Prem Panicker shares this interesting bit here and asks us all to write about our initiation into the cricketing fandom.

How could I resist this one? Those who know me – know it’s my first love. It’s also the single most important reason for my biggest regret in life – of not being a good athlete!

How did I get hooked onto to the game? Well here’s my story!

Circa 1991-92

Sharjah series in October where India played tri-series against WI and Pak. I think it was the Wills Trophy. We did actually manage to beat Pak in one of the league games and triumphed fairly easily over WI. Azhar taking some awesome catches in the gully, Sanjay Manjrekar and Sachin Tendulkar messing around with all bowlers. Manjrekar was the man-of-the-series and that also commenced the beginning of my very first crush:-)

The perfectionist that I’m, I gave my father a harrowing time in understanding the game. Papa what is LBW, what is an outswinger, how does the pitch assist, what is a googly, tell me the statistics of Wasim Akram and how the hell is a young lad who is only 18 years old taking the the cricketing world by storm!( Little did I know then that I would be a witness to the birth and entire cricketing life of a prodigy whom I only term as ‘GOD’)

Too many questions and too many tournaments to follow that season. I remember getting up in the wee hours of the day to follow the Ind-Aus test series live on radio – only highlights were shown then on DD in the night. That was also the beginning of following my only idol – the charming commentary of certain Mr. Harsha Bhogle.

Not to fall short in my knowledge – I read up voraciously on the game from whatever I could lay my hands on – World Book Encyclopedia, Cricket magazines – Sportstar and Shatkar( Marathi word for Sixer), Subscriptions to the two followed, Reading the sports page first on both newspapers – Times of India and Loksatta. I have all the articles and newspaper cuttings collected till 2002 ( After this I switched to the world of internet for my article collections!). I devoured cricketing books and watched every damn game. Papa even recorded all the World Cup matches of ‘92 which I would miss owing to school. I still have those recordings – including Sachin’s 84 of 49 balls when he first opened in NZ in ‘94 and Jadeja’s hammering of Waqar Younis – 40 runs in 3 overs – Jadeja hitting 45 off 25 balls in the ‘96 WC quarter-final against Pak in Banglore. I played and replayed them to understand every ball bowled and every shot played.

I fell in love with the game. It is a game that gives you much joy. Test cricket is all about strategy , all about mind games, all about resilience, all about application, all about solidity, all about grit, all about team-work and all about some fascinating stroke play and relentless bowling.

To take my love to new heights, my  uncle and papa took me to Wankhede in ‘93 for India’s match Vs England and there began a new love affair. I love the place, I love the atmosphere, I love the crowds there are none elsewhere. They are intelligent students of the game who appreciate a good game no matter who is playing. I did not miss a single match at the stadium until I moved to Dubai in 2006.I can recall every single ball bowled and every shot played till date, of all the matches I’ve seen live at the stadium.

I’ve bunked school and college. Caught matches between lectures when my MBA college was a ten-minutes walk from the stadium! Heck I did not even miss the ‘96 WC day-night match against Aus at the stadium a day before my final XI exams when my entire group was slogging it out at home! I still did fine in those exams;-) I even completed my MBA CET in time and reached Wankhede for the second innings – India chasing Eng’s target in the 2002 match. (I did well in the exam and made it to one of the best B-schools in the country)! Cricket never hampered my studies! I’ve watched matches alone at the stadium and not got bored at all!!! Yeah that’s how crazy I can be!

Cricket gave me my best friends in college, it even gave me a little bit of fame, and a chance at my dream job. It’s a topic on which I can write forever. Of all the joys it gave me, it gave me my most precious gift – MDH. If I were not a cricket fan I wonder how our conversations would’ve begun!

So there is my long story of cricket fandom cut short – go ahead tell me yours!