India, it is time.

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New World Cricket Watch columnist Anurag Abinashi thinks 1983 was too long ago…

It’s tough being a toddler. For one thing, you don’t remember much. When I think back really hard, I can only remember two things from my early days. I remember the day my brother was born. It was 1984, and I was 4. I remember going to the hospital to see him. I remember my mum in the hospital bed with an apple on her bedside table. I remember going home that evening and kicking a football around with my dad. I remember the excitement of having someone new to kick a football around with like it was yesterday.

But I also remember something before that.

This is hazier, but I remember it. I remember 1983. I remember our TV. It was wooden (well, it looks wooden in my memory). It was big (well, compared to me, anyway). It had a knob for volume and a knob for channels. And, that night in 1983, it had the World Cup Final on. I went to bed in our flat in Mumbai at 8 pm, but couldn’t fall asleep. I remember my parents and grandparents staying up till late, glued to the TV. I remember the sheer joy when India won. I remember the street parties. I was 3 – it made an impression.

I got my first cricket bat when I was 4 – a present from my grandfather. He had been a professional cricketer – he kept wicket for Bihar, and held the record for the longest six hit in the history of the state – it went out of the stadium in Jamshedpur, landing on a roof two blocks away. It was a ‘County’ branded bat. I loved it. We played in his back garden. And it became a summer thing. He taught me how to play, and I fell in love with the game.

I moved to Delhi when I was 7. And the first thing I did was befriend the local boys in my colony. We were an eccentric mix – from the rich kid whose dad owned a chain of stores to the son of the neighbourhood washerman. But on the cricket field, we were equals. And we built relationships that would last the next 11 years. Every evening, from 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm in the summers and 4.00 pm to 6.00 pm in the winters, we would play cricket. Without fail. And nothing gave me more joy.

Life moved on.

The next 9 years were a rollercoaster of ups and downs. 1992 was shocking – India did terribly. 1996 had the Eden Gardens fiasco in store – India crumbled faster than the wicket that day. Various other tournaments came and went. Only one thing stayed constant in this time. His name was Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. A nation came to adore and worship him. So did I.

Come 1998, I moved to the UK. It was a huge change, and a dramatic culture shock for me. It would have driven me insane, had I not given myself one anchor – one link to my past. I chose cricket, and proceeded to play for a number of teams through my university years. I still play, and every time I go out on a cricket field, the memories of my youth come flooding back. I am 30 years old, and have probably devoted at least 3 years of that to cricket – playing/watching/thinking about. Maybe more. Cricket is my life.

Come Saturday, India play Sri Lanka in the World Cup final. And I will be there, supporting India. But this time it will be different. This is possibly Tendulkar’s last world cup – maybe his last game for the country. Its in his home ground. He has won numerous games for India. India now owes him a win. India owes cricket a win. India owes me a win. 1983 was a long time ago.

But this is not just my story. I’m sure every Indian growing up in the 80s will have a similar story to tell. And I’m sure we’d all agree on one thing.

It is time.

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