MUMBAI: It is not long ago that we were planning for Cheteshwar Pujara to come down to Chennai and play league cricket for us. My team, Mylapore RC, was in a relegation battle in the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association Division One, and Pujara’s team, Saurashtra, had just won the Ranji Trophy on March 13. He wanted to come, but he was not 100% well, having fallen sick after returning from New Zealand. We managed to avoid relegation without him, but he had plans for other Saurashtra players to come down and play league cricket in Chennai because he wants Saurashtra to get even stronger when they defend the title next season.
The next season seems so far away now.
Life is very different now. I recently read Ian Chappell’s piece on how climate change might affect cricket. We saw it in December 2015, when we were playing in Delhi, and our friends and families were stranded in man-made floods in Chennai. We are the only species that goes against the alignment of nature. And we are supposed to be the smartest. Well, even before we could face the full brunt of climate change, something else has stopped cricket and life.
Right now is the time to find solutions instead of blaming this country or that country. The solution for the time being seems to be social-distancing and patience. Hopefully science finds a breakthrough soon. There is a lesson in all this: we take the game too seriously. There are far bigger things than the game that can hamper it.
For a change, despite so much free time on hand, I haven’t thought much about the game. For once the craving to watch something on TV that is cricket is not there. I don’t know how this has happened, but it has. I have not gone on YouTube looking for old clips either.
Nor am I missing the game as such except the rigours and tensions of playing the sport, the pressure of it, just trying to compete. Every day you are looking forward to something. If you go to practise, you are looking forward to, say, the IPL, the TNPL, or club cricket. To some cricket. Tomorrow if I have to turn up at the nets, I don’t know what to look forward to. There is a freshness to that, to be honest. You don’t have to look forward to anything. Just turn up and enjoy the game. Need to bowl the ball or hit the ball and not worry about what is in front of you. Obviously I am not going to go out to bat or bowl in the near future, but if I do in isolation, I think it will be great.
We stopped all operations at our academy, Gen-Next Cricket Institute, two weeks ago, but now we are getting questions all the time from parents who don’t know what to do with their kids all day. So we are trying to work around it by creating video tutorials. We are discussing that on our WhatsApp groups and on teleconference. My wife, Prithi, is involved in the planning of it.
Otherwise, staying confined has been almost idyllic, almost as if it’s a message from nature. When the lockdown began, I was still adjusting to the heat of Chennai after a month spent in New Zealand. And I was doing so while playing the TNCA league.
Now we have built a routine around the kids’ routines. When I wake up, at 5.30-6am, my younger daughter is almost awake. We brush our teeth together, go through other morning rituals, have some green tea, and then we both take a speaker and go to our terrace, which has a gym and an organic garden. I do my cycling and weights while she listens to music.
I don’t remember the last time I saw and heard so many birds in my life in a city. There is so much chirping. I don’t know if I am imagining it, but definitely the traffic has been much lighter. There is a sense of freshness in the air, and who knows, maybe some of the birds have come back.
By the time we come back down, Prithi and my older daughter have woken up. We have coffee together, have our breakfast and then get into our routines. Outside the academy work, we read or watch series or movies. Prithi has been binge-watching Sex and the City, while I am trying to convince her to watch Game Of Thrones again. She will, of course, tell you I am lying.
Which I am. We have actually been watching Queen, a series based on the life of J Jayalalithaa. I have been reading one of the best books ever written, Ponniyin Selvan by Kalki. It is a book in five parts, so I have enough reading material should the lockdown be long.
My parents live with us but they are busy people so they are not short of things to do. My mother has been finishing up some paperwork, but we try to take an hour every day to play carrom together, which we usually do when we are both home.
So far there has not been any cabin fever. We are not yet at each other’s throats. We are even trying to manufacture our own alcohol-based hand rub, thanks to Prithi’s Instagram friend Sandhya Ramesh, who is a science assistant editor at the Print. Her research on coronavirus has been helpful to us in wading through the false information floating around.
If we get bored of each other, we have a small nap after lunch. When we get up, depending on what the kids are doing, how much energy they have, we try to entertain them with puzzles and Lego. They usually get their outdoors time in the evening, which has to happen in the terrace garden now. They pick vegetables, admire some flowers. Then back to the evening routines – baths, PJs, dinner.
One good thing is that we have been sleeping on time. Because we have so much time through the day to spend with everyone in the house, we don’t feel the need to catch up on stuff at night.
If we survive this pandemic, surely there is a lesson somewhere in there.