How many of us still remember the evening of 13th March 1996?
Well… Sam had the day etched in his mind. A 9th grade student then, he had been waiting for that day since the start of the tournament. That was probably the day when he came from school as fast as he could… surprising his parents. Post lunch he sat close to the television. He wanted to live the moment.
At around 10:00 PM, a gloomy Sam finished his dinner while his mom consoled him… “It’s only a game beta, haar jeet to hota rehta hai”… “Its not a game mamma, it was my dream to see India win the World Cup” thought Sam to himself. India had crashed out of the semi and out of the 1996 Cricket World Cup, breaking millions of hearts and Sam’s too. In-spite of a great start the momentum couldn’t be carried on and India lost 7 more wickets with the addition of just 21 runs. The score was then 120 for 8. The crowd went mad at Eden Gardens, Calcutta which brought the match to a standstill and subsequently was forfeited to Sri Lanka. Vinod Kambli, Sam’s hero, was still on the crease… he had tried to tell the crowd that he would take India home; all he asked was faith in his capabilities. India needed 132 runs in 16 overs with Kumble and Prasad to provide company to Kambli… the match should have seen a logical end. Kambli cried as he walked out of the ground…and so did Sam watching his hero remove the helmet in utter despair.
That was the first time Sam cried on India’s defeat. Till now, it turned out to be the only time when he cried for cricket… not even when he saw his passion being crumbled.
World Cup 1992 was when Sam learnt playing cricket and developed a keen interest for the game. What started as a game turned into passion and then into a dream. It was not unusual when Sam was chosen to play for the senior team at a tender age of 13 years. A terror on the batting crease, his team had won many matches under his captaincy. Sam’s favorite hits were the straight sixes above the bowlers head. Being the best, he was crafted to be an opener.
Though Sam was good in cricket; he was never encouraged to pursue it more than his studies. His middle class parents wanted to play safe with their child’s future and would prefer if he’d join a good college after school and have a regular job to his name. Cricket seemed to be a gamble to them and hence they’d had preferred if Sam kept it only as a hobby. Nevertheless they couldn’t deny his growing passion for the game and promised him a complete kit should he score good marks. One term later Sam admired his “Sunridges Sareen” cricket bat. It was his companion for so many magical moments.
As a keen follower of cricket Sam would collect paper cuttings of World Cup series and wanted to create a collage of the series. His obsession didn’t stop there. He was a living example of eat cricket, sleep cricket and live cricket. Sam gradually graduated to playing for his club where he was provided special attention by his coach; the reason for the extra care was his undying passion for the game. A rainy day would have otherwise dampened the spirits of the players but not Sam’s; he used to practice on the cement pitch. Such enduring zeal for the game didn’t escape the selector’s eyes too and he was sent for the summer camps for his region.
Five years later, Sam was being selected for the National level team. Sam couldn’t have been any more pleased. All went as he had dreamt of on that gloomy day when India crashed out of the World Cup semis. He had vowed that day that he’d teach the Calcutta crowd a lesson. He had vowed that never again would his country lose as they lost that evening at Edens. So many nights he had spent dreaming how he’d be the opening batsman for India. That he’d single handed take India to many victories. That he’d be one batsman who would have an answer to all the balls. That he’d be the fastest century hitter. Dreams, dreams and dreams. Sam was a dreamer… until the fateful evening just before his team was getting ready for the Inter zonal matches.
A hot summer afternoon didn’t hinder his team’s practice session. Sam was practicing high catches when his coach misdirected a long shot. The ball was way out of anyone’s reach for a stop, leave apart catching it. Even his coach asked him to leave it… but would Sam stop? Eyes on the ball, hands outstretched he moved as fast as his feet could carry him. He stretched and was airborne and landed with a thud on the ground… the ball safely in his hand. Elbows bleeding, hands bruised he went to his coach who had earlier cried to leave the attempt. That was it… that discussion with his coach was the end of his dream. That evening as Sam cycled his way back home he knew that he’d never see the club again; he’d never play for the region and never for his country.
Sam’s grades were also not too good then. He just scrambled through with 48% in his 11th grade and that was when his dad said, “Enough is enough… we’re neither ultra rich to pay for your selection nor well connected for the same. Get yourself a good degree and a job and be a contend man”. Sam didn’t utter a word and heeded to his dad’s words. Packing the kit was not a tough part, but he couldn’t keep the bat away…It was his partner. It had shared so many happy moments with Sam. The deep sound that it made whenever Sam went for the long shots over the bowler’s head- all that was now gone. Sam took one last stance with his bat as if he was facing a virtual bowler and swung it hard…A sixer for sure.
Sam still regretted the fact that he’d never hit a century; though he’s grown out of that dream now.
Sometimes I think of Sam… of his dreams… how pleased he was with life… what all he had done to make his dream come true and more than that, he used to be so ecstatic while playing... batting rather. I don’t know where Sam is now. I don’t know whether he still holds the dream… but I know for sure that wherever he’d be, he’d be dying to play the game. About me… well whenever I hit a boundary above the bowler’s head… I smile and tell myself... “This one’s for Sam”… and as far as I’m concerned, my story is not very different from Sam’s.