Saturday, January 3rd, 2009...9:17 am
The Master Blaster (India Post)
My favorite cricket star is Sachin Tendulkar. If you must ask why he is my favorite player than you must not follow cricket. Tendalkur is everyone’s favorite player in India. If you want to make friends (or at least make conversation) with an Indian just mention cricket and their Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar. There face will light up. Tendulkar is regarded as one of the best batsman in the world. He’s been playing for the national team since 1988 when he was 15 years old and holds a slew of national and world batting records. Tendulkar is only 5’5″ and resembles a clean shaven Johnny Damon. His popularity in India rivals that of a Lebron, Tiger Woods or Peyton Manning in the US.
I must admit I knew very little about cricket before this trip. I knew it was a sport similar to baseball that was played in the UK, India, South Africa and a bunch of other nations. Then I checked into the hotel and found television channel 21. The NEO cricket channel is all cricket all the time. About 70% of the time they are showing test matches and the remaining programming is talk shows or highlights. The matches are edited perfectly to show the play and then a few replays and then cuts right to the next play. They also have a slick graphic whenever a batter scores 4 or 6 runs. It’s mesmerizing to watch and try to figure out all the rules and ins and outs of the sport. Unlike a sport like soccer or tennis, the object of the game is not obvious. It’s taken me thorough research on the web, reading the backpage of the newspaper each day and dozens of questions to cab drivers to get up to speed with what’s happening on the pitch.
I’m not going to explain all the rules (I barely know them myself) but basically it’s eleven guys on a team. The key positions on the field are the bowler (similar to a pitcher in baseball), the batter and the wicket keeper (similar to a catcher). The rest of the players are spread out around the field. There are no foul balls so fielders actually stand behind and to the sides of the batter. The bowler tosses the ball on a bounce to the batter who must defend his wickets by hitting the ball with his cricket bat. Everything else plays off of that sequence of events.
India is crazy for cricket. Little kids play in the street, on makeshift fields and in sandlots. Adults also seem to play often (I know there is a Sportsvite angle in there somewhere and cricket is actually already a popular sport on the site). Everybody from the slumdogs to the gurus to the sitar’s to the ministers read the sport section and are ready to talk. Here is a video I took on my phone of kids playing cricket on the side of the street.
The sports business is just beginning to take advantage of cricket’s popularity. In 2008, the Indian Premier League was founded In India. The IPL is a two month tournament that has the best players from all around the world. Tendulkur plays for the Mumbai Indians. Sony secured the global broadcasting rights for 10 years by anteing up over $1 billion dollars. The IPL plays a slightly modified version of the game called twenty20 that is much more television friendly than traditional cricket where a match often lasts for days.
There’s a sandlot beyond the walls of our hotel that can be seen perfectly from my hotel window on the 4th floor. Every day kids are playing cricket. I’ve been meaning to walk over and see if I can join their game. It looks like so much damn fun. Kind of like the movie the Sandlot. Actually, In Bollywood a common thing to do is knock off successful American movies and bollywoodize them. Right now the big movie out is called Ghajini. It’s a knock off of Memento. I’ve been telling everyone that a Sandlot knock off with cricket instead of baseball and an elephant instead of Hercules would be so tight. The Master Blaster FOREVER.