As an Indian-American boy who grew up playing baseball, it was only natural to gravitate toward the sport of cricket. In a country not known for athletic prowess, cricket is a sport in which India is competitive and at times, world class. As such, it may be said that the nation worships the game like a religion. When India plays, the nation closes up shop to watch.
Having grown up in California, however, my exposure to cricket was usually limited to the time I spend visiting family in India. My great uncle taught me the rules, and my grandmother is a huge fan so watching matches was a great way to spend time with them, especially when I was younger. But hamstrung by the time difference and lack of access, my fandom is usually parked in India before I board the flight home.
But this past winter’s trip to India was different. With the advent of livestreaming and ESPN’s CricInfo app, I could finally sustain my periodically renewed interest in cricket. This past Thursday, the 31st, India was set to play the West Indies in Mumbai at 6:30 AM Pacific Time in the semifinals of the World T20 tournament. Ecstatic that the match would take place at a watchable hour, I decided to throw a watch party, and invited my fraternity brothers who didn’t understand cricket to learn and watch. Unsurprisingly, waking up at dawn was not an popular proposition.
Armed with chips and caffeinated drinks, two Indian and one Bangladeshi friend (both cricketing nations) and I were ready to watch India bat. As the match reached its intermission around 8 AM, I was surprised to see my housemate Alec walking down the stairs: he’d come to watch! I immediately got to work, drawing a rough sketch of the field on a white board, indicating players with Xs and Os. My crash course ended just in time for us to catch the crucial second half of the match.
Never had I thought that I’d be hosting a cricket sitting in Berkeley, yelling at the TV with, of all people, a Caucasian American friend! And so when Andre Russell of the West Indies launched the last ball into the stands to sink India, my momentary disappointment was overshadowed by the pride in initiating a friend into the ranks of cricket fandom.