Thursday, February 06, 2014

Diaries down under, Part 10 – Meeting Sir Viv!!!

One of the things I will surely miss once is go back is the coffee. Although my sample set is quite small but Melbourne coffee is the best I have tasted till now. I and my friend have made this habit of going out for a cup of coffee every night after dinner.
While coming back home after the coffee last night, we waited at a pedestrian crossing for the light to turn green. As the light turned green, we started crossing the road. You don’t expect many people roaming around at 11:00 PM in the night and there weren't many. It was two of us crossing the road and another couple of guys coming from opposite side.
As I looked at the guys coming from opposite direction, one of them caught my eyes. He looked a bit strange, especially the way he was walking. The way he was walking; his shoulders were moving a bit awkwardly – it wasn't a usual walk. It was as if he had tattooed the phrase, “I care a damn all over his walk”. Swagger is the only word which came to my mind after seeing him walk.  His face looked a bit familiar too.
As he came closer, I pressed my mind hard to find out why his face looked familiar and suddenly words came out of my mouth “That’s Vivian Richards”. I nearly shouted.
Sir Issac Alexander Vivian Richards was just walking past by me. One of the greatest batsmen ever, only man who can challenge SRT’s position of best ODI batsman ever, a living legend, the man who dated Nina Gupta (that’s the first name everyone relates him to) was walking past by me.
I had heard so much about his batting from my father who used to be a big fan of Richards. As it has happened with most of us in my generation – we have grown up listening to the stories of 1983 world cup, got sick of them and were so happy on that fateful night of 2nd April 2011 to be able to tell the previous generation, “See, I have my own world cup. Now stop boring me with all those stories of 1983”. I have also not been different.
Quite often my father would tell, “We scored just 183. When West Indies lost first wicket, we weren't happy but sad. We knew Richards was going to finish it off in a hurry. If not for that catch by Kapil, we would have lost in 25 overs”
I would ask back, “184 in 25 overs? Is that even possible?” Remember, it was pre-T20 era.    
“He is Richards. He can do anything” I could sense absolute admiration in his voice for Richards.
“Was he better than Tendulkar?” I would ask back thinking can anyone be better than Tendulakar?
“Tendulkar is good. But then you haven’t seen Richards. He was the boss” such replies from him had made an aura of Richards in my mind.
By the time I started following cricket, Richards had already retired. I hardly saw him bat live apart from a few veteran matches in which he was absolutely murderous.   
Luckily for me, youtube era arrived. I saw numerous clips of Richards batting. Forget the stroke making; it was that expression on his face which wore utter disrespect for the art of bowling, of any kind, that impressed me. As if he was telling it to the bowlers “What? You want to bowl to me. Don’t bore me maannn. Go fetch it from the boundary line because that’s where that red cherry is going to disappear”
Fire in Babylon is one of my favorite movies. In case you claim to be a cricket fan and you haven’t seen it, you must do one of the two things – either stop claiming to be a cricket fan or watch the movie NOW.
I loved the way Richards explained in the movie – how he faced the bowling, especially fast. I loved the way he talks about how he would keep staring at the bowler. Stare from a batsman of his stature could be killing. The movies shows how once he got hit on the head which had nothing but a cap in the name of protection, stood up, brushed off his cap, didn't even touch his head, faced the next ball and hooked it over the square leg for a six.
He averaged over 50 in tests. With the kind of batting style he had which comes with high risk of failure, which was monumental. He averaged 47 in ODIs in an age when anything over 35 was considered good. Even God may not know what he would have done in this age of T20s.  
When he batted, he was the boss. He must have been a monster if he was real is what I used to think about me.
Well, he wasn't or that’s what I realized last night.
The moment I recognized him, I froze. Then and there. At the middle of the road.
I had to make a decision – to follow him till the other end of the road, catch up, take an autograph, and get clicked with him or to carry on and regret later saying “Oh that was Vivian Richards. Damn, I missed the chance to take an autograph”
The decision had to be made in a split second. I made my decision.
I asked my friend to follow me and started following Sir Viv. Unfortunately, my friend was a split second late and carried on.
I reached the other end following Sir Viv. By then he was done with crossing the road.
As I reached the other end, he turned back and looked at me wondering why I would be following him. Oh yes, I could sense a tinge of worry in his eyes. No matter how strongly built you are, someone following you at 11:00 PM at night will surely make you worried.
Worry in his eyes scared me. You don’t want to be considered as an offender by a guy who is more than double of your size.
I put a smile on my face, extended my hand to shake hands and asked, “Excuse me. Are you Vivian Richards?”
My question embarrassed him, nearly. As if he was embarrassed to be recognized by someone who looked absolutely thrilled to meet him. Or maybe he was embarrassed to answer the question if he was actually what he was made out to be.
What would he have said?
“No, I am Ethan Hunt on a mission. I've put on Viv’s mask” or a “Yes, anything wrong with that?”
His reply, with a sheepish smile, stumped me, “Once upon a time mate, yes”. It was modesty personified.
“Really pleasure meeting you, sir. A huge fan” is all that I could manage in reply.
Normally I am never short of a witty remark to strike off a conversation or so I have been often told but last night was an exception. For the second time in 60 seconds, I froze. I couldn't say anything. He just smiled and carried on walking.
I turned back and walked across the road where my friend was waiting. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, grinning like a kid who had just got his favorite toy as a surprise.
I have never understood the big fuss people make about meeting celebrities but then, I myself had never really met a celebrity I really admire till last night. This was Goosebumps stuff for me. Next hour went in telling everyone, who I thought who might know about Sir Viv, that I had just shook hands with the great man.
Well, meeting with one of the greatest cricketer ever was quite thrilling – doesn't matter if the meeting lasted hardly few seconds. I hope to meet many more heroes in future.
One day I would like to meet Sachin Tendulkar and ask him, how he never got bored of doing the same thing over and over again for nearly 30 years – batting.
One day I would like to meet Rahul Dravid and ask him how it feels to be Rahul Dravid?  
One day I would like to meet MS Dhoni and ask him how he never slapped Ishant Sharma or Munaf Patel even though he has led them on the ground many times.

One day I would like to meet SIR and tell him instead of asking anything, “It was me who gave you this epithet, SIR”

2 comments:

Sachin Gulhane said...

Wow ...its a moment to cherish forever ... I am sure i wouldnt have done anything better ... It was natural for you to freeze ... You will remeber it more than may be photograoh with him ...I hope you didn't dramatize the blog ( spl scare in his eyes etc ) ...if yes please remove that ..moat of the things in life taste better when it's natural

Harsh sagar said...

Awsome...and honest expression vibhash!!.