italy in Germany I started tearing up during the US national anthem. During the 2010 Summer Olympics I started tearing up when Michael Phelps won his 7th gold medal. I'm pretty sure I cried during the LA Kings hockey team's playoff run in 2010. I know I teared up at old Yankee Stadium when the Yanks beat the Red Sox in the 10th inning of game 7 on a walk-off homerun in the 2003 ALCS. And here I was crying again.
Unanimously each Indian cricketer said they had won this match for Sachin, but I was tearing for dad.
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