Memories Of The 1996 World Cup

I recently pooh-poohed the World Cup, but it wasn’t always so. My first memories of cricket come from the tournament. I recall sitting in my parents’ room as the 1992 edition played on the television. I insisted to my parents that India was winning, but I don’t think they were even playing (and, of course, Pakistan won that round).

But in 1996, that’s when cricket started for me. I was 11, I was back in India, and it all just made sense. There was a young(er) Sachin Tendulkar, scoring runs in every match; there was that scintillating Bombay match between India and Australia (when all of the city seemed to stop); then there was that other match against Pakistan (cue all our Venkatesh Prasad impersonations).

And I remember the end, too. God, do I remember it. My father, ever the pessimist, made a bet with our upstairs neighbor that India would not win. He did so jokingly, but with India 100/8 against Sri Lanka, the neighbor sent his daughter with the money. That caused a bit of ruckus in my household, because my parents were embarrassed (don’t make bets with friends, people) and my father tried to find a way to resolve the faux-pas.

The neighbor’s daughter stepped into my room and there I was. Sitting on the ground with my dinner in front of me, watching Calcutta make a fool of itself (it was only later I learned it’s a regional pastime). I wanted to cry, just like Vinod Kambli running off the field (with Kumble?). It wasn’t just the cricket. My family had recently returned from the Middle East, and even as a pre-teen, I could tell India was backward in some way. Things seemed at a standstill. Back then, the talk was about “second-generation” reforms and coalitions, not 9 percent growth rates and India Shining. Everything seemed so fragile — the United Front governments, even Bombay itself, then firmly under the thumb of a mad man.

But I also remember some weeks later, when another kid and I ran downstairs in the compound with a new bat and tennis ball and started to play. Mind you, it all came naturally. I had a run-up, I knew how to bowl, and he knew how to bat. It was like a religious conversion. And ever since then, it’s been cricket. Always between tears and joy: that’s what it’s like to be an Indian, and an Indian cricket fan.

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6 thoughts on “Memories Of The 1996 World Cup

  1. tracer007 says:

    wow…thats eerily similar to the way I fell in love with the game…

  2. shrek says:

    Loved this post. And coincidence that I too was another eleven year old being inducted to the world cup in 96. Hope you’re still playing

  3. girisopinion says:

    The 1996 world cup was special as I was only kid the last time India hosted the event. Brilliant post and I can surely relate to the same as I was about same age as you during that time. The world cup though was heartbreaking and I can never get that semi-final game out of my mind.

  4. […] Let me get this straight: 15 years after a teary Vinod Kambli ran off a cricket field, he decides to accuse his teammates of fixing the match. The evidence is shaky; apparently, it involves a very hazy recollection of a team meeting, the decision to bat second, and Navjot Singh Sidhu’s compulsive habit of wearing pads. Granted, that match — which ended with India crashing out of the 1996 World Cup — has always tormented the Indian cricket fan’s consciousness. How exactly does a team go from 98/1 to 120/8, and what is wrong with Bengali cricket fans? (I’ve written about my own night watching this game as a young pre-teen.) […]

  5. […] Kambli.Video.1996 World Cup semi-final was fixed: KambliSachin Tendulkar Quotes…Memories Of The 1996 World Cup // var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-6059385-5']); […]

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