Joy of cricket

Joy of cricket

You can take away an Indian from cricket but never cricket from an Indian.

Every time the Indian cricket team tours overseas, there is heightened interest among the millions of fans who follow the game in the country. The present tour of Australia is no exception.

As one who has watched several international matches in the UK, the excitement is quite palpable among the Indians there. Tickets are not easy to get as the cricket stadiums in UK are pretty small. The seats are sold out within minutes of the online booking going live, particularly for the match at Lord’s.

Well before D-day, the old India ODI t-shirts are brought out of the cupboard and dusted. Somehow, it seems easier to get a big Indian flag overseas than in India. The ones with initiative also manage to get special matching clothes or headgear.

The employed somehow get leave or bunk office for the match-days. Each ground has its own ethos and the spectator behaviour is influenced by that.

At Lord’s, the brochure that comes along with the ticket has a whole list of do’s and don’ts. The spectators in the more expensive seats dress formally and politely clap, rather than whistle or shout like those in the lower stands at the Oval.

Regrettably, in both the series I watched in England, our team performed rather poorly but still the enthusiasm to pay and watch a losing cause remains, tour after tour.

Unfortunately, thanks to the heightened security, matches in India are no longer like a picnic where home-cooked food is shared and there is general bonhomie and family atmosphere. I spoke to a friend of mine in Australia last month, who told me of the menu he had planned for family and friends to take to the India-Australia Boxing Day test match in Melbourne.

An eclectic South Indian fare it was, consisting of tamarind rice, curd rice, pappadam and pickles.

This is in contrast to a match I attended at the Oval recently. One of our country men from the North, first took out a large tiffin box full of samosa and aloo bonda.

Sometime later, it was boxes of chicken kalmi kebab. Just when we thought that was the end of the repast, this chap conjured up packets of huge aloo paranthas.

The other difference between watching an international match in India and overseas, is the liberal consumption of beer. Right around the stands there are the draught beer pumps that are open the whole day.

It is not surprising that by the last session of play, the shouting gets more raucous but in a humorous vein.

For an Indian enthusiast living at home, the challenge is in watching the television broadcast across continents. Particularly testing are the time zone difference for New Zealand or the West Indies. But the fans are a hardy lot.

As some wit has said, “You can take away an Indian from cricket but never cricket from an Indian.”