Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Cricket and Superstitions

- Pratap Kumar Das.

People say cricket is a funny game. You just can't predict what can happen. A cakewalk for a team can turn out into a choking saga for another. A sudden flurry of wickets can break the spine of even the strongest batting line-up out there. An inspired spell of bowling can infuse tremendous self-belief in the team. Just when the going gets easy, someone shifts slightly in his seat and the most prized wicket falls.... Silence everywhere...

Welcome to the world of superstitions. A move here and a shift there, a quick run to the loo and your team is done and dusted. You reach out for the chips and try to chuck one inside and a wicket falls. You bit your tongue. Ouch, did that hurt?

For most of us Indians, cricket is our first religion. Everything else is secondary. In a country boasting of a billion countrymen, the emotions run high in each and every household more so before an event like the World Cup. We would miss a lecture, go on a sick leave for the job, postpone a date with our beloved for the love of our team. A victory or defeat is as much ours as of the players. Such is our connection that some believe their actions in their homes have a direct effect on what happens on field. If you make a wrong move in our living room, undoubtedly someone will drop a catch or lose his wicket out there.

A high-voltage encounter such as an Indo-Pak match or a knockout game gets our heart pumping at full stream. The jump in your bedroom must be in sync with the fielder's jump else he would miss it. Your commentary is more important than what the official commentators blurt out. Your analysis and thought process is what the captain must be actually doing. Let him bowl; let him bat next down; let the fielder stand a little right. Yes you got it right, we can make no wrong.

Shailesh doesn't even shift from the corner of his sofa during the time India bats. Ramesh won't sit come what may in the last overs of a match. Amrita moves from her bed only during the innings break. Riya won't let anyone change the channel for even a second when India's match is on. Dharmesh cheers for his team in only his ganjee and boxers. They all have a common thread connecting them-- Each one believes they are helping their team win. A victory is celebrated by all of them while they would be blaming themselves for a loss if any amongst many reasons. A belief by which they stand, a belief by which they swear.

Superstitions are not just limited to the common folk but a reality for many cricketers out there. Even the best in the business had some sort of ritual which was an exclusive trait in itself. Despite all his talent, even the Master Blaster believed that putting on his left pad before the right one brings him luck. He also got his lucky bat repaired before the 2011 World Cup. This was the one thing which was previously missing from his CV. The Wall, Rahul Dravid used to wear right pad first before stepping out into the field. Heartthrob of the nation, and an inspiration for many, our very own Virat previously used to wear the same pair of gloves in every match he played once he started scoring frequently. As time passed by, his confidence and belief in his abilities overtook his insecurities and now those gloves are nowhere to be found. Yuvi wears a kalava, a sacred black thread and sports his lucky number 12 on his jersey which corresponds to his date of birth too. Jersey numbers have a certain mystery and charm alike. MSD bears his lucky number 7 on his back, while Sehwag went a notch higher when at the later part of his career he used to come out on the ground with a 'numberless' jersey as his previous number 44 didn't bring him as much success as he would have liked. Handkerchiefs too have a sacred lineage, Mohinder Amarmath used to carry his lucky red handkerchief in his pocket every time he stepped out to field. One of the great captains in the history of the game, Steve Waugh used to carry his lucky red handkerchief whenever on the field, a token from his grandmother, it indeed held a special place in his heart. Moving away from the 'Go Red' tradition, we had Zaheer Khan, one of India's best fast bowlers who used to carry a yellow handkerchief in crucial matches. And who can forget our hero Kapil Dev who once produced an innings of his lifetime against Zimbabwe. India were down at 17/5 when he stepped out to bat. And the rest of the story is nothing less than a miracle as he scored 175* and eventually helped India in winning that historical match.

Do superstitions help the team? Can't say. Can a little shift in your sofa determine the result of our team? Certainly not. Do certain rituals of cricketers help them perform better in matches? Maybe. Are superstitions here to stay? Absolutely yes.

Nobody is here to debate on whether superstitions are good or not. But the fact that we believe our activities are linked to the team's performance is testimony to our inherent connection and immense belief we associate with them. Cricket is in our blood, our soul and in our minds. The greatest thing is that its 'hope' that drives us forward. And hope is a great thing...

Here's wishing our beloved Team India all the best for the upcoming T20 World Cup from Team Penfreak. We hope that we lift the cup again, this time at home.

#bleed blue