Since my wife and I (both BIG Baseball fans) moved to the Middle East, we have missed the taken-for-granted ability to drive to a stadium or turn on the TV and watch the world’s best sport. Living here is like living in the off-season all year ’round. The two daily English language newspapers are run by Brits, so once you get past the most minute details of every soccer (football) game played from Europe to the Southern Sudan, the sports section has very little room for anything else. They cover auto or horse racing if there is a local angle, and to fill in the space where they cannot sell an ad, they cover Cricket. But Baseball might as well be a rumor that hasn’t gone viral. I stay up with it using all the modern media, but I do miss the sport in a big way.
Brits try to tell us that Baseball evolved from Cricket. Hogwash. The only thing the sports have in common is they both use a ball, and the balls are not that much alike.
Before I try to educate you anymore about this sport, let me tell you why I have decided to write about it.
Specifically I have become a fan of Twenty20. This a relatively new type of cricket. Basically, it is the same game. T20 was intended to deliver a fast paced game that lasted about as long as any normal sporting event, between 2 and three hours, well within my attention span.
T20 is practically a brand new style of the sport. It was introduced in England in 2003. It was introduced to bring in young fans. The old guard that still attended 3 or 4 day long “test” matches were dying out, probably from boredom.
Because it is available I have become a fan. The World Cup of T20 has qualifying rounds and this year the UAE is hosting one of these qualifying tournaments. The very first match was to be played mere miles from my home here in Sharjah, and it was between Uganda and the USA! It wasn’t like the Dodgers coming to town, but I still got excited to go.
That made me unique. When I showed up, the only people in the parking lot were a couple of very bored looking security guards. One of them walked up me and asked me for my pass. I looked at him and said “I am just a fan.” The look on his face should have been enough to clue me in for the rest of the experience. About then, a fancy car with diplomatic plates pulled up. A handsome well dressed black man, expensive suit, shiny shoes, and an air of authority got out of the back and headed directly for the VIP entrance. I knew he was the Ugandan consul, so me, in a T shirt, jeans and flip flops just tagged alongside him. Moments later I was in the VIP seating area of a 20,000 seat stadium.
I looked around and realized we were it. TWO fans, 2, dos, in the entire stadium. Incredible.
I took a seat right behind the USA bench and started cheering for the red white and blue. Most of the players on the USA squad had Indian or Pakistani names. Probably kids of immigrants to Silicone Valley. There was one really American looking kid named Korns. I yelled out “Hey Korns, you from Nebraska?” He turned around and in the perfect accent said “Houston, Texas”. I would love to hear his story about how he started playing Cricket in Texas.
The two top winners in this tourney get to go to the world cup tournament in Sri Lanka this year. So I started trying to pump up my team by saying things like “Sri Lanka, great beaches, beautiful women and excellent beer”.
Then I realized that with only two fans in attendance (actually the Ugandan Consul guy may have been there because he had to be, so maybe I was the ONLY fan) there was not going to be a souvenir stand. So I started asking the boys on the team to sell me their caps. I was saying “look, I’m the only fan here! I may be the only USA Cricket fan in all of the UAE, or maybe the whole wide world! C’mon, sell me a cap!” Finally the manager got up and went to the equipment box and pulled out a cap and a t shirt and tossed them to me. Made my day!
USA got severely beaten by Uganda. They got beat by something like 7 wickets, which is really a trouncing.
Learning to enjoy this sport means learning a new language.
Young Cricketer. “Yes, I cocked one off the splice in the gully and the blighter gathered it.”
Father. “Yes, but how did you get out? Were you caught, stumped or bowled, or what?”
I will try here to educate you on terms and rules
“Twenty20” refers to the number of overs each team bowls to the other in their innings.
I could go on and on with rules and terms, but I won’t. They all sound so Dickensonian and would just make you wonder why I ever picked up a bug for this game. But give T20 a try sometime, you might find it more exciting than say lawn bowling or Golf.
