I’ve said it once and I’m saying it again. I’m stuck in the wrong country for this world cup. I’m not the biggest cricket fan but once in four years I put aside my sporting apathy and muster up enough enthusiasm for the world cup.
India has really grown on me and I even find myself defending it at times, but when it comes to cricket – between you, me and the interwebs – I have an unprecedented, irrational dislike towards their cricket team. But sssssshhhhh. Don’t tell anyone.
Yesterday the whole of Delhi was a ghost town. Offices were closed; students called in ‘sick’ and arrangements made to screen the match in every nook and cranny. While walking to college, the usually bustling lanes were deserted and the usually deserted gazebo on the street was filled with men avidly discussing India’s prospects as though they were the ones heading out on the pitch in a few hours. Stopping to pick up chips from the way-side shop, we overhead the shopkeeper placing bets on the phone (he was placing his money on Pakistan) and on our way to watch the (screening of the) match we passed people huddled around tiny TV screens watching every ball with bated breath.
We watched yesterday’s match from three different locations (don’t ask). We hightailed it out of the first as soon as the bouncer/manager/random man came and quoted the exorbitant price per person and went on to the second but returned back home during the break to watch the second innings. My flatmates had been considerably vocal in their support while we were out, but in the confines of our cramped TV room, any vestiges of restraint were promptly thrown out the window.
Everything you’ve heard about India and its fanaticism for cricket is true. India is a country where hockey is its national sport but cricket is its religion.
Hindi swear words of the lowest order were thrown all over the room, Raina’s butt was admired, Nehra’s mother was cursed and Afridi was booed at. Each bowler was scrutinized; Ravi Shastri’s commentary was ripped to shreds; every boundary by Pakistan was followed by howls.
Also, have you any idea what it’s like to be the sole Sri Lankan supporter in the midst of a gaggle of hysterical Indians? With every wicket that India took, their throats grew hoarser, the roars grew louder and my life-expectancy drastically decreased. The thing is this was no ordinary cricket match. This was “India and Pakistan, bitch!” as R so eloquently put it. The ramifications of this match ran deeper than merely the finals of the world cup. The Ind-Pak SMS jokes flew thick and fast during the countdown to the match and its duration, the kindest being “why was the match played in Mohali? So that it would be easier for Pakistan to walk back home over the border”
Indian Y and I had a loud exchange because I was shocked at the deeply racist sentiments that were made not about the Pakistan team (Bar one or two players, I’m not too big a fan of the Pak cricket team either but I don’t let the country’s politics or religion blind me) but at the shocking stereotypes and slurs about the country itself. That’s just not…cricket – if you know what I mean.
Anyway, the rest of the bantering was in the spirit of the game and once the last wicket was taken we went up to the roof top to watch the sky erupt with fireworks,
I don’t know where I will watch the match on Saturday. I have the option of joining other homesick Lankans located in Delhi OR watching the match with a bunch of cricket-crazy Indians. Either way, come Saturday I will don my Sri Lanka t-shirt and dig up my acrylic paint and yell slogans in Sinhala.
This one’s for the Sri Lankan cricket team. To my boys in blue, I don’t know much about cricket. But what I do know is that we could really, really do with a win. I’ve followed each and every qualifying match this year. I’m painfully aware of India’s prowess but I believe in my heart-est of hearts we can do this.
So what say, we bring the cup home, boys?
Ps: The SL-Ind SMS jokes have started. Here’s a sample:” Dear Sri Lanka, We come from the land of Kama Sutra. We can screw you in 77 different ways. Yours sincerely, India”.
Pps: Here’s something to get you into the spirit.