On August 18th, the whole of India reached home, switched on their televisions and realised a semi-final was on. At the centre court was an athlete who probably most of the country hadn’t even heard of. She doesn’t appear on television commercials, doesn’t have a social life that tabloids can make money from.
At approximately 8.30 pm, August 18th, all of that changed.
First set, 21-19.
Second set, 10-10. She then took off like Usian Bolt does when he reaches the half way mark and suddenly proceeds to seemingly glide across the finish line.
Whatsapp was orgasming, hashtags were being birthed by the second and channels combusted with the breaking news.
People will leave from work early today. Hopefully, crowds will stand around television shops and watch. Pizza delivery boys will work over time. Beers will be ordered. Cheers will be emanate from homes at regular intervals. Crackers, which were presumably stored for an Indian cricket team victory will be unearthed and kept ready.
I am an unapologetic cricket romantic. The game has given me untold joy and the sight of glorious straight drive can make my week. I can see it and write about it forever and ever. But it has in many ways chained us.
Names like Abhinav Bindra Karnam Malleshwari, Rajyvardhan Rathore, Yogeshwar Dutt, among others, came to prominence after they stood up on the podium. It is then that we learn of sports we didn’t know existed and learn of athletes we didn’t know our country produced.
One way or the other, the country will win.
Whatever the result, the crackers must be burst.
Whatever the outcome, the beer must be guzzled and if possible, the champagne should be uncorked.
Somewhere in another part of the world, Virat Kohli and his men are taking on the West Indies in a test match. The series has been won but they are no doubt going for the kill. But for a change, no one will be watching. They will play to very few eyeballs. The beer and the crackers won’t be burst for them.
They’ll be stored for PV Sindhu, who went to sleep an Olympian one day and woke up to being the toast of the nation the next.
August 19th should be Independence Day because just for a few hours, the country will be freed from being chained to cricket.
And free to celebrate someone other than its cricketers.