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India during the World Cup used to feel like a preoccupied mother. India during a World Cup in India used to feel like a preoccupied businessman. India just before the current World Cup in India seems to be a preoccupied big-city teenager with an attention span to match a hummingbird’s wingspan; no surprise then that there’s a lot of buzz all around.
I myself have been preoccupied with an exciting opportunity – very much within the cricket realm, of course – that has come my way. It has directly contributed to me showing up for a flight a whole month earlier than (wrongly) booked for. Quickly dispensing with the possibility of the longest airport layover in history, with the same decisiveness I apply for dispensing with bails on a windy day, I am now aboard a plane just three hours later than intended.
Back in the USA, emails have started flushing out on cricket communities and groups. These email chains are typically kicked off by one of two types of people: ones that had a poor previous cricket season or ones who see life as what happens between sessions of watching, playing or talking cricket. For many of us, of course, playing ‘proper’ cricket is a fix. The last matches of the 2010 season, even in the colder northeastern states of the country, were played well into October, and at least in one case in the first week of November. And yet, we have these emails, a mere three months later, beckoning one and all to assemble at indoor cricket practice. Once again, the usually bitter, currently quinine cold of the Northeast has only had the effect of all that white snow reminding our hibernating cricketers of their own whites.
It is accepted that the weekend Transformers’ wives are cricket widows during the cricket season. Thanks to the numerous indoor facilities that have popped up all across the country within the past five years, the widow window is cracked open a bit wider every year. New Jersey alone has two well-known indoor cricket facilities while New York has two of its own. There are always murmurs about one or two more opening up in those two states. And then there is a dental supply warehouse that has been severely dented by Sehwag slashes and Afridi assaults – at least that is what is imagined by these shot-makers – over the years by players from one NY and one NJ team. There are also a couple of baseball cages that are opened up to cricketers on an hourly basis where firm metal meshes substitute for the giving nets cricket strokes demand. Even though the baseball never touches the ground on its path to the batter, these cages come with Astroturf floors that mimic matting pitches adequately, if accidentally.
This supply-demand equation is so out of whack with the reality of how many people in the US play cricket that Obama’s detractors would name it his next gross anti-capitalist conspiracy. Regardless, every year those emails start appearing in inboxes a few days earlier, thereby dragging that equation ever-so-slightly back to … well, an equation.
In the meanwhile, my current trip to India reinforced the significance of being able to play ‘proper’ cricket for people who go from India to the US. Cricket is just something a vast majority of the people in India hope to watch others playing – a seductive temptress. Once they experience the sweet honey of the red cherry, all bets are off and the house seldom wins as weekend cricket – now, the mistress – takes hold.
The latest child born out of wedlock – Twenty20 – means a lot more time is being spent now by these already spent cricketers in acquiring what are seen as much-required additional skills, thanks to the Dilshans and McCullums of satellite TV or webcast. These skills are seldom displayed on the ground during matches. They are merely self-indulgent acts that keep the magic alive.
This ‘practice season’, though, will be short-lived. The next month and a half will see these guys go back to voyeur mode, what with most World Cup matches slated to begin at 4am EST, leaving very little time at the end of the day for much action themselves, lest sleep deprivation wreaks havoc. The mistress knows enough tricks to go back and forth between temptation and indulgence. The widow remains a widow.
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