Chicago Blues

This blog is an online repertoire of my columns that run in the Indian Express, North American edition. Here I rave and rant about life, mostly as seen from the large vistas of my little world.

Location: Chicago, United States

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Kissa of Cricketing

Okay, I know enough has been said about it. But being the desi that I am like any other worth her salt-and-spice, with heart and soul reserved for cricket and Hindi cinema, I cannot possibly let an opportunity to write about it pass by. So here it is - India has finally clinched a cricket championship title, sans the smashing “big three” of Indian cricketdom, Sachin, Saurav, and Rahul; and above all, against legendary archrivals Pakistan.

While it may be fair to an extent that some of us desis, since that hapless fallout from the World Cup in 2003, have shifted loyalties and longing to other, more popular Yanksville sports, a win like this one is more than is required to bring out the cricket-crazy fanatics in us. Cricket to most of us is more than just a game; it’s like an inheritance, a fanaticism that is passed on from generation to generation. It is more than likely that every second desi among us would have played street cricket, or watched and cheered as some of their friends did. And that many grandfathers and fathers would have dragged their uninterested wives to a stadium somewhere in India for days-long test matches, and tuned themselves out of the roll of curses, while the lilting voices of some of the early commentators along with the swish of the mighty bats of Gavaskar or Vishwanath, made them sway and rejoice.

I have friends in India who have had to queue up in order for their children to get into elite cricket academies, which, I’m told is a privilege that only few can afford or dream of. Kamblis and Jadejas may come and go, but the Shastris and Patels live on. The Brijesh Patel Academy for cricket is one such, and I know at least two little boys who are training to become the next Sachin, or Srinath.

So, are the NRI kids missing out on all the fun? Have you ever mentioned “cricket” to a little sporty desi child and seen him or her turn around trying to listen in to the whirr of an insect? If you have, then chances are you’ve ended up throwing a ball in a basket with them. And with all the hoopla about the poor encouragement given to the sport in these shores, you’d probably even think there is no hope. But there is.

According to the very American MLC (Major League Cricket) board, cricket clubs were established as early as the 1700s in America, not very long after they became popular in England. The sport has sunk into obscurity, been rediscovered, and gone down again since. But with cricket-loving immigrant populations streaming in, the collective makings of their sportiness and support has enabled ways, if small yet, to give cricket the merit it deserves and enjoys on a global level. Several cricket leagues have burgeoned across the nation lately, and you’d be surprised to know that there is also a one-credit course dedicated to the sport in the Midwest. Given the testing weather conditions, and struggling levels of financial backing and moral support, however, most leagues have had to cross some serious stumbling blocks since their inception. While some have been lucky to thrive on assistance from outside - Australian and British, to be more precise - ends, the rest are still struggling to make their mark in a world where NFL and MLB are all the rage. If the BCCI’s revenue has hit the one billion mark (in dollars, not rupees), and can afford to dole out a couple of millions of the same to its Men in Blue, then dollar-pocketing desis can surely come together and back young cricket enthusiasts in the US.

Haunted by memories of an antiquated Phillips transistor screeching itself into action from my granddad’s room at the crack of a test-match dawn; and sepia-toned glimpses of a nail-biting one-dayer flashing on a dial-less Orson television set, as entire neighborhoods huddled together cheering a Chetan Sharma hatrick, back at home…I wonder if the same magic and spirit can be restored as we cheer our own little budding cricketers score fours and stump wickets at school and state levels. With a little nudge here and a dollar dropped there, perhaps it won’t be long before cricket is rediscovered by desis in the US, and its thrills reveled in even as Jay Leno mocks at every second HughGrant-type on his show. And with many a Hindi flick shooting locale cropping up in the US, the odds of getting Shah Rukh or Saif to chant “Chak De…” at local cricket grounds are many.


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