The ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 will start in 15 days. I have never been a great cricket fan, or a fan of any sport for that matter. But, I do like to stay in touch with the fluctuating fortunes of the Indian cricket team, especially during the World Cup campaign. I suppsoe it all started with the 1996 World Cup. There was unprecendented hype about it given the rather recent entry of cable television and the increasing stakes in television broadcast. And with that particular World Cup campaign started my on and off love affair with international cricket.
Now, let me make it clear that I am rather ignorant about statistics, history, or even the general knowledge about cricket. I do know the basic rules of the game but my knowledge ends there. I do not pretend to be able to give a blow-by-blow, over-by-over account of any match. Honestly, I never thought I would get desperate to meet a person, anyone who knows and enjoys cricket. I came across the official site of the ICC World Cup 2007 quite by accident a week ago. And since then, I have been hooked! I tried talking to my friends here about it...but...they do not seem interested in the least about Indian cricket team's fate over the next few weeks. :-(
A friend of mine, in a general discussion over a cup of coffee, made a revealing comment. How do you sit in front of the television and follow the game obsessively for a solid 7 hours, she asked me. Good question. Except that have never thought about my cricket watching pursuits seriously enough to ask myself this question. Indeed, many a cricket-loving Indian would be shocked, even scandalised by the idea that someone can consider watching a match a waste of time. I don't have to go too far to cite an example. Anand is one such person. I remember many a student skiving off classes to watch a cricket match, during my teaching stint at the Alliance Française. I would enter class at 4 pm on a Sunday. Believe me, it is not easy to get out of home on a weekend to teach French. So, as I was saying, I would enter class on a Sunday evening. And wait. Period. I would wait for nearly 20 minutes to have about 5 students in my class, so I can start. The 6th or the 7th student would trot into class reluctantly about an hour later. On the whole, the class strength would be about 25% of the total. That should be enough to prove that cricket-watching is not merely a hobby, but a sacred duty for some.
It is astounding how Britain and France can be geographically so close to one another and yet so far apart culturally. The British cricket-culture is a case in point. While the whole of France was obsessively following the FIFA World Cup about 8 months ago, very few even know that the Cricket World Cup is going to happen shortly in the West Indies. Worse still, they don't understand just why an Indian would be so obsessed with her cricket team and its prospects of becoming World Champions 2007. Dare I ask the same question about the French football team? Dare I ask why the Zidane head butt made the headlines in practically every newspaper worth its salt? And dare I ask why the police had to use tear gas to disperse a particularly violent crowd at the railway station near my place when France lost to Italy?
No, because football is sacred to the French. Just like cricket is to the Indians. A sign of cultural differences and colonial heritage I suppose. Still, I cannot imagine how life would have been if India had been a French colony instead of a British one. Would be be a soccer-crazy nation? Or a rugby-crazy one maybe? Any answers are welcome!