So are you watching the World Cup? Speaking of sports that Americans rarely watch and haven't a clue about . . . seen any good cricket matches lately?
If you're on this side of the Atlantic you're probably thinking, "Heh, yea--don't try to con me, I know no one actually plays cricket. It's just a myth. Kind of like Big Foot or the Yeti or something like that."
But no--I'm serious. Cricket is a very big deal in India. VERY big deal. So big that the place practically shuts down when they play their arch-rival, Pakistan.
In fact, forget Lakers-Celtics face-offs, forget legendary USSR-USA Olympic battles, in sports it is the India-Pakistan competition that gets the title of Most Ferocious Rivalry in all of sports. Hundreds of millions of viewers tune in when the two teams get together, making our Super Bowl look like Pee Wee football by comparison (with its mere 90 million spectators).
In fact, I suppose that if you were to sit both countries down and tell them that the world had voted and that whole pesky Kashmir issue was going to be decided by one big old cricket game I bet you 50 million rupees that both countries would agree.
Probably because cricket games can last longer than most wars. By the time the match would be wrapped up and officially called the Kashmir region might actually have eroded into a vast uninhabitable desert. In "first class" cricket games are played for three to five days with six hours of play each day but in "test match" cricket games are scheduled for five days and can run much longer--some as long as ten days. The fans would have to be loyal to deal with that kind of suspense.
I wonder . . . if you had tickets to a match would your seats qualify you to see all days of play or are tickets for one day only? Because that would truly stink.
While we were there in March we wanted to bring back something for each of our four children. The girls were easy, the marketplaces are filled with shiny and sparkly things, flowing fabrics and everything a girl would want to feel pretty but a boy? Something told me that they wouldn't appreciate an authentic dhoti or kurga.
The last day we were in Bangalore I was passing a shop that sold cricket gear and it hit me--sports have a way of crossing cultural boundaries and something told me that my two rabid sports fan would find cricket gear very, very cool.
David got an authentic cricket bat from my mother and we completed the set with a cricket ball (looks much like a croquet ball and is hard as a canon ball. Did I mention they catch barehanded? I cringe just thinking of it) and Spencer got a cricket jersey like you see above.
It made me feel kind of funny though--you can't walk through a mall here without seeing hundreds of kids all advertising their favorite team but when we asked how much the cricket shirt cost we were told, "Three hundred, fifty rupees--but most kids can't afford them at that price."
Three hundred and fifty rupees. That's about seven dollars and the average Indian kid can only dream of owning one. How many dollars are spent on overpriced sports memorabilia and a seven-dollar cricket shirt is too expensive? As I plopped down the cash and collected our purchase I felt a twinge of shame at being able to provide something for my child that millions of Indian kids would never be able to have--and would my child even appreciate it as much as his Indian counterparts?
So we bought it and then I worried--worried that we'd pull it out of the suitcase and he wouldn't like it. He's somewhat particular in his clothing tastes and I could see him thinking that none of the other kids at school were wearing cricket jerseys which meant they were uncool and non-wearable. I could see it happening. I worried that he wouldn't like his present and worried that it would be even more embarrassing to bring him something that children on the other side of the world would die for but he was too spoiled to appreciate.
The morning after we returned from our trip we had the great "opening of the suitcases" ceremony where the kids gathered around in anticipation. They knew that we'd brought them each back a little treat and one by one the gifts came out until the cricket shirt was the last thing unseen.
"Now I hope you like this," I started to say as I reached to the bottom where the shirt lay hidden, "In India this is very, very cool--it's kind of the equivalent of having a Chargers jersey if you lived in India. Kind of. Only much more cool. Did I mention this is cool?"
I handed him the shirt and . . . he loved it. His face said it all but any lingering doubts as to his feelings have since been thoroughly eliminated because each week I have to hunt him down, peel it off of his body and demand that he put it in the wash. For health and safety's sake if not for personal hygiene.
Yes, he loves his jersey and now he'd even like to catch a cricket match--or at least the first day of one. Sports really are the universal language.
P.S. I don't think they needed to stage this commercial--that street looks completely authentic. They probably just showed up at 7pm with a film crew and *presto* everything was ready to go.
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