I just turned 33 today. But, as ever, I only feel younger. If anything, I feel like I am only 20 years old today.
One of the last memories of my 19th birthday (in 1997) was a fantastic cricketing gift that I received from Tendulkar and Azharudding. This was on 4th Jan, 1997 at the Newlands ground, in Capetown against South Africa in a test match. It was a Saturday afternoon, when the magic of Sachin and Tendulkar just brought endless smiles to Indians, and specifically to me on my birthday.
On that particular day, the South African fast bowlers were on fire - Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock in particular. But, the customary flicks on the on side by Azhar and the straight drives and cover drives on the off side by the Little Master, were a treat to the eye.
13 years later, at the same venue, one of those 2 gentlemen, Sachin Tendulkar is still playing. He is still taking on the might of Dale Steyn and Morkel on a very good cricket pitch, with India having to bat extremely well to stay in the game and force the issue. The manner in which Gautam Gambhir and Tendulkar handle the pace and fire of Steyn and Morkel, was a lesson in that, if you stick at the wicket and keep trying, you can negotiate the toughest of conditions.
I somehow, get excited if India is playing a test match on my birthday in Capetown. Almost everytime that they have played there, the quality of the sport has been of the highest order. And each time, I have learnt that the toughest conditions bring out the best in you.
Newlands, Capetown, the Indian test match cricket team with the likes of Tendulkar, Azhar, VVS, Rahul, share a unique rapport with me on my birthday. The more they play there on that ground on 4th Jan, the better I feel. It's one rare birthday gift, if they play well there. Thanks guys!