Thursday, March 08, 2007

Stayin' 'umble

Here is Siddhartha Vaidyanathan again, with his sort-of-endearing wide-eyed take on the countries he visits, as he pens his tour diaries. This time on the West Indies, and on the non-superstar status of West Indian cricketers. Pretty true really; cricketers are not placed on a pedestal in the West Indies, except, perhaps, to a certain extent, when being referred to in the abstract. Vaidyanathan's sharpest observation however, is the conversation between Lloyd and the airport official. That one is spot on. An Indian cricketer would just waltz through any bureaucratic wall. Aha, but wait. Their superstar status doesn't cut any ice at all with the BCCI. None at all. Not even the most powerful of Indian cricketers today could take the BCCI on and win (its another matter that they wouldn't try).

But Vaidyanathan's story reminds me of a long-gone-by incident, when I had thought West Indian cricketers were pretty down-to-earth. Some 23 years or so ago, I went to see the third day's play of the second test of the West Indies' 1983-84 tour. The game was being played at the Ferozeshah Kotla, that benighted venue with the steamrolled pitch in the nation's capital. At lunchtime I strolled out into the surrounding courtyard-like space and looked around for food possibilities. I noticed a chaatwallah sitting next to one of the entrances, and started towards him, and then ground to a halt. Two men, one with absolutely gigantic thighs, in maroon tracksuits, were talking to him, ordering up a plate of the local offering. They were Desmond Haynes and Milton Pydanna. I stood and stared; I hadn't thought it possible for international cricketers to get down with it and mingle thus. (Come to think of it, it was a bit risky, but perhaps their stomachs were pretty hardened). I don't think anyone else could have pulled that off but the West Indians of back then. I don't know if the ones in the current team would do it. I don't know if the Pakistanis would get out and do the same. It was the closest I'd been to international cricketers at that stage in my life, and so, I just gawked away. The memory is still fresh; two international cricketers (one certified superstar), acting like a pair of ordinary, curious, tourists.


Blogger Ananth said...

thats a nice memory to have.
But then, maybe back then that was atleast possible. Imagine Brain Lara outside the Ferozeshah Kotla on the present day. He could cause a minor stampede...

9:00 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Ananth, I agree - the media hype is far greater these days, and I'd be very surprised to see anyone get away with such a public appearance these days. I guess I was more surprised by the fact that the two West Indians were not being more cautious the way other less risk-averse tourists often are!


5:17 PM  

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