Growing up in a family full of sports enthusiasts, I had the privilege of being acquainted with different sports at a very young age. But when I was introduced to cricket, my world was turned upside down and I knew this was my dream. It was love at first sight. Even today, at the sound of the oak touching the leather, my hands turn sweaty and the world slows down. I am still head-over-heels for the game.
Like any other relationship, cricket and I have had our fair share of quarrels, anguish, and merry-making, but have unfailingly showered each other with endless love and gifts. About 12 years ago, Cricket gave me one the greatest gifts of all time – the Indian Premier League.
In 2008, summertime at the Rajachandra household changed forever. The house became a battlefield. My brother, Varun Anna, and I pledged our allegiance to our home team whilst my father supported the boys who claimed to shake the earth (“duniya hila denge”). My mother donned the role of a diplomat, trying to douse the fire. The hall turned into a small stadium and no other activity could take place after 7 pm. We had assigned seats, and bed-time became nonexistent. From the corridors, one could hear us chanting prayers, and every day our neighbours could hear us lose our voices.
For the three of us, the shades of red and gold were the only colours we found attractive and we began to call Chinnaswamy Stadium our home. The Royal Challengers Bangalore occupied a special place in our hearts. Every time I’d see the boys in red take the field or chant RCB in the stadium, my body would tingle with excitement. While disappointment found its way time and again, our love for this team knew no bounds. 12 seasons later, nothing has changed.
However, with time, I began to appreciate the tournament as a whole. In 2014, the world of Fantasy League welcomed me with open arms. Aged 14, I was competing with my brother and his friends who were 10 years older than me. Despite the age difference, they let me be a part of their group and treated me as an equal. I learnt to set biases aside, picked a team, and competed with people whom I looked up to.
At the age of 17, I was gearing up to spend two years in an all-girls school – I was petrified. Being a ‘tomboy,’ making female friends was challenging and scary. But the IPL came to my rescue. While sitting in the school auditorium one morning, I struck up a conversation with a fellow RCB fan. We spent two hours talking about our obsession with Australian players, specifically James Faulkner. Through my Instagram posts, two other girls noticed my love for the tournament and messaged me. The three of us ended up going for a game with our fathers and in 2019, we watched RCB win by a single run against the Chennai Super Kings. The cheers of the fans and the thrill of the victory still sends shivers down my spine. The feeling was euphoric.
This tournament gave me more than I ever expected. It gave me happiness, accentuated my debating skills, and taught me how to make tough decisions. It helped me understand the true meaning of loyalty and helped me make friends who have become family.
As I hold onto my old jersey and the RCB flag, I feel fortunate to have grown up with the IPL.
The 13th season of the tournament will commence this weekend. The feeling of restlessness and excitement has kicked in. The teams are geared up, the IPL debates have begun and I am ready.
This year the fun isn’t just restricted to the stadiums; don’t miss out on the excitement Beyond the Pitch.
Featured Image Credits: The Free Press Journal