Kolkata: In a year of retirements in Indian cricket, one more high-profile name has called time on his illustrious career.
Indian cricket fan, Bharath Balaji, who had been part of many losses and some victories of the team over the last 30 years or so, today formally announced that the fourth Test in the ongoing India-England series at Nagpur will be his last international outing.
Addressing a press conference, shortly after England completed the formalities in the Kolkata Test in which India snatched an abject defeat from the jaws of a possible difficult loss, an emotional Bharath Balaji said: “I know I have given cricket my all, it’s been my life for well over 30 years. But there’s not much more I could take or give now. ”
Balaji, however, pointed out that the decision to retire was not an overnight one. “I didn’t take the decision based on one series… it’s the culmination of a lot of things. It has been an idea that has been with me since India’s tour to England last year. It got strengthened during India’s trip Down Under. Now, after this, I know for sure that the time has come for me to move on in life.”
Throwing more light into the minutiae of his move, Balaji said, “I have always taken pride in my performance over the years, and no matter how difficult or demoralising the defeat was, I have always managed to come up with some silly jokes or simple puns, and shrugged my shoulders and moved on to face more defeats”.
“At any rate, if we fans hadn’t acquired this philosophical equanimity, some of us would have committed suicide or ended up in a padded cell, for the 80s and 90s were the era of Sharjah and Chetan Sharma,” he added.
A stony-faced Balaji, who betrayed no emotions of his dramatic decision, said “the clincher here was after the close of play yesterday (the 4th day of the Kolkata Test). India’s position was hopeless. As a fan, I had been through this many times than I bother to remember. But the difference this time was there was not even a minor urge to throw up a puerile one-liner or a lame wordplay wit. It was as if I had become BCCI itself. I mean I didn’t seem to care at all”.
Balaji said he was disappointed with his overall results in this series. “It wasn’t what I expected of myself,” he said. “The only honourable thing for me to do, in the circumstances, is to leave the field open for more young and fresh Indian fans who will, hopefully, carry on the tradition of making black-humour jokes whenever India loses, which, going by the present trend, look to be a regular affair.”
The Nagpur Test (13-17 Dec) will be his last official cricket commitment. “I may continue my connection with the IPL. But since its connection itself with actual cricket is very tenuous, I must say the Nagpur Test is my last cricketing hurrah.”
Balaji clarified that there was no pressure from any quarter for him to quit. “In fact, I must take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude to the BCCI, primarily its president N Srinivasan, without whose valuable contribution we fans couldn’t have raised our standards in joke-making.”
Asked whether his decision to retire will put pressure on someone else in the Indian cricket team, Balaji snapped back, “my policy in life is simple: ask not when your hero will retire, especially when you yourself can retire.”
Balaji expected to spend some quality time with the new additions to his life like badminton, shooting and wrestling. “Make no mistake about it, without cricket life is going to be difficult. But I guess I must at some point return to real world. I will perhaps start shopping for groceries and also drop the kids in school”.
Anyway, now retired, he will finally be free of the 2 am wake-ups to watch Tests in New Zealand or late- night sessions for cricket in West Indies. “I have no regrets. I started watching cricket in 1984-85 when India, after winning against England in the first Test, went on to lose the series 2-1. So as I end this here, the wheel seems to have come a full circle. As every government officer will tell you, there is enormous comfort in status quo.”
“Also, the world begins with a bang but ends with you trying to remember that overrated quote from T S Eliot,” Balaji said and stood up and walked out of the hall without once turning back.
(Disclaimer: When does the one-day series against England start?)