Thanks for reading. tell a friend, make a comment. I hope you were bowled over. This is a cricket term that means…ah look it up.
- ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier: Italy, Uganda prevail in tournament openers – Cricket News Update (blogs.bettor.com)
This is not a blog about Cricket, but it might turn into a recurring theme as I go along.
On this side of the coconut, my diamond shaped temple with four stations perfectly spaced at 90 feet apart, has no devotees. In case that was too cryptic, no one knows a baseball from a mango here in India.
However, here in India, that game with wickets is the national sport. This year they are hosting the ICC Cricket World Cup. You wouldn’t know it unless you looked closely.
This being Super Bowl Sunday back in the USSA, I need only to reach into the decaying memory banks I call a mind to remember that the words Super Bowl appear in front of your temporal lobes at least once every waking minute for the week before the game. I am sure that you could not breathe in South Africa without spitting out a soccer ball for at least a year before their version of a world up.
But here in this country with one sixth of the world’s population, I cannot find a ball cap with a cricket logo on it to save my dharma.
We are in Chennai, prepping ourselves for the excursion down the coast and into the interior to attend the wedding we came here to see. We have a driver and an itinerary of sorts. This is not a tourist destination. Our driver is not a guide. What we know about this town is from Lonely Planet, Trip advisor and my new source of travel information, Matadortravel.com. I did the outreach to hotels and such for this trip. Usually Mary Ann marshals that and I am happily along for the ride. Because the flight took us to Chennai, I wrote about a dozen hotels to ask if they could help us with a driver. Only one wrote back. The manager’s husband runs a tour agency. After a couple of emails, I hired him to set us up with tours in Chennai, a driver to and from the wedding, the flight to Delhi and the train to Agra to see the Taj.
Like I said we have a driver, not a guide. We have been on our own for information about the sights. That is OK by me. After the trip to Nepal where our guides relentlessly told us fables from Buddhist and Hindu lore as if they were talking about history, it is nice to just look and see.
We basically told him what we wanted to see and he drove us there. However, I stumped him when I told him to take me to buy a cricket cap. He really tried. The look on his face when I came out of sports shops empty handed was both disappointing, and to me humorous. I would not give up. Every trip to a museum, fort or cathedral was sidetracked by a trip to another sporting goods store. This is a city of 6.6 million people and 12.6 million busses, cars and tuk tuks. So navigating the streets was something was happy I did not have to do.
My last attempt was the largest sporting goods store in town. The name of the local Cricket team, who by the way happen to be the national champions, are the Super Kings. I went into the store, pointed at the ball cap I had on and said “I want a Super Kings cap.”
They responded positively and I thought my search was over. They took me over to a rack of caps and pulled out a Super MAN cap. I officially gave up my search.
We saw a few interesting things in Chennai, but by far was St Thomas Church. This is where St. Thomas, Doubting Thomas, one of the 12 disciples is buried. It is one of only three cathedrals built over the grave of one of the 12. One in Spain, and of course the third is St. Peters in the Vatican. Pretty cool. Here are a couple of shots.
INSERT ST THOMAS
In my last post I told you my friend summed up a trip to India in 3 words, “you’re in India.” I can beat that, I can do it in one word. THRONGS. Every place you go it is like standing outside of a stadium when the game is over. Thousands of people everywhere, you cannot get away from people. For my friends in Bocas, Imagine Isla Bocas having two hundred thousand people on it, and everyone over 12 has a motorcycle. I am enjoying the experience, but after I see the Taj, I do not know what would make me come bac
The next post will be the wedding. Promise. It takes me hours to make posts, sorting photos, writing, re-writing and editing the prose. And that does not count the time living the experiences and taking the photos. AND, doing it on the road often means having to use slowwww, internet connections in hotels, which takes all that more time. So I will probably wait until I am back in Sharjah to post.
I hope you enjoyed it. Please comment.