New Delhi: Cricket is like a religion in India. People follow cricket very passionately and often take cricketers in very high regards. The story is not new. Its history dates back to pre-independence times. It is nothing short of a carnival at the stadiums when there is a cricket match going on. People show a lot of love to cricketers. Often, the foreign players get overwhelmed with the love of Indian fans. They build a connect with Indian fans and they feel a void while leaving the country. It is the beauty of India which has people from diverse background but they unite like none other when it comes to cricket.
Recently, the Indian Premier League (IPL) was being played. As usual, the cricket-crazy fans of India were following the games very passionately until the tournament was suspended due to the sudden burst of coronavirus cases in India. The players were also infected by the virus and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had no option but to suspend the tournament abruptly in the middle of it. IPL has also given a new window to foreign players to spend considerable time in India. There are many players who acquiant themselves completely and become Indian. Many of them often call India as their second home.
Many players felt very bad while leaving India as the country was grappling with unprecedented situation. Players like Pat Cummins (Australia) and Trent Boult (New Zealand) have recently spoken about India being their second home and wished India a success against the virus. Pat Cummins donated $50,000 for the Covid relief in India. In his statement while announcing donations, he said, “To know so many are suffering so much at this time saddens me greatly.” Cummins garnered a lot of praises from the fans in India for his wonderful gesture.
On the other hand, the Kiwi speedster could not hold his emotions after getting back to his home in New Zealand. He released a statement on his Instagram which read, “My heart goes out to the people of the India, while I am sad to be leaving the @mumbaiindians family and see the IPL come to an end, none of that compares to the suffering many people are going through right now. India is a place that has given me so much as a cricketer and person. I have always deeply appreciated the support that I’ve received from my Indian fans. This is a tragic time and I hope things can improve soon. I look forward to returning to this beautiful country when I can.”
Another Kiwi great and former player Simon Doull, who was in India as a commenator in IPL, was also disheartened while leaving the country. He said, “Dear India, You have given me so much over so many years and I am sorry to be leaving you in such trying times. To those who are suffering my heart go's out to you and your families. Please do what you can to stay safe. Until next time take care.” Simon Doull was a fiery speedster for New Zealand.
There are many other foreign players who gave their heart to India while playing for their franchise in IPL over the years. I remember Glenn Maxwell was fondly given the name of Glenndeep Singh Maxwell when he was playing for Kings XI Punjab. The players got a lot of cheer from the Punjabi crowd in Mohali stadium. The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) also have many foreign players who have just got in the mould and enjoy their stay in India completely.
CSK players like Dwayne Bravo (West Indies) and Shane Watson (Australia) have also called India as their second home. Bravo can often be spotted donning Indian traditional dresses as he thoroughly relishes his stay in India. He has a massive fan following in India. He has also recorded a Punjabi song with Punjabi singer Jassi Gill starring Shakti Mohan. Many Bollywood stars are his friend and he follows many actors. When IPL 2021 was about to start, Watson said, “On the eve of the 14th edition of the @iplt20 which will be the first one that I won't be playing in, I have been reminiscing on all of the amazing times that I have had over the years in a country I call my second home.”
Australian legend Matthew Hayden scored heavily when he toured India in 2001. He was a fierce competitor against India. But when he started playing for CSK, he just fell in love with India. He was overwhelmed by the fans’ love and he was spotted wearing ethnic attires. He even donned traditional ‘lungi’ when he was playing for CSK. Another Aussie legend Brett Lee just doesn’t get enough of India. He has a strong emotional connect with India. He had recorded an album named ‘You’re the one for me’ with singing legend Asha Bhosle.
Former Australian skipper Steve Waugh played with all heart against India. His duels with former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly are known to everyone. But after his retirement from game, he did a lot of charity works in India. He is committed and connected with philanthropic endeavours in India through his charity works. He has collaborated with Udayan’s children home in Kolkata and can often be seen in this part of the world.
Proteas great Jonty Rhodes, who is known for his electric fielding and is often credited for bringing the skill of fielding into fore in world cricket, had named his daughter ‘India’ when she was born in Mumbai. He had shared his reasons for naming her daughter, he said, “I have spent a lot of time here. What I love about India is that it’s a rich mix of culture, heritage and tradition. It is a very spiritual country, very forward-thinking nation. I really like that combination. You have to have a good balance of life.”
Many West Indian greats had also fallen in love with India in the past as well. They had romantic affairs in India as well. Sir Viv Richards, who had incidentally made his debut in India, was in love with Neena Gupta. Sir Gary Sobers was also linked to Anju Mahendru way back in the 60s. Last year, he was seen grooving on a Mohammad Rafi song at an Indian wedding. Foreign players love India so much so that they calling India as their ‘second home’ has become a cliched statement.