On the morning of 18 June, a young man in West Bengal's Kandi town, about 200 kilometres north of Kolkata, posted a video compilation of former India captain Rahul Dravid's 27 spectacular catches on Twitter, and the cricket-starved social media, quite expectedly, lapped it up.
The sight of Dravid, who snapped over 400 catches in his illustrious international career, pulling off stunners at short-leg, covers, square leg, and slips in long-forgotten matches was indeed online gold, something that prompted a host of former cricketers such as Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, VVS Laxman, among others, to share the said clip.
Mainak Sinha, the 24-year-old UPSC aspirant, popularly known by his Twitter moniker @desi_robelinda and the man behind that viral post, has been curating and sharing archival cricket footage for six years now. The success of this particular post, he told Firstpost, was expected, but not its magnitude.
I'd like to think this video is one of my better works. It was tough to put 27 catches within 140 seconds but finally its done. Do give it a watch & you can follow my backup handle as well, I'll be posting clips from that handle too sometimes. https://t.co/Z5YtIQu3nn
— Mainak Sinha🏏📽️ (@desi_robelinda) June 18, 2020
"Frankly, I didn't expect this response even in my wildest dreams," Mainak said. "I did not think Harbhajan would post that video, but it is nice that he did. That way, many more people got to see my work."
While Harbhajan's post has been retweeted over 1,24,000 times, Mainak's original post, tweeted from his new handle @mainak_sinha19, has got only 1,794 retweets at the time of writing. Many Twitter users insinuated that perhaps the former India spinner should have credited Mainak for the video, but the man is not too fussed about it.
"It is very likely that Harbhajan got the video on WhatsApp and posted it. I’m certain he is not aware of my existence so its all good," he said.
Social media though is a strange place. Instant stardom comes easy, but attributions, if any, are rare. Mainak has been at the receiving end of plagiarism too and concedes that while it may be too daunting a monster to tame, simple tricks such as using watermarks can go a long way in ensuring that the creator/curator is made known.
"What irks me when random people copy not only my videos, but also videos from other creators, and post them as their own. Copy-pasting cannot be stopped on social media, and we have to deal with it. That’s why it is very important to use watermarks.
"For example, the Dravid catch video had my watermark on it so when it was posted by Harbhajan, many followers of mine congratulated me and most people actually wanted Harbhajan to give me credit. That was amazing."
Mainak's archival collection boasts of over 7,000 international games spread across 70 terabytes of data stacked in multiple hard drives and cloud. His earliest footage dates back to 1958-59 Ashes that he has obtained from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), and he has something from every cricket series televised post-1990. His collection, a veritable candy store for cricket tragics, boasts of an intimidating breadth, ranging from Ashes to Kerry Packer World Series to the rebel Indian Cricket League to the earliest T20 competitions held in England and South Africa in mid-2000s.
Procuring videos is an onerous task in itself, and footages travel to and fro between almost all Test-playing nations. Mainak has shared correspondences with aficionados in the subcontinent, cricket nuts in England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the West Indies.
Once the raw footage is received, it is encoded, labelled, and placed in the correct folder. A back-up is secured on the cloud, and the footage becomes a part of Mainak's seemingly endless library.
A self-confessed introvert who never liked going out much, he started archiving cricket videos in 2014 when his father bought him a laptop. "It changed my life completely," he remembers. From being a cricket-starved kid who didn't have access to newspapers and cable connection till mid-2006 to having the expanse of world wide web at his disposal gave him a cathartic release of sorts, and he unabashedly immersed in the indulgence.
"I realised that cricket coverage prior to the year 2000 was not great. There were enough matches involving Asian teams that non-Asians had not watched and vice-versa. I had missed out on a lot of cricket, so when my dad gifted me a laptop, I decided to make up for the matches lost," he says.
Next, he purchased the equipment to record live matches from TV to DVDs and hard drives, and started reaching out to like-minded cricket freaks. Requests were sent to broadcasting houses such as South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC), Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), TV New Zealand, among others, and footages bought.
Mainak's YouTube channel came about in 2015, and the first video to go up was, of course, of Dravid, his cricketing idol.
"It was a compilation of five similar incidents where he’d get hit and the very next ball or a couple of balls later he would pull the bowler for a boundary," he remembers. The video, so far, has received over 21,16,000 hits.
Back then, Rob Moody's YouTube channel, robelinda2, was the primary source of cricket videos, and his popularity spurred Mainak to do something similar. So impressed was he with Moody's enterprise that he tried to track him down, and it was only after a wild chase spanning four years that he finally got in touch with the 'original' robelinda in 2018.
"It is my absolute pleasure to know Moody. It took me a while to get hold of him, but as they say in Australia, we are great mates now and talk to each other every now and then. We also share a lot of footage and I am very grateful for his help."
Mainak started by exclusively posting Dravid's videos, but as the channel gained popularity, he started including every cricketer he could think of. Soon enough, copyright claims emerged, and from hosting 200 videos on YouTube at one point, he is now left with only 24.
About 18 months back, Mainak decided to move to Twitter "where copyright policy is not as strict," and found success.
"The love and recognition that I get on Twitter is overwhelming. I have interacted with cricketers and experts who I have grown up idolising. I once had a chat with Shaun Pollock on Twitter and helped him find the footage of his debut series. My videos have been liked and quoted by the likes of Pollock, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble, Ravichandran Ashwin, Suresh Raina, Amol Muzumdar, Hemang Badani, Deep Dasgupta, and many more."
On an average day, Mainak spends about two hours with his data goldmine, archiving, editing, and posting clips and also interacting with his followers on Twitter. The rest of the day is spent with books, both of academic and cricket kind. He is also fond of comic strips and likes to read on Indian Railways.
"Balancing UPSC preparations with this is not easy, but I am not complaining. My parents say that if not for cricket, I would have been much better at academics, and mind you, I was always an above-average student. However, I must add that they have never stopped me.
"I don’t see this collecting as a competition with other collectors; it is just a personal attempt to make a large archive of cricket games. My target is to obtain as many games as possible. From the 60s, 70s to the current era, from matches involving Kenya and Zimbabwe to top teams, I try to cover them all," he explains.
For all his online stardom, Mainak's larger life goals exist beyond cricket. Coming from a small town that still doesn't have a railway station of its own, he understands the difference honest governance can make to ordinary lives.
"One thing I have always noticed is that people in rural areas don’t get the benefits of government facilities. I am aware of the perks and security a government official gets, but I always had the ambition to do social welfare, particularly in rural areas where people actually need development."
The last word is reserved for his hero. An associate of Dravid once got in touch with him on Twitter, asking if he had the footage of his 81 and 68 from the Kingston Test of 2006. Mainak, of course, promptly dispatched the footage in a USB and days later, received a signed copy of 'Rahul Dravid: Timeless Steel' from the man himself.
"It is one gift I will cherish for the rest of my life," he says. "And of course, I'd like to meet Rahul Dravid someday."
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