23-mar-07 1.45 am.

I don’t like to follow the crowd, but I also don’t like being left out. So while whole of India is watching the ‘life and death’ defining match between India and Sri lanka today, I would prefer to stand out of the crowd and say, “I don’t waste my time on this silly game,” but I’ll still watch it coz tomorrow when the whole world would be discussing the match I should be able to be a part of the conversation.

6th wicket down, I flipped channel and this is what I came across, Aaj Tak’s breaking news, “dhoni khata khole bina out.”

I am feeling home sick at this point. Feel like sitting with dad criticizing Team India, applauding Sri Lanka, laughing out loud at one moment trying to read team India’s mind, specially that of Chappel’s, and getting angry over all the past drama the next minute…

Cricket also reminds me of some very fond memories of the school time. I and Papiya used to be the greatest cricket fans amongst our gang. Both Jadeja fans, but she was more fond of Azharuddin. The XIIth standard used to have the last period (1 pm to 1.30) as games period (pretty weird I know). Our gang, we used to play gallery till about 1.20 and then queue in front of the huge iron gate waiting for the last bell of the day.

Me and Papiya used to run for the first spot so that we could be the first to push open the iron gate as soon as the bell goes, and guess what did we call ourselves, ‘opening batsman!

Those were days of innocence, you can’t get any more silly than those days.

I like Malinga’s hair style.

1992 world cup was probably my favorite world cup. Jadeja came out as a fine batsman that year. I kept the paper cutting of all headlines he made and prepared a scrap book. Dream was to see Jadeja in real life once and get his autograph on it.

1996, I was in second year of college. Jadeja was there to inaugurate the sports day of our neighbor college Jesus and Mary. Oh that sweat and crowd I fought, just to get a glimpse of him. And then I did, just about few meters away from me, I tried looking straight into his eyes, and no one would believe this, but he looked right back into mine. He looked ‘at’ me.

There is a reason why I don’t go unnoticed in any crowd, there’s a reason why, once seen, you’d never forget my face. I have a very distinct birth mark on my face. Whether you are Jadeja or Tom Cruise, you’d take a second look at this face just to be sure if you really saw what you think you saw.

So there I was capturing Jadeja’s ‘look at me’ in my eyes and coming back home dreaming a dream.

2002, my first year as a practicing lawyer, I was in Delhi High Court, court no. 22 where the Customs and Excise cases were listed. As I came out of the Court room to take a small break I heard everybody was going to court no. 4 where Jadeja’s betting case was listed to be heard. Turned out, Jadeja was present in the court.

In court you are valued by the number of years you have been wearing the black robe and so long as you are inside the court building, no Jadeja or Kapil Dev is of higher respect than you because they are not wearing the robe and of course the collar band.

I walked inside court No. 4 and spotted Jadeja sitting in the third row. I deliberately took seat in the same row but away from him. I saw him sitting there fiddling with his shirt collar, folding and unfolding his fist too many times, brushing his hair with his fingers, biting his nails. There he was the most ordinary of all men tensed, waiting anxiously for the judge to give his verdict.

The case didn’t come up till Lunch time. The Court broke for lunch. The moment the Judge left his chair everybody stood up and left the court room. Jadeja got up from his seat and walked by my side almost touching my hand and went out of the court room.

I too got up and headed towards the Ladies Bar room.