I still remember the day when our father took us to the harbor for the first time. We, a family living inland, were mesmerized by the sheer vastness of the Indian Ocean, however; the lasting memory from that trip for me peculiarly, was not about the beautiful Indian Ocean itself.
As we stood at our masterfully chosen vantage point, we had the ability to zoom across the complete harbor and see a panoramic live image of its fast paced life. There were two passenger ships resulting in most of the humdrum and activity at that particular time; one ship was a bit far away in the sea, slowly moving towards its docking point in the harbor, ready to cast anchor and arrive, while the other one was almost nearly full and waiting for the Captain’s signal to depart on its long voyage.
One corner of the harbor was crowded with teary eyed people saying their final goodbyes to loved ones, having that one last hug and crying that final tear that is part and parcel of the overwhelming departure experience. The other end was completely different, as cheerful rejoicing people with garlands in their hands awaited for the arrival of their loved ones from distant lands.
You may ask, why am I talking about this experience of my childhood as I plan to write about cricket? Well, the answer is that I feel like that confused child again as I see my cricket idols slowly vanishing away in time while new faces continue to replace them.
There is a Kallis sized void in South African team; Mahela has left and Kumar is almost about to join him; KP still wants to play but he is pretty much retired as retired gets; Chanders may never play a test again; the maligned Misbah and his antithesis Afridi have left a few formats while going through their last steps in a well synchronized Bollywood inspired dance number; Phantom and his amazing batting skills will be missed severely in Kiwi grounds; the Indian stalwarts whom I grew up hating now mostly adorn the commentary box; Mr. Cricket is no more and Ponting seems to be a cheer leader of an IPL team these days.
Even my favorite test cricketer, Younis the evergreen Khan seems to be at the end of his career.
Bear with me though. While I have been mourning the greats that have left us, we are watching some of the future greats unfold in front of our own eyes. This is no moment to cry, this is a moment to rejoice.
The face of modern India. Kohli is brash and is even considered as a Brat by Australians but there is no denying about the monstrous talent that he possesses. I believe him to be the best young batsman in the world at this instant and I foresee him breaking many cricketing records. He may have to live under the shadow of Tendulkar for some time but even Sachin started his career under the shadow of Gavaskar.
Will he be revered as much as Sachin? I do not know and frankly no nor does anyone else but I can say with certainty that Kohli makes me appreciate cricket and art of batting. This becomes even special when you consider that this comes from a person across the border!
The baby faced Root may not look menacing like Hayden or Boon but he has the skill to make it big with his bat. His fleet footwork reminds me of Darren Gough on “Strictly Come Dancing” – immaculate and flowing. I mostly find English teams boring and dour and with the exception of a brief period where KP made me sit-up and take note, my English cricket watching experience has mostly helped me treat my insomnia. This guy though, makes me want to watch English cricket.
I do believe that this “Ashes” will test him immensely, but I know he has it in him to be the next English great.
I hate to hate him, but I do. Seeing Pakistan do well on Australian soil is my greatest cricketing fantasy. I hate losing to India but winning against them was a norm when I was growing up – hence winning against them feels good but nothing special. The Australians on the other hand have been a totally different beast. Ever since 99’, they have crushed some of our best teams to dust and then bulldozed the dust into non-existence. When Ponting retired and Clarke’s back gave away, I believed that finally our team had the chance to beat Australia in Australia.
With Steve Smith, I feel that the slim chance is disappearing ever so slowly. That said I won’t mind winning or losing now, as long as I see him score few of his famed brutal and unorthodox centuries.
Like India was to Pakistan, for a long time, New Zealand was the perpetual underachieving neighbors of the dominant Australians. A lot has changed and while India dominate Pakistan and world cricket, New Zealand too have seen success over their loud and proud neighbors. They won a test in Hobart and although this man was not the star that day, Kane Williamson is a player who may star in many triumphs for his country. Someone once said and I quote “there is a sense of shock and disbelief when Williamson gets out” and I cannot disagree with that at all. Kane plays with so much skill, confidence and ability that when he gets out even the bowler looks surprised.
We are the fortunate ones to witness the transition as the baton has been well and truly passed to the next generation cricket greats.