“India is playing today ?” came a voice from behind.
That was one big fella (Call him Mr. X) with chubby cheeks, sporting a colorful shirt over a grey T-shirt and fitted with devices all around his head. I saw heads spinning and staring at him instantly. Even the air hostess who was announcing paused. Who on earth can ask such a ridiculous question on a day when we were all set to meet our arch-rivals in World Cup Cricket 2023 on that Saturday afternoon? In fact, since my meeting was planned earlier, I booked an earlier flight back home so I could watch most of the match. It was around the time when the match was starting. I was happy that I got the right price for the flight.
I was on the 26D aisle seat and I was forced to look back to find out that naive soul who was on 27E. The person who was in the middle seat decided to move to the window to show his disdain to that uninitiated soul who by now had understood what a tragic mistake he had made by displaying his ignorance to the world. I noticed that I had a group of cricket aficionados around me. One guy stood up and addressed the crowd ” We have won the toss and decided to bowl”. Expert opinions followed from all across and it dominated the air even though Ravi Shastri’s voice was heard intermittently through the live coverage from mobile devices. I saw one passenger also making a request to the air hostess if they could announce the scores when we were at 30,000 feet up in the air. I am sure she would have politely told him that ” she would come back to him”. The air hostess was ready for demonstration. I noticed that she was initially planning to keep the demo kit on 27E where Mr X was seated. Changed her mind instantly and she kept it on 26E. Looks like the news of Mr X had spread like wildfire across the cabin. Before we went into airplane mode I overheard a lot of expert comments that it is good that we are batting because Rohit can work under “scoreboard pressure”. The pitch report was discussed in detail and for once I understood that in the last 30 minutes, I didn’t have to look at the phone to catch an update.
I decided to have a look at the in-house magazine and as I opened I saw a quote that in a way summarised the mood in the cabin.
The pilot did a hard landing and in my mind, I was thinking ‘I hope India is doing well.’ Our hearts were beating together as people scrambled for connectivity to get an update. As usual, someone would always take the lead as he broadcasted that ‘two wickets were down, but their run rate is good. The most dangerous player in one-day cricket is still there at the crease.’ The only saving grace as somebody added is that he is on a lean patch and not in good form. Nobody asks anyone for the score as we have everything at our fingertips. That took me back to the days of cricket when I used to look forward to a school friend I think Dinesh who used to sneak a pocket radio into our class and we used to listen to India vs Pakistan test cricket commentary and scores. I am sure if my younger daughter reads this blog she will ask me, ” What is pocket radio, and how does it look?”
It was time for the crowd to get down and I noticed half of them were already standing in the aisle. The announcement came that we had to leave through the front passage as we had an aerobridge. I realized that there were a few oversize bags that the flight attendants had requested for check-in and people had politely declined at the beginning of the flight and I could make out why. Also in the carousel, there were very few pieces of baggage and I saw people sprinting outside. In fact, one guy even told me that I would first get hold of the remote before I met my wife and children!
It was time for Mr X to leave and he gathered courage to talk to the passenger who was sitting on the window seat. They exchanged their identities and I overheard that they were staying around the same place. In fact, the window guy asked him, “Is your place near to that forest?”. He made an invitation “Come to my part of the town, I will introduce you to my friends”. I got into the car and downloaded the app to see live cricket. As we approached a traffic point, I saw one pillion rider holding his phone close to the ear of the rider. I am sure they were hearing the commentary together. Another pillion rider was sitting facing the back of the bike and seeing the live coverage of the cricket just to make sure that he had enough space!
I ended up home and I was happy to note that my wife was watching cricket and the remote was in her hand. I later mentioned about Mr X to my wife and then she told me, ” Do you know one thing? Our daughter is also part of that crowd who does not follow cricket.” I took a bow to Mr X and wondered what had happened to me as I never followed cricket after our World Cup victory in 2011. Flights and travel broaden your horizons and sometimes you catch cricket fever…