Pitch it up!

Dada er sathe dekha!!

6 min read

In 1996, having a landline and coloured television was a big thing and if you add a car to it, then you can safely say, one is affluent. Dont be surprised, that’s how simple life was back in the days specially in Kolkata. However, from 20th June 1996, it was not a matter of being affluent or not, it was a matter of Bengali pride & all households ordered cable connection and suddenly Bengal was buzzing and the primary beneficiaries were the local cable operators. ‘Adda’ is a big part of Bengali culture but from 20th June 1996 , for the next 5 days, it was not the prime objective of the youth of Bengal, everyone went straight home from office.

Debdeep with Dada- Sourav Ganguly.
Debdeep with Dada- Sourav Ganguly.

Students were carrying radio to school and colleges. In that month of June, cable also entered my house. The reason was Sourav Ganguly had been selected in the Indian Cricket squad for the tour of England. Suddenly a lot of stories were circulating how in 1992 he behaved and all that. But , who knew the ‘Maharaja’ from Behala would travel the distance and become the ‘Dada’ of cricket or in the words of Boycott ‘The Prince of Kolkata’. The world calls him a lot of things, but for Indians , he is DADA, the eternal DADA. I was 11 years old and I was allowed to watch that innings which obviously went way past my bedtime but I was still allowed to sit in front of the tv.

For the first time, I saw Lords and England. While Sourav made a century and had a real impact in my life that day but I should mention another person whom I never forgot was Dickie Bird. One ball shot up and hit Dada in the shoulders and flied to the slips. To the naked eye, it was out. But Bird was unmoved, England could not believe it and then slow motion showed, it hit the shoulders and Bengal took a sigh of relief. In the coming years, Dada became the reason I watched cricket a lot. His partnership with Sachin or his exploits in Toronto. Then came the match fixing saga and then came Dada as captain. Between 2000 & 2005, Dada had become the sweetheart of the country and a nemesis for the opposition.

India has arrived on the world stage. Be it making Steve Waugh wait for the toss or going shirtless in the lords balcony (a stunt I tried in the lords balcony in 2018), Dada had made sure new-India has arrived and he had impacted the youth of the country. We were the nice guys but now we are ready to take the fight back to the opposition and it was not limited to cricket only anymore. The attitude of Dada had started to effect on everyone across India and had an impact on every sphere of life of the country. India , as a whole, started realising their potential. I, for one, started believing in my abilities, started looking up all the interviews of Dada on net or on TV and started picking up how he reacted or how he spoke. Slowly but steadily he started to become the leader I admired the most.

While he had fierce battle with Steve Waugh on the ground, he taught India how to respect when he gave the farewell speech on the last test of Australia tour in Sydney in 2003/04. He taught me to give it back when insulted but never forget to give respect where it is due. He taught me how to build team and backing players is an important part of team building. Somehow all these have come very handy when I came into professional life myself. In the December of 2006 (I hope I am not wrong with the time line), India went to play Australia in the MCG test match. I had the opportunity to rock up at the practice session but could not meet my idol. But on 26th December, I went to the ground and after Tea, Dada and Dhoni came out to bat, I was luckily sitting exactly from where the players come out. So, just before players crossed the rope , I shouted ‘Dada , century chai’ and Dada turned and showed me a thumbs up. I had that picture for a long time but lost it somewhere.

Times passed, Dada retired, Sachin retired and practically, watching cricket was not the same and I have skipped watching a lot of matches after their retirement. Cricket was never the same. That adrenaline rush was not the same. But on 12th July 2019, there was an event at Royal Over-Seas league in London and Dada was the special guest. I immediately informed the organiser group that I would like to attend such an event. As usual, I was over excited & reached the venue 20 minutes before time and was waiting at the car park, all by myself since I knew no one. Suddenly I picked my head and saw Dada walking and he is looking at me and saying ‘hi’ and I had no idea in this world how to react. Without much thinking, I said hi and simply started walking towards the direction of the stairs which leads to the venue.

Co-incidentally Dada & myself reached the stairs at the same time and he again said ‘Hi’ and I was ready to die. The man I idolized for so many years was standing right next to me and wishing me & all I could manage was a ‘hi’. I felt the adrenaline rush, I felt I have seen God, I felt nothing can be bigger than this. I was surely too overwhelmed. I had prepared in my mind all the time while traveling in tube to the venue , what I shall ask if I get a chance but nothing worked . I froze and simply speaking I was star struck. This has never happened to me before. I could feel my emotions but I could not control it. Anyways, for the next couple of hours I stood next to the stage and kept watching Dada speak along with John Wright, Ronnie Irani, Md Kaif. I kept feeling its a dream. At the end, I went upto the stage and found John, Ronnie & Kaif for pictures but Dada had left. I was a little sad but I was happy that I have seen him.

I dragged myself out of venue recollecting all the memories created in the last few hours but fortunately & surprisingly, the night was not ready to fade away without a bang and there I see Dada again & this time trying to escape the crowd and walking towards the exit gate. I found a spring in my steps and literally ran towards the gate . I gathered myself and softly asked Dada, ‘Ekta chobi hobe?’. Prompt came the reply, ‘edike aye ,haatte hatte tol’ & for a second I felt his hand on my shoulders, precisely right shoulder. The picture is hazy coz we were walking while taking that pic. But that pic is worth a million dollars to me. A man I have idolized for so many years and never thought in my wildest dreams, that I can meet him. That day I realised dreams come true. If someone asks me today how those 2/3 hours went by, I can’t say a thing coz it was all a daze to me. That night while coming back home , I whispered to myself , ‘Its among top 5 moments of my life’.

Special thanks to Debdeep for sharing this article. Debdeep Bhattacharya is a cricket fanatic with an analytical insight of the game, a hardcore Dada fan who believes everything cant be measured in stats!

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