When fans meet their cricketing heroes

Shiv Dhawan

Sudhir Kumar Gautam, "Miss you Tendulkar"

Temperatures soar high, the sun beats down, the rain creates havoc and the cool winter breeze produces numbness, the game of cricket comes to a halt but with their determination, a few people stand out from the rest. They wait tirelessly for the cricketing action to resume, the game of cricket is not a sport played between eleven players from two countries, it's a sport played between millions and millions of fans across the globe.

Fans are an integral part of every sport. It's an incredible feeling when 90,000 people cheer for FC Barcelona at Camp Nou, Madrid's toughest opposition isn't Messi, it isn't Suarez, but the 90,000 people who blow up the roof in each game, fans who tirelessly cheer for their club in all conditions. In India, cricket is the priority for people, the players are their idols and the admiration for them is unbelievable.

There are fans who go to the stadiums to watch every game, they travel across and away from the country to support their heroes. The most famous Indian cricket fan is Sudhir Kumar Gautam who travels with the Indian cricket team for every game, he paints his body as it says "Miss you Tendulkar", he cheers for India as he marks his attendance in every game. Similarly, groups like The Bharat Army do the same albeit with a lot of people on board.

The feeling of cheering from the stands is common for cricket fans across the world albeit only a handful of fans get an opportunity to meet their idols. At least once in his/her lifetime, every fan has wondered, how does it feel like when you meet your favourite cricketer? The question is intriguing and so is the answer. A few days back, an Indian cricket fan casually narrated his experiences as I listened with intent, he talked about different cricketers and how they behave with their fans.

He believes that the NY cap and the t-shirts are lucky for him.

Over the years, Mumbai's Vinesh Prabhu has met hundreds of cricketers, he has lost count of them he says. Vinesh's dream of meeting his hero was fulfilled in July 2010 when he won a social media contest which provided him with an opportunity to meet the then Indian skipper MS Dhoni. "The moment was surreal, it was incredible, it all felt great, he made me feel like he was my friend", Vinesh recounts his meeting with Dhoni.

The most prominent question which usually arises is, how do you meet your favourite cricketers? "I started meeting cricketers and Bollywood celebrities through social media contests. As a young fan, I would often travel to the team hotels, I would wait there for hours and hours, on the breakfast table, I would wait for them to arrive, at times, I got lucky. Now, as a media professional I get plenty of opportunities to meet my idols," said Vinesh.

When asked about his favourite moments with cricketers Vinesh said, "Every moment has been wonderful and remarkable. At Raipur, I had breakfast with Jonty Rhodes, moments with Tendulkar have been good. Meeting MS Dhoni was one of the best feelings ever. I've met Rohit Sharma a lot of times and now he remembers me by face, getting recognized by cricketers is a big thing for me.

"My most favourite memory has to be the one with MS Dhoni, he sat on the floor with me, we had a great conversation and I felt like the two of us are friends. Dhoni talks to everyone in a great manner. There are times when cricketers don't oblige but it's all a part of being a fan, AB de Villiers said no when I asked him for a selfie, David Warner didn't oblige too, Smith said no because he had just woken up.

"There is an interesting incident which happened to me, I was in the team hotel and my friend was waiting for me at the Wankhede Stadium, in the lift I met MS Dhoni, Ashok Dinda and a few others, as I took out my phone to click a selfie, my friend called me and I immediately rejected the call, MS said in a funny way (pick it up, must be your girlfriend), so I've had these moments with cricketers".

This was the experience of an Indian cricket fan. Meeting the cricketers is definitely a tough but exciting task. Getting to know them closely is something which all cricket fans aspire to do but only a selected few get the prestigious opportunity.

If you have similar fan experiences, do comment below and share them with us!