Romancing Cricket(ers)

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Aarti V Raman
Author-Kingdom Come

Last week was the World Cup T-20 final. For cricket fans and fanatics like me, this was a big moment. It comes once every two years and is always nail-biting, because the shortest brother in the game comes with the most thrills.

Champs, favorites and media darlings India were going to take on old foes Sri Lanka, who had been vanquished a number of times comfortably by them. And everyone, including yours truly, thought this was a no-brainer. India comes, India bats, India wins. I still saw the opening overs, (secretly hoping that underdog Sri Lanka would COME THROUGH) and then wandered off, having to Facebook and Tweet and talk to my pals, my readers.

The score read 42-2, Sri Lanka.

Of course, India wins, I thought to myself.

Five minutes later, my neighborhood erupted with cheers and whistles. Another wicket down, I figured.

The slaughter will end soon.

Imagine my utter surprise, when my dad comes in about an hour later and orders me to come the HELL out now! I go out and see the last three balls. I see Sangakkara punch the air in absolute triumph and vindication. I see the last ball going over the fence and I cheered too. My voice went hoarse! It was worth it.

And then, right then, in the middle of one of his victorious cheers, Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lankan batting legend and a terminal HOTTIE to boot, looked straight at the camera and said in his liquid Sri Lankan-Brit accent, “We play to win. We don’t just play, if we’re in the final, we forget the semi-final and are in here to win.”

Golden words.Truer words.

And the man who said them, went straight to my heart like Cupid had shot me with an arrow and I realized, HELLO, Hero, here you come!

Cricket, one of my favorite sports (I am an INDIAN, y’all) has always been peppered with such heroes and such moments. Australia’s Adam Gilchrist’s walk-offs, earned him the tag of a Gentleman and made me a lifelong admirer of a man who did the right thing even when he didn’t have to. India’s Sachin Tendulkar’s grace and humility off the field is the stuff true legends are made of. The way WasimAkram, a former Pakistan world-cup winner comes down to this side of the pond and coaches Kolkata Knight Riders, with the same enthusiasm and experience with which he decimates players in commentary is commendable.

These are just a very, VERY few examples why I love cricket, and why I, as a writer and an Indian writer romanticize it a bit more than say, another sport like F1 racing.

It’s closer to my heart.

In my Mail Today quote, (February 13, 2014) I was asked to name a few rom-com books that couples could snuggle together and fall in love over. Anuja Chauhan’s “Zoya Factor” was one of the first books I mentioned. It has it all. A zany heroine, a stubborn and sexy hero (CAPTAIN of the Indian Team!) and a sport that is loved by the sub-continent. Cricket! Anuja could have written about any sport as the background for her love story, but she picked cricket because she, as an Ad genius, knew where the pulse of the nation rested.

A sport that has us going up in arms against each other, if need be.

Combining cricket and love is not necessarily a surefire bestseller success formula, but I can definitely -understand the appeal of “The Zoya Factor” even more now, that T-20 as a format is being given star-status, just like novellas and graphic novels and newer forms of expression are coming under traditional fiction and revolutionizing and changing the literary landscape forevermore.

Cricketers are given god-like status in this celebrity-obsessed country of ours, just like the English and Brazilians and Spaniards love their football players. Just like baseball and basketball greats are given pride of place in America, to name just a few.

And therefore, it is but natural that as a writer, I would like to go with where the obsession lies and see if I can use it to my advantage.

Harlequin India’s Kingdom Come deals with the subject of obsession on a couple of levels. There is KriviIyer, embittered ex-spy on the hunt of his life, obsessed with vengeance. For my heroine Ziya, her obsession is to not stay a pawn any longer in the dangerous game of life and death that is player with her in the center of it. There is the Woodpecker’s obsession with the perfect bomb that would mean the end of life as we know it. Kingdom Come!

These obsessions are not as healthy as harmless love for a sport, but we all read the papers, where a few Kashmiri students were accused of sedition just because they cheered for a rival nation in a game. What kind of healthy competition and train of thought are we promoting if we can’t even cheer for the people who deserve it? Regardless of name, race, color and religion?

I still haven’t found the answer to this very disturbing question, but who knows, some wise soul might answer me this soon.

But, another persistent and extremely nagging question got answered when I heard the sexy, sweaty, darkly handsome darling Sangakkara tell the interviewer, “We play to win. We don’t just play.”

Spoken like a true hero.

And guess what, he’s gonna be mine now in the next I am writing for Harlequin India. Keep watching this space for more details as that journey takes off.

For now, my obsession is Kingdom Come and sending it into the hearts of all the passionate readers in the country and beyond who love a tale of love, betrayal, loss and redemption.

Till next time,

Xx

Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal

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