It’s a little startling how little time I can find to write, with all the craziness and random agendas I put myself through everyday. Sometimes I feel like I might be trying to handle too much, but I guess from a brighter point of view, that’s what I’m here for anyway – to go wild and stretch my limits. To be honest, the busy schedule isn’t just filled with productive work, but also with some irrefusable opportunities to have fun! We all have to throw that in the mix to keep our minds sane and sharp, no matter how busy we get.
I got to experience my first live cricket match from some of the best seats at an international stadium – thanks to Carrie and our dear friend Akshat. The game was a qualifier between the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Somerset County Cricket Club for the IPL (Indian Premier League) of Twenty20 cricket. This might all sound like gibberish to some of you, and quite frankly I don’t fully get it either. However, besides being star-struck from the amazing seats we had, the game was quite a refreshing experience for me, and I’ll tell you why.
Cricket is a classic game, dating back to the 16th century, traditionally regarded as a rather slow game lasting up to five days until One-Day games were introduced in the 70s. Since then, cricket has been the biggest craze in sports by far and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. Most of the popular cricket followed, were those matches and tournaments played between different countries – sometimes with neighbors, and sometimes with “strangers” from the other side of the planet. My memories of cricket (before leaving India in 2002) reflect extreme patriotism for one’s own nation, often leading to the same level of competitive “hatred” towards the rival nation, sometimes even leading to racial slurs.
The competitive landscape of cricket and its fan base has evolved greatly since then. The Twenty20 format, introduced in 2003, is a much shorter version of the game – lasting about three hours. The short game time of this format led to the formation of several leagues, including the highly successful IPL – started in 2008. The concept is very similar to that of the NBA or the MLB, where there are several teams in the league with players from various origins, races and religions – all playing as a team and as brothers. Players are frequently traded to fortify the teams and to keep the league exciting. The IPL has significantly boosted earnings to the top, for the players rake in an average of $3.84 million a year, second only to the NBA! The game sports a lively scene – similar to that of many American sports, with cheerleaders dancing on the sidelines, customized team chants and even a performance stage with a DJ!
What DELIGHTS me today is to see the Indian fans going crazy, cheering for Brett Lee – their star bowler who hails from Australia, among many other players and coaches who are not of Indian origin. It was great to see Pakistani players and coaches on Kolkata’s team as well. I am finally starting to appreciate cricket, which in this format is creating an environment that opens up the minds of cricket fans and the general public, who have learned to accept a “foreign” player as their own. I also see this as a step forward towards bridging the cultural gap between Indians who come from different states speaking a different language. I don’t know much about the controversies and politics behind the IPL, but for now, I salute the idea and the makers behind it for promoting the true essence of team sports – unity through diversity.