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Why schedule cricket matches during exams?
March 31, 2005
t was the beginning of the last day of the India-Pakistan test match at Kolkata.
The game was keenly poised. I was quite sure India would not be able to carry it through.
My teenage daughter insisted we had a fighting chance, but I countered that India seldom won at the Eden Gardens.
She was irritated at what she clearly saw as the defeatist attitude of a generation that had hardly ever known India to be at the top of the global cricket league. The Indian team mostly lost ignobly, only occasionally honourably and, on a rare occasion, heroically.
So we had a bet and I lost. I did not tell her it was my typical hedging strategy. Cover your primary exposure with an opposition exposure so that should your team lose, you at least have the satisfaction of winning the bet, or vice versa.
So as far as she was concerned, I belonged to a generation of born losers. And my perception of the capabilities of the Indian team was coloured by it. I had little choice but to swallow this wider condemnation as well as the monetary loss of the bet.
The good thing about the Kolkata test was, it was mostly played during gaps in my daughter's exam schedule.
But she was not so lucky when the Bangalore test came around.
As the astronomical scores in the earlier part of the test piled up, so did our concern that when she should be utilising all the breaks between exams to study, she was doing little more than watching the match. But how can I keep ooon studying when the match is getting so exciting, she protested.
This time, I was not so foolish as to take a bet on the outcome. My own certainty was gone, too. Who knows, I thought, if India can do it once, it can do it again. After all, India is shining brighter by the day.
So I limited myself to telling her with all the strictness I could command that standing by the Indian team was all right, but it was peak exam time. And taking long breaks between studying to watch cricket not only put the preparation back but ruined the concentration.
When Anil Kumble held the fort early on the second-last day, I took a calculated gamble. He would be out in a minute, the Indian innings would be over and she could then be told to go back to her studies.
But fate conspired against me this time in my role of playing the disciplinarian father, as Kumble did himself proud and held on magnificently. As the score climbed, it slowly changed the odds for the outcome of the game.
After this went on for some time, I put my foot down. Kumble can bat till the end of eternity, but as far as I am concerned, I told my daughter, you must now go back to your books.
She got up reluctantly, switched off the set and in a few minutes, Kumble was gone and along with him, the Indian innings. My daughter had little doubt that had she stood by the team, it would have hung on a bit longer and put the game out of Pakistan's reach.
But I was firm. No more cricket, I said. You have a key exam tomorrow.
The rest is history. India lost, while my daughter and her class made a slightly better job of their political science final exams.
Seeing her despondency, I tried to argue: all is not lost. After all, they have only levelled up.
The old look of disappointment returned on my daughter's face. You don't realise, this is not the Indian team of your times. We are playing more and more like the Australians. You cannot afford to lose a single match, particularly one in which you have to rise up to the challenge.
I admired her sentiments, the new fighting spirit towards the game, the unrelenting desire to win.
And, above all, how girls have taken to the game. When we were students, girls did go to see test matches (the one-dayer had not yet arrived), but they were the butt of male chauvinist comments like, "Why do they waste tickets when they don't understand the game?"
Today, my daughter and son talk cricket on equal terms.
That's all very well, but what about the exams? Can we do something about making sure that key cricket tours do not take place at the height of the exam season? And that too an India-Pakistan series.
I know the Indian side has to be cheered to keep up its new resolve to play to win, but will someone take pity on the parents who have to yank teenagers away from the television set so that final exams are not botched up?
I do not know whether the British empire was actually won on the playing fields of Eton and Harrow, but India's emerging knowledge empire should not be lost at the Chinnaswamy Stadium or the Eden Gardens!