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Posts Tagged ‘Cricket’

Sometimes words are not enough.

That’s how I feel about the last 24 hours – after all the excitement, all the buildup and all the anticipation India won the Cricket World Cup right here at home in Mumbai. The city exploded. Fans flooded into the streets. Cheers could be heard until the morning. Bollywood’s biggest star, Shahrukh Khan came out in his car and Bandra was suddenly an excitable mob scene.

The next day, we happened to walk into the Taj Hotel for tea and lo and behold – the entire cricket team was leaving. It was pure chaos – fans shrieked and shouted and pushed and shoved just for a chance to touch their team and their god, Sachin Tendulkar, holding the cricket world cup. And we got it all on video. Incredible.

What a case of the right place at the right time. The right city for the world’s biggest event of the moment. The right hotel to actually see the players. And only photos and videos to even begin to explain it. Go India!:

Shahruk Khan waving the flag

Waving flags on Carter road

People standing on a public bus

The ecstatic crowd at the Taj as the players left

Sachin Tendulkar with the actual World Cup

Daniel and I with our very own India shirts

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See You In the Final

On Wednesday it was one nation, under cricket.

The government declared a bank holiday and most businesses shut for the afternoon. The streets were empty except for the unlucky few. People crowded around televisions in their homes, in bars, outside of shops and anywhere they could be found. India was playing Pakistan and nothing could have been more important.

We went to a large party for the beginning of the game. Daniel rushed me over in hopes of not missing any part of the first half – India was batting first and he wanted to watch everything. I was not quite as keen to watch the game in its entirety. After all, these matches tended to go on for at least eight hours and even with the added excitement I wasn’t sure my attention span would last that long, especially on a game where the entire first half is one team batting without any knowledge of how that score will compare to the other teams’ in the second half.

I mostly listened with amusement as the commentators tried to fill the immense amount of time:

“Ah, he has a lot of energy. He must have eaten a lot of yogurt for breakfast.”

“The only way Pakistan can get out of jail is wickets.”

“I’ve gotten the feeling that Tendulkar is slowly losing interest.”

It went on and on. After four hours India finished their half with 260 runs. It was not as strong a showing as the people around us would have liked. They could win, but it would be close.

For the first two hours of the second half everyone watched lazily with one eye and chatted as Pakistan batted. There wasn’t much to do but wait and see how the numbers slowly ticked up. But once the more interesting count came up (ie: how many runs Pakistan would need versus the number of balls they had left to potentially hit) it started to get exciting. It seemed like India’s bowling and defense might have done well enough to keep India’s hopes alive.

As the time ticked on everyone started watching more and more intently. With only a few balls left it seemed inevitable – but no one was willing to say a word until the last out came and cheers could be heard from the street below. Fireworks exploded and the city came alive. As I was driving home I tried to capture some of the excitement:

It’s only one game to go and India could have the World Cup in their hands for the first time in almost thirty years. Time to get ready for Saturday

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Wicket Good

One of the ubiquitous Nike Cricket ads

I’m not really a sports fan, and Cricket has always struck me as a slightly longer and infinitely more complicated game of baseball. Daniel had started watching it soon after we moved here – he felt that he just couldn’t relate to anyone in his office unless he started understanding their game. And instead of just understanding it he took to it, like a cricket ball to the wicket (see what I did there? I made a very bad cricket joke).

People watching the cricket at the airport

But soon, it began taking over even places where I frequented. It started with advertising: Bleed Blue from Nike; Change the Game from Pepsi; End Corruption in Cricket. Then it came with fans watching matches on outdoor screens and children feverishly playing with more frequency in every available open space. Yes, no matter how long and hard I tried, like the Superbowl before it, I could not avoid Cricket World Cup fever from being everywhere around me.

Learning cricket

I started to warm to cricket in Varansi when we came across a group of kids playing who thought it would be amusing if we joined their game. They giggled as we held the bat wrong and took wild swings. But they were enthralled – they all hooped and hollared with every hit and took immense joy in teaching us. I began to feel that if I could enjoy playing, then I could enjoy watching.

So while in Khajuraho, Daniel decided it was high time for me to actually learn the rules. As the Aussies battled the Pakistanis he slowly and patiently went over the way the game is played. It really is unlike any sport I’ve watched, much further from baseball than it looks. I won’t go into the details, but its a game not only of agility and skill, but of mental planning and psychological consistency. It’s boring for the first four hours, but then really exciting for the last two.

When India played its Quarterfinal match against Australia this week, I knew it was time for me to pay attention. The entire country was going to be involved and I wanted to be as well. India hasn’t won the World Cup since 1983 and this year its being played in India – everyone feels it is their time to win.  And this match was slated to be an exciting battle between India and another cricket powerhouse, Australia.

A shot of the big screen

After idly watching the first four hours of the game at home (yes, it’s really that boring in the beggining), we went out to a restaurant with a huge projector and watched as India began to sink. With about an hour left it seemed like India’s hopes were about to be dashed. Everyone in the restaurant became antsy and the guards outside, watching the reflection of the game through the window, started to look sullen.

But suddenly, they went on a roll. They started hitting 4’s and 6’s (yes, I’m using cricket terminology) and suddenly they were back in the game. As the last overs started coming into view it became apparent that India was going to win.  And when they did the whole restaurant and street outside erupted in jubilant cheers. India was moving forward.

The catch to all this is that on Wednesday India will go to the semifinals – and play against their arch-nemesis Pakistan. The city will be excited and on edge. Fears of rioting and violence certainly hang in the air simultaneously with the excitement of an epic battle to the death of two of the World’s fiercest enemies (and, as with most enemies, two very similar peoples). There is a bit of diplomatic hope that rings in all of this – The Pakistani Prime Minister has accepted an invitation from India’s Prime Minister to watch the game together. It will be the first time a match between the two teams has occurred since the attacks on Mumbai in 2008.  It’s definitely an exciting moment to be here. And as a new-found fan, I will be watching.

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