Friday, 4 January 2008

Cricket - Cracked?

Somewhere in Sydney, 22 flannelled fools are engaged in a 5 day contest which sees many an empty chair in the stadium.

We don't have a TV in our home (our two live channels - Asha Channel and Enoch Channel come free and don't need a set).

So my fix of cricket comes by SMS on my mobile.

Every morning I get a Bible verse as an SMS (I have conveniently labelled the number as 'Bible').

On days when there is a cricket match on, the "Bible" sender also sends updates on the matches. Since the current contest is in Australia - it is half over by the time we have breakfast here and so both the Bible verse and the summary of what has already happened come at about the same time - just after 8 AM.

Why does cricket appeal to us Indians?

Is it the almost tragic certainty of loss? Is it the melodrama of seeing grown men grind out often improbable outcomes? Is it the fact that it is one of the few sports where we sometimes are world-beaters? Is it the glamour of our feted heroes? Is it that the game roughly follows the plot of a Hindi movie - everyone knows what will happen - a fair amount of escapism - the obligatory bad guys (either the other team or the umpires) - an occaisional hero who comes good - and lots of people to curse if the outcome is not what we want?

Hard to pin point, but we seem to be a nation of cricket nuts.

Wasn't always this way.

While doing my forestry field research in 1993 (yikes that was a while ago), I lived for 6 months in a Himalayan village in the Naini Tal district. One of my favorite questions (way outside my research topic) was to ask the old guys of the village about the changes they had seen with their eyes.

One of the surprising responses I got was that at least in the late 40s and early 50s, football was the only game in town (make that in the small hamlets that dot the almost vertical steepness of the hills there). Whole villages would gather to see their teams play each other, and good players were feted for miles around.

It fits. A hallowed fact in our sporting history was the victory in the 1911 final of the Indian Football Association Cup by Mohun Bagan - a Calcutta Club which was the first win in a final by an Indian team. Till then all tournaments had been won by British teams based in India.

A quick take from Wikipedia tells me that:

The Indian national football team was also quite successful until the 1970s, qualifying for Olympic tournaments and the FIFA World Cup. The team qualified for the 1950 World Cup finals in Brazil, but could not appear as they still played in their bare feet at that time. The Indian team also won the 1951 and 1962 Asian Games gold medals in football. In 1956 the team finished fourth at the Melbourne Olympics.

Its been a long time since anything great has taken place in Indian football (though one of our church members is deeply into the club scene here both as a player as well as an assitant coach).

In the mean time, cricket is our fix.

Till tomorrow then - when I find out whether Ganguly and Tendulkar have been able to stave off the mighty Aussies in their home lair.

"Ahoy Sancho Panza - up and at the giants" - and on Don Quixote rushes towards the windmills with faithful Sancho in tow.

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