There is a reason why Googling ‘Sachin Sharjah 98’ shows more than a dozen videos of Tendulkar’s twin blitzkriegs, many of them having garnered more than 100,000 views. There is also a reason why a cricket fan, having clicked on one of these, ends up watching many related clips featuring Jadeja, Kambli, Azharuddin or for that matter, Imran, Waugh or Hadlee. Cricket nostalgia received its biggest boost with YouTube, but with the Indian Premier League from the past five years, it has entered a different realm altogether.
While most cricket legends whom the past generations grew up watching are cooling their heels as commentators or coaches, many from our volatile ’90s are back and how, playing multiple roles in Indian cricket’s annual extravaganza. It started with Shane Warne, whose flippers nobody can get tired of watching, leading Rajasthan Royals to victory in ’07 and then mentoring them thereafter. The same season also saw the suave Stephen Fleming’s blade strike many elegant cuts in his stint as a Chennai Super Kings batsman.
Australia’s achievers, despised for their guts and glory for most part of the ’90s, have been more than welcome in the IPL. Watching Ricky Ponting teach the basics of catching to Kolkata Knight Riders made him a likeable man for the first time, while Glenn McGrath’s criminally precise line-and-length was relished just once. Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee’s gusty demeanours are still making our eyebrows go north.
The ultimate joy, however, comes from the South Africans, whom we have admired for unforgettable performances in one-dayers and tests of the past decade. While fielding coach of Mumbai Jonty Rhodes is a maverick whenever he’s around (he often paints the town red on his bike!), his colleague Shaun Pollock reminds us of all things right and beautiful whenever we spot him in the dug-out. There is one man, however, whose stature and presence bring back incredible memories, mostly because every other cricketer in Indian lanes grew up imitating his bowling action: Allan Donald, perennially tense with the Pune boys, is a treat to watch. There’s Herschelle Gibbs too, making us think if only Lance Klusener would complete this reunion!
The warmth in watching Wasim Akram teach a budding KKR bowler the mechanics of inswing is unbeatable, while Azhar Mehmood, who’s had a rough ride here, has been winning hearts with the Punjabis. The acceptance of Pakistani players only makes one wonder why more of them can’t participate. Surely we’d love to see the prolific Saeed Anwar or the majestic Inzamam, and cheer for them just as we’d cheered for Shoaib Akhtar at Eden in ’08.
It must not be forgotten that IPL gives us a chance to catch all-time legends whose careers have ended just recently. Hasn’t it been exciting to see an animated Dravid or a Ganguly celebrating like it’s 2001 all over again? The wily Muttiah Muralitharan, meanwhile, with his ageless energy, often makes us hard to believe he’s retired!
This IPL, having witnessed all our legends in their element, there is only one improbable wish - if only a special game could get them on to the field all over again! Hope the Board’s listening; till then we don’t mind watching the ’90s show.
Photo Credits: http://www.espncricinfo.com/