Confessions of a closet cricket fan

I had just made another slip, switching from my usual "these bores" to "our boys". May have something to do with that impending 'historic win'.

By Nivriti Butalia (Meanderings)

Published: Sun 6 Jan 2019, 7:58 PM

Last updated: Sun 6 Jan 2019, 10:00 PM

I've known of cricket for as long as I've known how to babble. This must be true for 17.74 per cent of the world's population (number of Indians in the world). Cricket is injected into our consciousness before we can even say the words 'leg before wicket'.
In all my years of knowing cricket and successfully keeping it at arm's distance, like a relative you don't want to spend too much time with, I have never heard of play being suspended because of poor light. It seemed unusual. So, I grew suddenly interested.
I didn't know if poor light was a common cause for the game coming to a halt. I knew of rain stopping the play. So, hearing the commentator say something about light conditions puzzled me. I asked my husband, who minutes earlier, while fixing his cufflinks standing in front of the TV, had announced that we were on the verge of a "historic win!"
Sometimes, while immersed in a match, he might practice patience on a cricket neophyte and toss a scrap at me even when I deliberately ask stupid questions to annoy him: "Who is this Bumrah? Does he play for India?"
I can't remember what he said to my question about light, or whether he even replied. We were planted in front of the TV, eating leftover kachoris (stuffed savoury pastries; not diet food) for breakfast (that husband's grandmother had brought over on the weekend), when Kohli and Co. started walking off the pitch. I watched Kohli talk to the umpire, look up to the sky, nod to the empire and walk off.
In the last. well, however long this India vs. Aus Test match has gone on, I have learnt things. I don't mean philosophically. I mean just about cricket. Some of these learnings have even caused fleeting entertainment. Rare seconds of sharing my husband's interest in the game. For one, I was thrilled to discover that there is a female commentator who knows what she is talking about.
Me: Does she know her stuff? Is she better than Mandira Bedi?
He: Arre, she's a former cricketer. She's very good.
Me: Really? So cool!
Immediately, I logged on to Twitter on my phone and looked for 'Isha Guha'. She spells her name as 'Isa'. I begin to follow her out of admiration, for making a mark in a man's world, solidarity, etc.
I learnt a bunch of other things throughout the match in the five minutes here and there that I sit with him, pretend to stifle yawns, act like my eyes are glazing over, imitate a snorer, whistles and all.
"Watch this, watch this!", he'll say to me when one bearded guy does some fancy bat-twirling.
"Is this that Jadeja fellow?" I ask, knowing fully well who he is. "I like him, he seems to always be having a good time."
I get an education in instalments. Husband enlightens: "Yea, he would have been a swordsman if he weren't a cricketer."
Me: Wow, really? 
Suddenly, I keep my eyes on the screen, watch for the replay to marvel at his wrist work. "Sheesh, I thought the only other interests these cricketers had were haircuts and tweeting rubbish".
Husband smiles, indulges, ignores or shakes head - depending on how India is playing. I know by now to keep my trap shut if we're flailing.
Over Christmas, I sent him a screenshot of Virat Kohli's tweet, the one with a picture of him holding a platter of pastries, promoting half a dozen brands in that one tweet, including a cake and crockery brand. Kohli later deleted it and posted the same picture with a much less promotional caption.
Over the weekend, I momentarily let my 'so-bored-with-this-game' façade drop and remarked in earnest that it was good to see the boys being so confident. My husband looked at me, eyebrow raised, suspecting sarcasm but unsure.
Me: No, man, seriously. Look at their body language. I remember having to sit through these matches 10 years ago, when that favourite of yours, Tendulkar, and gang would play. Those guys just didn't have this . swagger!
Husband agreed. We talked about young blood, how heartening it was to see the team play well. I recoiled, wondered to myself if all was well. I had just made another slip, switching from my usual "these bores" to "our boys". May have something to do with that impending 'historic win'.

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