As I have mentioned several times here, I moved around a lot as a kid.
Recently, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I have reconnected with some people I attended middle school (grades six and seven, ages 10 and 11) with in Howell, Michigan about a million years ago.
In creeping through their photos, I have on several occasions come across albums of high school era pictures scanned in and reposted: groups of friends together sitting on the hood of a brand new used car, cheap ill-gotten beers in hand, bad 90s small town fashion, bad 90s small town everything.
I look at those pictures, and I am filled with melancholy: that was my alternate timeline, to borrow a phrase from Doctor Who. I was supposed to be in those pictures, too, but I wasn’t, and I never will be, because my dad picked up and moved the family to Minnesota the year before high school. From small town to suburb. I should have had Dazed and Confused, instead I got Pump Up the Volume.
This is my roundabout way of saying that often, when reading about the cricket that happened between my birth and the year I discovered the game, I feel a similar sense of loss and disconnectedness. When Sachin retired from ODIs, I felt a tinge of jealousy of those that have strong memories of Sachin in his youth, of the format in its youth, of the whole of India in its youth (relatively), memories that connected them to certain times and places and events in their own lives. I read those posts and think to myself: that should have been me. I should have been enjoying the 2005 Ashes, but instead I was smoking cigarettes and buying a house; I should have been watching the Kolkata Test in 2001, but I wasn’t; I should have been watching Sachin’s Test debut, but instead I was moving from Michigan to Minnesota.
Cricket’s history is my alternate timeline. And reading about one’s alternate timelines, and we all have them, always fills us with melancholy.
Which is why I am so very thankful when performances like what we saw last night happen, because it allows me to be a part of cricket history, to look back 10 years from now and not mourn an alternate timeline, but instead look back and say I was there, I saw Cheteshwar Pujara’s 206 at Hyderabad against Australia in the late winter of 2013. I saw the rebirth of Indian Test cricket. I saw the second coming of Rahul Dravid.
I was there. I saw it.