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Bindu Hebli Vinay | December 22, 2003 16:29 IST

I am one of those hard-core cricket fans -- you can call me a fanatic if you like -- who will watch a Test match and its highlights and then read every article pertaining to it long after the match is over and done with. Admittedly, time and distance -- I now live in Cincinnati, USA -- have watered down my obsession for the game but I still consider myself a bonafide member of the CCC (Cricket Crazy Cronies) Club (along with a millions of others, I dare say!)

In fact, I truly believe only a fellow CCC member will truly be able to sympathise with my sad tale!

There were two occasions on which I had the good fortune of meeting some of India's cricketing stars.

The first time it happened was in the year 1984. India had just finished playing the West Indies in one of the last Test matches played in Srinagar before the valley was besieged by terrorism.

My family was flying back to Bangalore through New Delhi, after a wonderful vacation in Kashmir. To our amazement, the whole Indian team minus Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar were on board our plane! No matter how hard my father tried to make me go and get the cricketers' autographs, I would not budge from my seat. I was petrified!

In the seat in front of ours, literally two feet away from me, sat Krishnamachari Srikkanth. All I did was gawk and drink in the rapid pace at which he was talking and giggle at the way all the teenage girls crowded around Ravi Shastri.

We reached Delhi. The cricketers went their way. We went our way. To this day, I regret not listening to my father on the plane!

Then, in 1987, I got a second chance. Granted, the occasion was not as momentous since I did not meet the national team this time. But it was still pretty exciting.

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We were then living near a small city, Raichur. In such a small place, a Ranji match is a huge event and Karnataka played against Kerala.

That night, the two teams were to stay at our colony's guesthouse and attend a dinner organised in their honour. Everyone was hugely excited.

At the dinner party, I did manage to get a few autographs. Not bad, huh? Wait till you hear the rest of the tale.

My friends and I got a golden opportunity! Sadanand Vishwanath, who happens to be one of my favourite cricketers, and Carlton Saldanha -- he was a pretty good opener for Karnataka -- were relaxing in a corner after dinner and when we walked up to them. They kindly asked us to sit down.

We couldn't believe our luck and joyously jumped into the empty seats around them. They started asking us about our school, our town was and all such sundry matters. The topic then turned to music and arts. This continued for almost two hours.

In all this time, I must have spoken about five sentences with great difficulty. I had all these cricket-related questions going round and round in my mind. Finally, the conversation turned to sports. All evening I had been looking for the right opening and here it was. After 15 more minutes of conversation about badminton and our favourite cricketers, I finally saw a gap and opened my mouth to ask Vishy a question.

And heard another voice instead! It was my mother calling me from across the hall. Apparently, it was time to go home. I protested gently -- though, to tell you the truth, I was more in the mood for a frightful tantrum! -- and asked her to let me stay on a while longer. This prompted Vishy to give me a short lecture on how we should always obey our parents!

After that, there was nothing we could do. My friends and I left amidst a flurry of Thank Yous, Goodnights and Best of Lucks!

Now, I am waiting for my close encounter of the third kind! If it does happen, I will ask the cricketers all about match strategies, mental preparation, sledging, team bonding and so on. At least, that's my game plan. But, in all probability, I will end up scoring a hat trick by remaining tongue-tied yet again.

As you can see, 'Seize the opportunity' is not a phrase that is part of my dictionary!

Illustration: Dominic Xavier

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Number of User Comments: 6

Sub: Carlton Saldanha

His mother was our Geography-Teacher @ sophia High School, Bangalore!

Posted by Swaroopa Ramdas

Sub: What is this?

Wonder why rediff never seizes the opportunity to realize that its going to lose readers if it keeps on dishing out such trash in the ...

Posted by Sree

Sub: too much for the game

When i see or hear people getting crazy about cricket , i feel indian govt. should change our national game to cricket. media and public ...

Posted by Archana Arun

Sub: Hi

Hi Bindu, I both emphatize and symphatize with you. Anyway, if you still fancy meeting sadanand vishwanath, u can do that in NAL grounds in ...

Posted by Kiran

Sub: Close encounters with cricketers

It was pretty good one and one can understand the situation since lots of them would have gone thru the same. But for you to ...

Posted by Raghuram


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