June 19, 2008

Samir Chopra

Time travel

Samir Chopra

Cricket was how I learned about time zones. It's how I learned other creatures on this planet experienced very different times of day while being simultaneously co-existent with me.

I knew all about GMT, the International Date Line, and 360 degrees of longitude as a child; these were abstract academic facts about a globe, gleaned from geography textbooks, and I was a nerd after all. But I only really learned what time zones meant when it became clear to me I could be hunched up in bed on a cold winter night listening to a disembodied voice over the radio describing flannelled men playing in bright sunshine somewhere far away. It's how I really learned to grasp that India was a big country, and that the bureaucratic fiat of Indian Standard Time did abuse to the fact of its spectacular east-west sprawl. How else was I to understand that one part of the country (Calcutta) could fall into darkness (as test match cricketers seemed to be pointing out to umpires) while I was playing in the bright winter sunshine with my friends in New Delhi? Cricket sliced up the day into distinct parts, each marked out with its own distinct label, each providing a particular background and locale for a distinct set of cricketing memories.

Test matches in England were about summer heat, burning hot afternoons that shaded into cooler evenings before the radio commentary finally came to a halt just before midnight. Game changing moments happened as the Delhi night wore on outside. Watching cricket in Australia had as its local backdrop, the North Indian winter, its freezing early mornings, its glorious sunny afternoons, and the chance to conduct post-mortems of the day's play from lunchtime onwards.

Perhaps nothing else quite so clearly marked my move to the US, and my subsequent residence on the East Coast, as my realization that from now on, those two locales (England and Australia) would be almost precisely exchanged (a temporal reversal of roles if you will), that other places in the mind's cricketing map would have to be rearranged.

England became associated with summer mornings; with early morning cups of espresso; with the hope that perhaps I could delay my setting out for work so I could finish watching the post-tea session. Australia became associated with winter evenings; snow would fall on my dark Brooklyn street while I watched players do battle at Brisbane; and I could crawl into bed by 2 AM as the day's play wound down. And perhaps most strange of all, the West Indies, that mystical place where giants once slew all those who visited, and which was all about post-dinner commentary and tape-delayed radio in the early mornings back in India, this place suddenly became part of my local time zone: games began in the late morning and ended in the evening. The machinations to watch games in the West Indies took on a similar hue to those employed in India to watch home games: the 'sick' days, the "I think I'll just work from home" claims. The advantage of being located in the same time zone had also brought along its inconvenient companion: the clash with work hours.

Cricket told me the experienced daily world is sliced up into distinct temporal spheres; nothing else brought this home quite so clearly, not even those ubiquitous rows of clocks at airports, each set to a different city. And yet nothing else quite so clearly reinforced the connectedness of the world either.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

RSS Feeds: Samir Chopra

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Lasik Eye Surgery on (January 12, 2009, 1:19 GMT)

That's a smart point...for sure

Posted by Liposuction on (January 7, 2009, 1:30 GMT)

What is that guy talking about?

Posted by Liposuction on (January 6, 2009, 18:01 GMT)

How is that relevant?

Posted by Tummy Tuck on (January 6, 2009, 8:43 GMT)

Really well written!

Posted by Samir Chopra on (June 22, 2008, 17:47 GMT)

Nelson: I'm impressed you remember the Radio Australia frequencies! (indeed, you seem to remember most of the pertinent ones). You're right about Radio Pakistan; I learned some high-faluting Urdu by tuning into those guys.

NC: Live telecasts introduce another sense of immediacy, don't they? (and hail to all Dilliwallahs everywhere!).

Posted by Mina Anand on (June 22, 2008, 13:29 GMT)

Thanks samir...

Posted by Naked Cricket on (June 22, 2008, 12:37 GMT)

Samir, your time travel sure struck the right note, esp those musings from a dilliwallah's pov -Cal's early sunsets, Sydney's early starts, and the Jamaica nightcaps. Just the other day I made it back home in time for the 2nd innings Aus vs WI T20 game. Felt good to finish the game. Even @3.30am.

Posted by Nelson Rodrigues, Toronto on (June 21, 2008, 21:01 GMT)

Superb article Samir! I remember in Mumbai, early 80's & 90's, used to get up early & tune to Radio Australia cricket cracking over the shortwave frequencies i.e. 21775 on 13 MB. Few hrs. later start cursing Radio Moscow jamming & had to resort to fine tuning. Rush to college & then catch the latest sports score on BBC World service 'Sports round up' on shortwave or MW 1413 later in the evenings. During the English cricket season, it was TMS on the 19MB shortwave. It was the 1979 Oval Test India vs England & chasing 400 plus to win, listening till late night with my folks how Vishy & Co. nearly pulled off a win.

If you knew Urdu/Hindi you could pick up cricket commentary from Radio Pakistan on their shortwave frequencies.

Posted by Samir Chopra on (June 21, 2008, 18:20 GMT)

Shreyas: I don't think it'd be an exaggeration to say that some folks only figured how close or near some places were when cricket entered the picture.

Mina: Law student at 50, and still following the cricket? Much, much respect.

Michael: I have similar memories of the Oval 1979 - a late chase that didn't quite work out, all on a summer's night.

Jay: Indeed, cricket made me realize how similar and yet diverse, the cricketing world was.

Homer: Thats a dream come true, right there!

Posted by Samir Chopra on (June 21, 2008, 17:04 GMT)

Thanks for the comments folks. Much appreciated.

Charles: The allnighters are indeed difficult, increasingly so!

DSH: I hear you. NZ tests really do start alarmingly early on this side of the world!

SP: Glad I could fire up the nostalgia engine for you!

Rajesh: I've had the occasional very oddly timed beer, all thanks to trying to sync myself up with the time at the ground.

Angi: Thanks. The early morning sessions were something else, weren't they?

Comments have now been closed for this article


Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

All articles by this writer