To the ones who smear their faces with the tricolour and fire up the crowd with cheers and whoops, cricket is not just a sport; it is an emotion. Just as soccer is to the world, so is cricket to India.
Though it is an English sport, we have adopted it as if it is our own. Over the years, it has spawned many legendary players whose fame is rampant across the world. Most of the records set by these players remain unassailable for days to come.
Every cup, every match, every innings stirs up a myriad of emotions within us. Let us revisit the achievements made by some legends who have inspired several and made cricket more than just a game.
1) Kapil Dev
The outstanding team captain led the Indian team to victory in the 1983 Cricket World Cup. It was the first win for the nation in the World Cup. He played for the Haryana cricket team in domestic cricket, which earned him the nickname “Haryana Hurricane”. In the history of cricket, he was the only player to score more than 5000 runs and 400 wickets in test cricket.
The country bestowed upon Kapil Dev the prestigious awards, the Arjuna Award in 1979, the Padma Shri in 1982 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. In 2002, he took home the Wisden Cricketer of the Year award.
2) Sunil Gavaskar
The former cricketer represented the Bombay cricket team during the 1970s and 1980s. He set the records of scoring the highest runs and test centuries during his time. Fondly known as Sunny or Little Master, he is one of the greatest opening batsmen.
There exists a test series between India and Australia. It was named Border-Gavaskar Trophy, after the former Australian captain Allan Border and Sunil Gavaskar. In 1980, Gavaskar was named the Wisden cricketer of the year. He is the only Indian cricketer to have a cricket stadium named after him in the USA.
3) Saurav Ganguly
Former Indian cricketer and current cricket commentator Ganguly is the only cricketer to acquire four consecutive Man of the Match awards in One Day International. He set the record for the highest score of 117 in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy. He is regarded as India’s most successful test captain.
In 1998, Sportstar magazine named him Sportstar Person of the Year. India honoured him with the Arjuna Award in 1998 and the Padma Shri award in 2004.
4) Sachin Tendulkar
Popularly known as the God of Cricket, Tendulkar has scored the highest runs and centuries in Test and ODI. Taking up cricket at the mere age of sixteen, he has immensely contributed to domestic and international cricket. He is the only player to secure a double century in the history of ODI cricket.
He is the recipient of multiple awards. The Indian government presented him the Arjuna Award in 1994, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 1997, Padma Shri in 1999, Maharashtra Bhushan Award in 2001, Padma Vibhushan in 2008, and Bharat Ratna in 2014.
Despite the many excellent players India has produced, we cannot help but wonder if the quality of cricket has declined. Nationalism, politics and miserliness have undermined the spirit of the game. Cricket is constantly evolving, but is it for the better?