“Do you want to see God tomorrow?” was the SMS message I received from a friend. For a moment I didn’t understand, and called my friend back right away – he had an extra ticket for day two of the India vs West Indies match: the last opportunity to watch Sachin Tendulkar play for India at Wankhede, Mumbai. There was no way I was letting this opportunity go, and caught the first flight from Bangalore to Mumbai, watched Sachin play until he got out, and took the flight back to Bangalore. My passion for cricket has taken many forms, and one that I’ve pursued for many years is collecting cricketing memorabilia- from chasing after designer miniature cricket bats (and balls) signed by our best players, to rare books on cricketing and hard-to-find Wisden issues.
Two of my most cherished possessions are a Sachin-signed bat and another piece of Sachin memorabilia: the t-shirt from his 200th Test with the actual, real ticket of the match. Later, I discovered that those tickets from Sachin’s last match had become one of the most sought after memorabilia to have been auctioned on eBay – even days after the match was over!
I have been fortunate to have known many cricketers, but Virendra Sehwag has been the closest. Another treasured possession is a t-shirt Virendra Sehwag gifted to me after winning the 2nd test against Australia in Bangalore. It was his personal t-shirt (with the number 239 – he was, fans will know, the 239th player to play for India) which was signed by the entire Indian cricket team.
Another favorite in my collection is a rare mongoose bat signed by Chaminda Vaas. I had taken my team for an offsite in Sri Lanka and we had Vaas as an external speaker. It was around the same time that the mongoose bat had become famous with Hayden using it in the IPL. You may remember that it had also become somewhat of a controversial bat to use, and was eventually banned. Vaas too at some point used the mongoose bat, and I somehow managed to persuade Vaas to sign a mongoose bat for me!
I got the next set of signed bats added to my collection from an IPL memorabilia online shop that was auctioning a bat signed by the entire Mumbai Indians team who had just won the 6th edition of the IPL: a fantastic piece autographed by all members of the Mumbai Indians team, from Sachin to Malinga.
A miniature bat in my collection which I delight in is one signed by the World Cup commentary team itself! I got this from Nasser Hussain. He had come to give a talk at my workplace, and I requested him to get me the autographs of his fellow commentators-Atherton, Shastri, Boycott, David Llyod, Mark Nicholas, and Danny Morrison . He was kind enough to get my miniature bat signed by all of them and handed it to me the very next day. I have cricket balls signed by Kumble, Harbhajan, Bishen Bedi, and Wasim Akram among many others.
Collecting the best in cricketing literature has been another passion because both cricket and books have played a very important part in my life. I would often come across lists of ‘the best cricket books ever’, and I decided to collect the fifty best cricket books as chosen by several writers on cricket, starting with Ramachandra Guha’ s list. I collected them in every possible edition, from first editions to signed editions, to rare or out-of-print titles. Ten years later I had the last book in the 50 best cricket books list in my collection, The Oxford Companion to Australian Cricket.
It has been a been a journey that has taken me from the by-lanes of Bangalore’s second hand book stores to J.W. Mckenzie Cricket Books in London, to books that my friends (from Australia to the US) collected for me. My most prized possession is a signed first edition of Don Bradman’s Farewell to Cricket, got through the graces of a collector who was willing to part with it. It’s been an addiction that has made me poorer by the penny, but richer by the experience. Another favorite that ranks up there in my collection is a signed copy of Neville Cardus’ Autobiography.
I have to end with a Sachin memorabilia anecdote. One of my first bits of cricketing memorabilia was a notebook signed by the entire cricket team. I had spent way beyond my means to attend a fund raising dinner. It was a friendly match between the India A and B Teams. While we were given a specific round table to have our dinner, every table had a cricketer who would be seated randomly. We were all praying that Sachin would sit at our table. To my pleasant surprise, Sachin sat next to me for the entire dinner. Most of the time I didn’t know what to say – so I did what a collector would do, proffered multiple copies of his books and he graciously signed all of them, including one for my wife.
My journey as a collector began with a cricket scrap book I kept when I was eight years old, and blossomed into what it is now, and I sometimes wonder what form or shape this journey will take as I look for more ways to collect to quench my cricket fever.
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