Steve Waugh with his red hanky.
It’s that time of the World Cup when die-hard fans would go any distance to keep their teams from losing. Indians being a people with a thing for the irrational, expect them to do some crazy things when their team meets Australia in the quarterfinal.
The most well-known superstition among cricket fans in India goes something like this: when the team is doing well, do not move an inch from your position. A slight movement risks tilting the planets off their favourable positions and bring bad luck to the team.
I can tell you of my own experience.
In the Natwest final of 2002, India were down in the dumps, five-down chasing 326 when Yuvraj Singh unleashed three fours in a Ronnie Irani over. Sensing a build-up, I took my position on the drawing room carpet in front of our TV.
While Yuvraj and Kaif got India closer, I stayed still, not moving a millimetre. My legs fell asleep, my back hurt and the tension made me uneasy. As three wickets fell, I began to doubt my method but decided to be faithful and stayed put. It hurt. But I persisted. It was only after Kaif and Zaheer stole the winning run that I moved to my immense relief.
A few minutes later, my best friend called to say he’d been doing the same thing. Some months later, Rahul Dravid wrote about the game in a weekly magazine. Apparently, the seniors in the team had been threatening the juniors of dire consequences if they didn’t stay right where they were.
Sachin Tendulkar corroborated Dravid’s version: “As the total crept, we weren't allowed to change places. Our manager was near the toilet and I was by the food, so I kept munching away. I can tell you I was very full by the end.”
Apparently, this was the scene in the Indian dressing room at Tunbridge Wells while Kapil Dev single-handedly rescued the team. Krish Srikkanth recalled how team manager Man Singh took matters into his own hands: “Nobody would move from his seat”, Man Singh said. The point was I was standing outside the dressing room on a cold, windy day, with a cup of coffee in my hand. And I didn't move for the next two hours or so! I wanted to go to the toilet, but Man Singh said “No!””
There are others. A friend of mine believed his not bathing on India’s match days brought the team luck. Thankfully, his habit did not extend to five-day cricket.
Roshan Mahanama used to kiss his bat before facing each delivery. Sometimes, it wasn’t a kiss. While wearing a helmet, he would stick the bat handle inside the visor and lick the top of the bat.
Neil McKenzie had the craziest one. He would stick his bat to the ceiling of his room before going out to bat with it.
Sunil Gavaskar used to wear his left pad first. Then, there was Steve Waugh’s red hanky.
There’s this famous anecdote about India’s famous win over England in the Oval Test of 1971. England’s obdurate keeper-batsman Alan Knott had a habit of touching the bails before taking strike. India’s wicketkeeper Farokh Engineer hid the bails once, not allowing Kott his to do his ritual. Knott got out cheaply, clearing the way for an India win.
Then, there was David Shepherd’s hop on one leg each time the score reached 111, 222, 333 or so on.
So, this is your cue. Tell us about the things you do to help your team win.