The splayed legs of Gundappa Vishwanath as he executed yet another of his exquisite square cuts; an almost mystical Abdul Qadir in mid-stride, fingers reaching for his lips; the flying stumps behind the batsman with a menacing Michael Holding still in his follow-through; an agile Ian Botham celebrating yet another catch at second slip, the dramatic appealing of Dennis Lillee as he nailed yet another batsman… these were some of the images that initiated me into the game of cricket in the late 1970s and the early 1980s.
Images that came to us not through cricket web sites, not through dedicated cricket channels, not through 24-hour sports channels, not even through the inconsistent coverage of the national television channel, but through grainy black & white photographs in the daily newspapers and in exciting colour ones in the sports magazines of those days – The Sportstar (the only one still standing, albeit without the definite article), Sportsweek, and Sportsworld, and back copies of the defunct Sport & Pastime.
Of course, most of the dailies only carried postage-stamp-sized photographs of Sunil Gavaskar or Kapil Dev while reporting yet another of their centuries or five-wicket hauls, but considering the scarcity of imagery in those days, even these pictures were priceless and found their way into our scrapbooks – last year’s notebooks filled with all the pictures we could get hold of from the daily newspapers. (I remember having at least 10 identical pictures of Kapil Dev, beaming smile, drooping moustache and all, in one of my scrap books.) And every time a new picture was stuck (with glue or with particles of rice, never with adhesive tape), the entire scrap book was lovingly perused, the picture count made all over again, and the scrap book carefully put back in its place on the shelf.
Naturally, all our attention was on the cricketers and the action (such as there was), but even then we did not miss the fact that most of the pictures that came in from games outside of India were from one of three sources – All Sport, Adrian Murrell and Patrick Eager. The last named, Patrick Eager just covered his 300th test when he took his regular position behind the lens in the just concluded test at Lord’s, where the weather ended up denying England the one wicket they needed to beat India to go one-up in the series.
Thanks, Patrick, for bringing the game alive in our minds.