Postcards to my cricketing homeland
In this, my debut innings for The Cordon, as I take guard, it is perhaps appropriate I reflect on why I write on cricket. After all, I do waffle on quite a bit on it, don't I? I have blogged for almost seven years now: first at Eye on Cricket, then Different Strokes, then The Pitch; I've written two books on cricket, had one published, and am seeking a contract for the second. And before that, between the years 1990 to 1997 or so, I often wrote on rec.sport.cricket, the cricket newsgroup, and chatted with other cricket fans on the Internet Relay Channel. What's the deal with all this verbiage? Why talk so much about a game?
The answers to those questions are quite obvious for some, and I won't go into the most straightforward ones. (Besides, there's always a new game or a new player to be talked about, and the game itself has changed.) Today, I want to focus on my particular station as a cricket writer who grew up in a cricketing country but now lives 'abroad' in - with all due respect to American cricketers and fans - a cricketing wasteland.
Mostly, it might be that I continue to write about cricket because I'm infected by a deep nostalgia, an incurable homesickness, one that I cannot stop hoping will be cured and palliated by conversation with others who love cricket like I do. The homesickness, the 'homeward bound gaze' of the immigrant is a cliché now, but its emotional impact remains the same as it ever was. While, like many others like me, I miss the light of the north Indian winters, the brilliant sunshine that warmed my non-centrally heated body as I emerged from a cold Delhi interior, I also miss the sounds and sights of cricket: radio commentary and street games and men in white on cricket fields. Twenty-five years of absence have attenuated this feeling, as has the non-stop saturation by international cricket, but the desire to talk about cricket has not gone away.
I still feel words spring to my lips as I watch a game; I still find myself possessed by an incurable itch when I witness cricketing folly or excellence, one that can only be assuaged by writing about it. Often, it has not mattered whether someone read my writings or not. When I began blogging in 2006, my posts disappeared into the ether, falling stillborn from the press, but it did not seem to matter. I wrote because I had to, because it was the only way to deal with my reactions to cricket. I often wish I could stop writing on cricket: it takes up a lot of my time; I still have academic ambitions despite earning tenure and full professorship; I'm a newly minted father now.
But I can only stop writing on cricket if I stop watching it or thinking about it. The subterranean and subconscious roots of this interest, though, lie deep in a set of memories and impressions formed so long ago that their eviction seems impossible. Those early imprints made sure I would view sports in a particular light, one that ensured that no matter how deeply I grew invested in the New York Giants and Yankees, no matter how enthusiastically I might look forward to a basketball franchise in Brooklyn, some part of the emotional frisson associated with cricket will be missing. My daughter will be a Giants and Yankees and Nets fan, just like her fossilised father, but I don't think I'll hurt as badly as she will when they fail to qualify for the playoffs.
Perhaps if I had stayed on in India, I might have grown away from cricket. I might have become busy in the country's newer attractions; perhaps the EPL or Formula One would have gradually replaced cricket in my sporting priorities. But because I moved across the black water, I took with me my sense of cricket as it was then: the subject of endless conversation and rumination and heartbreak and joy. Those sensations find constant provocation in the attention I pay to cricket, and demand expression in the only way I know how. After all, I'm pretty much useless at anything other than reading and writing.
Sometimes it seems that to stop writing on cricket would require not being interested in it anymore; sometimes, it seems I continue to write on cricket because to stop writing on cricket would be to acknowledge one part of my life is over, a loss that seems too great to bear. To stop writing on cricket would mean having to finally accept that I can no longer go 'home'. And so I write.
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here