I became a TV sports fan during 1985-86. Those were glorious years.
1985 started off with a bang, with India winning the Benson and Hedges World Series Cup. The Indian team’s victory lap on Ravi Shastri’s Audi (the player of the Series) is a moment that I cherish to date. And this win was against Pakistan, making it all the more special.
But, 1985 was not done yet. Boris Becker, a 17-year-old unseeded German, managed to win the Wimbledon. With his summersaults, big serves, and attitude, he ushered in a youthful, colorful decade of tennis. Wimbledon had just birthed a new star to succeed Bjorn Borg and the mercurial McEnroe.
1986 began with a shocker. Requiring four runs off the last ball, Javed Miandad hit Chetan Sharma for a six to win the Sharjah tournament. India- Pakistan matches always have an edge to them, and this finish drew frenzied reactions across the globe.
A couple of months later, Kapil Dev put the smile back on our faces. He led India to a pristine win over England at Lords. This was India’s very first Test win at Cricket’s hallowed ground. Life was looking good again.
And these are just a few nuggets. The mid-eighties saw some fantastic sportsmen and women. Not only were they gifted, but they had an edge to their character, adding to the drama.
All said, though, the mid-80s belonged to Diego Maradona. Maradona had genius footballing skills. He would also do anything to win – as the infamous “hand of God” episode proved. He would score a masterly goal one minute and fake a fall (and request a penalty!) the very next minute. The world loved him. Here was a man with a God-given gift and a touch of the devil in him. We had a superstar in our midst!
He won Argentina the World Cup in 1986. 1986 also was the first year Indian fans could see the entire world cup live on TV. I suspect he added many, many millions of new football fans that season.
The Maradona saga continued in 1990. We love to root for a gifted, imperfect superstar – and if he’s the underdog, even better! Would Maradona pull out another World Cup win? We hoped so – and prayed too. He brought his team to the final with sheer will and energy. But, Argentina lost the finals – of all things to a late penalty. Maradona burst into tears; it was an emotional end to a marathon campaign. And yet, that campaign remains a favorite. It’s a testament to the magic that one man can affect on the sports field. It reminds us of why we watch Sports.
Post-1990, Maradona, the sportsman, faded away. News of an arrest or ill-health would appear sporadically. I’d be instantly transported back to the time when Maradona turned lay viewers like me into connoisseurs. That’s a rare gift. Imagine watching a Federer backhand or a Dhoni helicopter shot. Life turns into a party. Maradona did that every match.
Maradona taught millions like me to love sports. For that, I am eternally grateful. While he is no longer with us on earth, his stories will stay forever.