Friday, September 5, 2008

War of the Worlds

So which do you like more….Cricket or Football?

Ask any self-respecting lover of both games & they’ll look at you as if you’ve asked them the most forbidden question of all times.

Their quandary is understandable too….for a person who loves both the games, choosing one over the other would be as difficult as choosing between coke & heroine (not that I have done either but going by their popularity, I’m assuming they give comparable kicks).

I started watching cricket about 12-13 years ago. For the wrong reasons of course! The reason being Ajay Jadeja. Probably like every other teenaged girl at that time. I say wrong reason not because of the match-fixing controversy he got embroiled in (unfortunate as it was, it didn’t take away an iota from his talent)….but because when I look back on it now, I feel it’s always a shame to start watching a game for a particular player. After all, no player can be bigger than the game. But then again, that’s the way the cookie crumbles. That is why we have “stars”.

Gradually I got addicted to cricket, much to the chagrin of my mother who, like all mothers, was worried about her daughter failing the tenth boards. I started understanding the game, and today I can have a conversation over cricket with any guy.

My favorite team, apart from India of course, was South Africa. Unusual choice, I know. But then, they had Jonty Rhodes!! And Hansie Cronje. It was really disappointing when Cronje got implicated in the match fixing case too, and even more sad when he died in a plane crash. South Africans were the perfect “gentlemen” playing the “gentleman’s game”.

I didn’t like England because they have been thanda for as long as I can remember. They were responsible for the genesis of the game but they lost it somewhere along the way.

Didn’t…and to this day I don’t like the Australians because they are too aggressive & virulent, except for a few players like Steve Waugh, Glenn McGrath, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee - among the ones I have grown up watching.

Then I moved to the US for college and lost touch with cricket. When I returned, I realized I had very little left of my old love for the game.

UNTIL Twenty20 happened!

That got me right back where the action was. The world is full of doubters but I feel T20 is the best thing to have happened to cricket since one-day cricket was invented & it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Then came the IPL that put India right in the center of the cricketing map. These are glorious days for Indian cricket. The sun is shining on India and any player who is worth even a dollar is wallowing in it! Wonder what the English have to say about what the world has done to the game that was literally THEIR “baby”, and that they took with them wherever they went. They must have spent considerable time thinking up the game, and even more time & resources teaching people across their colonies how to play it! It’s like having a child that you have given birth to and raised as a conservative for 20-30-40 years, and one fine day some outsider comes along and changes her/him into a hippie overnight!!!!

I got initiated into football as a kid. I remember kicking the ball around with my dad in our huge green lawn when I was all of 2 feet tall. Then life took over….I got caught up with studies, we moved, we lost the football somewhere in the process & a new one never made it home. I have no subsequent football memories.

Years later I rediscovered my love for the game. And I loved it for the right reasons. For the sheer beauty of it. For the skills required to hold on to the ball & score a goal.

Football is pure skill and stamina, whereas cricket is more about precision. It’s like the tiff between the head & the heart. Cricket is played from one’s head….keep a cool head, keep your eyes on the ball, try to get inside the head of the bowler & guess what kind of ball he’s going to throw next etc.

Whereas football is ALL heart. Just go out there & play. Give it all you’ve got. Pass, dribble, block. Do whatever it takes to score!

Football requires skill which is mostly innate & not often acquired. What can be acquired is honing the skill. Take for example, the Brazilians & Argentines. Every child in these countries grows up playing football on the streets. That’s what they know and they are brilliant at it! If you look at the way Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo, Robinho, Messi, Riquelme etc. play….or the way Maradona & Pele played….you HAVE to agree that they were born with it. It can’t be purely acquired.

Cricket, on the other hand, is learnt. You can learn to put bat to ball, you can learn to think like the bowler who is bowling to you. I think one is born to be a footballer but I’m not sure if one can be born to be a cricketer.

So I like football for (not necessarily in this order) :

• The beauty of the game
• The moments when goals are scored
• The brilliant passes
• The tenacity and athleticism of the players
• The hysteria it generates
• Brazil
• Kaka
• Cristiano Ronaldo
• Fabio Cannavaro
• David Beckham’s free kick (and his drop-dead gorgeous looks, of course!)
• Manchester United
• And most importantly, the memories it brings back of my dad teaching me how to dribble in our lush green lawn, of picking me up every time I fell and scraped my knee, of asking me if I had ever seen a tiger cub cry when it got hurt….

Notice I haven’t mentioned Zinedine Zidane. But then, you can’t touch him. He’s right up there with the Gods, that’s how talented & blessed the man is. Is it possible not to love a game that has given the world a Zinedane Zidane?

This post is more a labor of love than a post on cricket or football. It has been as emotionally satisfying to write as it is to think back of the times my dad taught me to play ball.

1 comment:

Psyched said...

u said,"Years later I rediscovered my love for the game. And I loved it for the right reasons. For the sheer beauty of it. For the skills required to hold on to the ball & score a goal. "

I thought it was "KAKA".... first and then of course the game....