Watch full episode here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlhTjA80MiM
It was just another day for me. I was riding my bicycle in the evening. After taking several rounds of my lane I realised that something was not normal. There was loud screaming and cheering coming from every house. I dropped my bicycle outside and ran into my home. I learned from my mother that it was the day of the finals. INDIA VS AUSTRALIA 2003 WORLD CUP FINAL.
The Indians were outplayed by the mighty Australians and were defeated badly. It was a sad day for all the cricket fans. It made me think, “What’s is it about this sport that makes people so crazy about it? Why are people so mad about cricket?” Little did I know back then that in the coming years CRICKET would become my obsession.
While I was still thinking about it, my friend Sagar barged into my room screaming ‘Raina is in our society’. I was shocked!! SURESH RAINA! India’s youngest (also the cutest) cricketer to lead team India was in our society!
Since then I’ve been playing and watching cricket passionately. I didn’t even miss a toss. I made excuses and missed school for notable matches. Only God knows how many meals turned cold while my eyes remained glued to the television. Test or One-Day! It didn’t matter to me. I’d watch them all with equal enthusiasm! Cricketers were my idol.
So, one day I was not in the best of moods. It was result day and I had not scored well in my exams. I had even got a little thrashing for it and Cricket was blamed. I was in my room, wondering how I was going to manage my studies and this obsession of mine. While I was still thinking about it, my friend Sagar barged into my room screaming ‘Raina is in our society’. I was shocked!! SURESH RAINA! India’s youngest (also the cutest) cricketer to lead team India was in our society!
But why is he here? Who has he come here for? I had so many questions in mind. I wanted to meet him but reality hit me like a truck. I realized I couldn’t go out to meet him without taking my father’s permission. After the thrashing and the lectures, I no longer had the courage to ask my father for something that was the very reason for my low grades. So, I had to let this wish go.
Over the years my love for cricket has only grown deeper. Right from watching the Pitch Report to the Presentation Ceremony at the end, I never missed a single ball. I used to play the cricket quiz, discuss stats with friends and play on the ground too. I used to carry my phone to school for score updates but I wouldn’t let it affect my studies, because I had promised my father!
God knows how much I wished to meet him.
One day during my chemistry class, a paper ball hit my head. It was my friend’s way of asking score. I opened cricbuzz for updates and saw that Raina had hit a ton. It was his debut match! I got so excited that I turned to my friend to tell him about this achievement and to my surprise, saw my chemistry teacher at my desk asking for the phone. Damn! The screen’s brightness had got me into trouble. He took the phone, slid it into his pocket and resumed compounds and bonds. The process was ‘organic’ to him. But what Raina achieved that day was incredible. Not all can achieve this feat.
I was already his fan by then. But my fondness for him grew over the coming years. What they say about cricketers is absolutely right! Raina is a gentleman. A team player who’d do anything for his team. He throws himself anywhere on ground to stop cheeky runs. He’s an amazing batsman. He celebrates even before the batsman who hits a ton. His innumerable partnerships with Dhoni were a visual treat. God knows how much I wished to meet him.
I had a chance to get photographed with him. I had a chance to tell him how madly I adored his skills and thank him for the World Cup.
And then arrived the opportunity! It was too good to miss. I was in the Second year of my Bachelors and our batch was offered the chance to volunteer for the IPL team management company for our internship. But I came to know about it a day after the registrations were done. I fought tooth and nail to get a place. How could I miss watching a live match in a stadium!
Finally, we were there and were informed that we had to work for Gujarat Lions. Yes! Gujarat Lions captained by Suresh Raina! I finally had a chance to see him live, diving on the ground while the crowd went bonkers cheering for their favourite lad. I had a chance to get photographed with him. I had a chance to tell him how madly I adored his skills and thank him for the World Cup.
But life isn’t that sweet and easy! My crazy coordinator had assigned me some work at some random place where I couldn’t even get a glimpse of the ground. Soon after the match was over, we were asked to leave. I missed the opportunity of watching the match live. I had tolerated the tantrums of the VIPs just to hear “Thank you guys now you can head back to your homes.”
So now I work as a Multimedia Journalist at Gaon Connection. I’m stuck with loads of work and have no time for cricket now. Although the fan in me is still alive and shall never die, I hardly find any time for it. Yeah that’s life!
I also happen to shoot celebrity Interviews for a show called ‘The Slow Interview‘, curated and hosted by Neelesh Misra. Neelesh Sir often takes suggestions from his team members as to who he should invite apart from the Bollywood celebrities. We would suggest Punjabi singers or leading entrepreneurs but none of us ever suggested any of the cricketers. So, one fine day, Neelesh Sir broke this news to us “We’re getting Suresh Raina on our show and the shoot will happen any time soon”.
During the shoot I got to know Suresh Raina in person. He’s so much than a Cricketer.
I held back my excitement and waited patiently. Waited till he actually turned up in a village (Kannaura) 45km away from Lucknow in a place called SLOW.
We were already running behind schedule. It was just a matter of time before the sun touched the horizon and we would have no ambient light to work with.
And then I saw Raina walking in a blue kurta to the venue. Neelesh Sir stepped forward to greet him. As a camera person, I made sure all these moments were well captured. And then, guess what, it started pouring heavily. And we had to miss our first schedule.
A thought struck me. I was sharing the place with someone who had a major contribution to India’s win in the World Cup. Who could ever forget his magnificent winning against Pakistan in the Semi-Final? Commendable. But I didn’t let my emotions overpower me, something I’ve learnt in the field of journalism. A fifteen-year-old me would’ve jumped on him with excitement and shamelessly screamed ‘You play short balls better than any South Asian batsman, don’t listen to them!’. However, I was calm and got back to work.
It’s such a huge feeling, to share a room with someone you’ve admired all your life. During the shoot I got to know Suresh Raina in person. He’s so much than a Cricketer. The way he carries himself, the way he greets people with a warm heart and utmost humility. That’s what differentiates him from the existing crowd. I hope through our SLOW INTERVIEW we manage to bring this side of him to the entire world.
Graphic: Lakshit Joshi