It’s that time of the year again. The time when everyone is busy professing, processing or pontificating about love. With Valentines Day right here we at Cricking thought we’d look at a few intersecting love stories, not in a “Love, Actually” sense, but with an element of cricket. Here, then, are five unique cricketing love affairs.
Mohd Azharuddin and the Eden Gardens
Every cricketer is partial towards some venue or the other, but never have star struck lovers met in the way a young Mohammed Azharuddin met the Eden Gardens. He debuted there with a century of sublime beauty and Azhar would keep scoring there racking up 5 centuries and 1200+ test runs.
The affair took a Shakespearean tragic turn when the same venue also became his Waterloo after India lost that 1996 World Cup semifinal against Sri Lanka under ignominious circumstances when on a crumbling pitch he bravely elected to field first. But if anyone had doubts of whether the love would endure, his ton that included 5 fours off Lance Klusener in an over in the 1996 Test v South Africa reminded a new generation of his adoration of the venue.
Sunil Gavaskar and Trinidad
What’s love if there is not a ditty to celebrate it. Sunil Gavaskar was so prolific at Trinidad and so popular that Lord Realtor (real name Willard Harris) wrote a calypso in his name called the ‘Gavaskar Calypso’. Gavaskar made his debut at Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1971 with a 65 and 67* against one of the most fearsome attacks in the world. He would go on to score a mammoth 774 runs in that series, one that led to those famous lines in the Calypso:
“It was Gavaskar/ The Real Master/ Just like a wall / We couldn’t put Gavaskar at all.”
But his superb record at Trinidad is not the cornerstone of this love story. It is the connect he had with the fans and the adoration he earned from them. As his close friend from the 1971 Ispahan Ali told Sportstar in 2002, “I have not known any other sportsman command such popularity for so long. Sunny has remained a great ambassador for his country and I want you to convey this message to your people.”
VVS Laxman and the fourth innings
Some love stories are special because they are the port in a storm we all look towards to feel better about our miserable selves. Laxman’s battling efforts in the fourth innings of test matches were exactly that for Indian test cricket. Statistically, Laxman is not among the most successful fourth innings batsmen but it is watching him bat with nearly no fuss and looking in complete command that was so mesmerizing that made the heart skip a beat when you had him walking in for the last essay of a test.
The epitome of that affair was Mohali in 2010 when his marshalling of the lower order (India were 8 down with 92 runs still needed) to help India seal a thrilling one wicket win against Australia.
Jonty Rhodes and point
Cricketers have had a favorite fielding positions before there was a Jonty Rhodes. But the way Rhodes elevated fielding at point to an art and the way the position there elevated Rhodes’ standing as the harbinger of a revolution in fielding is what true love is made of. He loved the position because it allowed him to express himself in the most spectacular fashion and like any good love story, the result were iconic photographs (see above) where the couple will always look like they were made for each other.