It’s been a lazy morning, a rare day in my hectic life. We are into the second week of the three-week lockdown in India and the gravity of the worldwide havoc created by the COVID-19 virus is deeply concerning. We are staring at an uncertain future and against an unknown enemy. The lessons I learnt from cricket are very relevant now. As the situation demands, we have to take fresh guard, read the pitch, manage the swing and bounce, and above all, be circumspect. Those words we’ve heard a million times—application and temperament—are really the key in life too. Nobody wants to give his wicket away!
For me and my family, our lives are in reboot mode and believe me, it’s one of the best phases we have had at home together. From Arjun, the youngest member in the family at 20, to my mother, who is 83, we are witnessing how one reacts to a situation variably as per one’s age. We all have different tastes and choices, but for me, this period is a test of acceptability and adaptability. Collectively, we must really think for each other—for India’s 1.3 billion people and for the global community at large.
There is no pressure of meetings and stepping out of home is an absolute no-no. Sleeping well, going to the gym, a leisurely breakfast, a lunch of my choice and then it’s time for some family entertainment. My mother must be the happiest seeing her son and grandchildren away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. As a family, we are doing those simple things—watching TV serials, playing games and eating together—things that we otherwise tend to miss quite regularly.
As I said, ‘accept’ and ‘adapt’…that works whether it’s a hard top at Perth or a crumbling fifth-day Nagpur pitch, or life. The better we accept this situation and follow the simple dos and don’ts, the faster we combat the fear factor, and higher the chance that we survive...and thrive. With this crisis, ‘adapting’ calls for a sterner reappraisal of our playing style itself! As a family, we have accepted that coronavirus is a challenge to humankind and we need to revisit the way we lead our lives.
What’s good? For one, it’s quite incredible to see the whole world united against a common foe. And what’s not? Well, when a few people callously flout basic precautions, I find it very disturbing. Clearly, it’s a matter of discipline and trusting the information shared by credible health organisations. I have been saying these in my messages for UNICEF, so do guard against fake news! And play within yourself....For me, this has been the time to introspect and plan ahead. I feel a person who utilises this time properly will always be a step ahead of the person who thinks he has nothing to do at home.
What better than having a doctor-wife at home in this hour of need! Anjali has been making sure that we constantly wash our hands and keep ourselves sanitised. This includes the people who help us at home. We have stopped guests at home—for one thing, it’s not allowed; and with my mother vulnerable because of her age, we are extremely careful about who’s meeting her.
I am glad our children have grasped the challenges and are doing their bit by making our lives easier at home. A lockdown can be quite challenging for young girls and boys, but both Sara and Arjun have understood the repercussions of what a wrong step could mean. As parents, we have tried to keep them mentally stimulated and that means spending a lot of quality time together, going to the gym with each other, eating home-cooked food, watching the TV serials and movies we love and, of course, music.
I have tried testing my cooking skills a bit, but here too I tend to play in the ‘V’! Which means sticking to the basics and having simple, normal home food—baigan bharta (roasted and mashed brinjal) is my favourite, so also varan-bhaat (a Marathi dish consisting of lentils and white rice). A bit of chicken adds to the spread, like that four off the last ball. We are foodies at home, but there is so much sense in eating basic stuff. It is distressing to hear of the conditions out there, with lots of people not getting even basic food or ration.
We have been watching the latest serials and movies on TV. We enjoyed the series Special Ops that showed how our security agencies use intelligence to combat terror and keep us safe. We also saw Panga, the Kangana Ranaut-starring sports movie on the life of a kabaddi player. Also Good News, Chhapaak—and among series, Truth Be Told and Formula 1: Drive to Survive Season 2. Knowing my love for cars, Anjali has also recommended a few documentary series on Formula One and I can’t wait to watch them.
But what’s binding us all together is a lot of music. I am a music freak and I enjoy tracks from the ’70s onwards a lot. Generally, I can enjoy any good music. I may be listening to a Hindi song one minute, but five minutes later, it could be a Spanish one. We are also enjoying plenty of unplugged versions on YouTube. Pink Floyd has been simply awesome. Also Coldplay, Dire Straits and U2, and any number of Hindi singers…. But the children love modern songs and here too we have to show our sense of adaptability in accommodating their choices!
Finally, I must appreciate the call taken by the International Olympic Committee to postpone Tokyo Olympics in July-August. I won’t be surprised if IPL is deferred too. These are challenging times and rescheduling sporting events or cancelling them outright is the right way forward. We can’t afford to lose any more lives. We already have lost many. There are solutions for all other sorts of challenges, but death is an irreparable loss. We must learn to live while maintaining social distancing, but emotionally, we must be together.
I have been part of a World Cup-winning team in 2011, when we fulfilled the dreams of a billion people and I know what adulation means. But when I think of the hundreds of health workers and other personnel who are confronting COVID-19 by putting their lives at risk, I feel their levels of achievement and commitment are immeasurable. They are our real-world champions. Let us all do our bit and ensure that their efforts do not go waste.
Sports, they say, is a great leveller, and cuts across boundaries and knows no caste, colour or creed. The script you are handed in sports is always an open one and it’s never perfect. The more one reflects on it, the more I see parallels with life. This virus too has been a true leveller. It has affected all of humankind, no matter what your status is. While we fight against it, we must focus on the brighter side. It offers us a chance, like a difficult pitch, to unmask our deficiencies—including a lot of our prejudices and beliefs. Also, it gives us time to introspect and look at humanity’s effect on our planet as a whole. How, in the middle of it all, nature has found space and time to breathe and heal.
For now, it’s stumps, folks! We are all together in this challenging match. Let’s follow all the precautionary measures shared by the aut–horities. Let’s pad up and wear our guards and helmets. We will come out of it stronger.
As told to Soumitra Bose