My views took a sudden dive and I couldn’t figure out why. And then I got an alert from HotStar about an Indo-Pak cricket game, and I am thinking these things are probably related.
I don’t get Cricket. It’s like Baseball, but longer. Which seems impossible, since baseball games already last eleventy-million hours (in my experience), but somehow Cricket matches last eleventy-billion hours. Like, you have to stop in the middle and rest up and then come back the next day. Like it’s the battlefield or something.
(Rest, or keep a prayer vigil, whatever. Also, that draggy exhausted feeling at the end of Lagaan as the game Just. Keeps. Going. seems like a very realistic vision of a real Cricket match to me)
As I understand it, Cricket is a big circle with a narrow rectangle in the center called the “pitch”. The bowler is at one end, the batsman is at the other. The bowler throws the ball in an odd windmill motion, trying to spin it so that it is hard for the batsman to hit it even though it is still technically going down this narrow rectangle area. The batsman tries to hit the ball so that it goes very very far and while it is in the air, he runs back and forth up and down the narrow pitch gaining points with each run. Oh, and there is a second batsman who just stands around waiting to run back and forth from the other end but doesn’t get to hit until the other batsman is out.
(Every one on the team has to be able to run a lot. Not super fast, just a lot. Thus the exhausting training regimen to build up endurance.)
Then there is the wickets. Here is where I start to get lost. They are 3 sticks in the ground with two funny little boards balanced on top of them. The batsman gets to keep going until the two little boards have been dislodged by the bowler somehow managing to hit the ball so that it goes around the batsman and hits the wickets (this seems impossible to me).
(If I am reading The Internet correctly, Dhoni successfully managed to take a wicket as a bowler. No wonder Kiara Advani was all dreamy about him in the movie)
Or, the batsman gets to keep going until one of the balls he has hit is caught while in the air before it touches the ground. This seems shockingly easy to me and I can’t believe batters aren’t being gotten out like this all the time. Although part of the challenge is the circular ground. You can hit the ball in any direction, all 360 degrees, which makes it much harder for the folks trying to catch the ball. But still, how hard can it be?
(Tiger Pataudi, WITH ONE EYE, managed to be the best fielder India has ever had. Personally I think that is way more impressive and important than just being a good bowler or batsman)
If your ball goes all the way outside of the grounds, it’s automatically 6 points and you don’t have to run at all. If I were a batsman, I would do this all the time because I hate running.
(This is also why “sixer” is slang for doing something really well, the same way “homerun” is in America)
Now, here’s the ridiculous part. Each team has 11 players. Each player gets to just keep going until they are “out”. And you only get out when both wicket thingies are knocked off (again, I just don’t believe this is possible) or when your ball is caught in the air (really should be very easy, but apparently not). And thus, you have cricket matches that last days and days.
(Me, waiting for a cricket match to be over)
The big achievement is to hit 100 or more. That means you hit the ball and then run back and forth and back and forth between the little stick wickets 100 times. Or, I suppose, hit it outside the boundaries and just stand there whistling 17 times.
(That’s where the “102 Not Out” title came from, in Cricket commentary it means the batsman has run 102 and is still not out)
Cricket is a very strange and illogical game, but it leads to amazing heroes on the field. For one thing, similar to a quarterback in football but more so, the Captain of the team is not just a player, but a coach and a strategist and just generally super responsible and intelligent. You can admire his mind and his spirit and his nobility and his power as much as his talent. Dhoni was the captain who took India to the World Cup and won in 2011. Virat Kohli is the current captain. Kapil Dev was the captain who won the first Indian World Cup in 1983. And Tiger Pataudi (Saif’s father) was the captain for years, starting at age 21, who helped make the Indian Cricket team into a word class entity.
(Also, for some reason Cricket players tend to be very handsome and charismatic. Basically, they are the perfect men. Smart, noble, talented, rich, handsome, every girl’s dream. And probably some boys’ dreams too)
And then there’s Sachin Tendulkar, the greatest player Indian Cricket has ever known, possibly the greatest player in the history of Cricket. There will never be another Sachin.
(Rahman wrote him a theme song. How many people get that? Even a theme song is impressive, but who gets it written by Rahman?)
Until recently Cricket matches really mattered only if they were international. The Indian “boys in blue” against other countries. There were state level teams, and corporate sponsored teams, if you really liked watching Cricket or playing Cricket there were plenty of options. But in terms of watching the matches in TV, paying close attention to the players, and so on and so on, it was all about the international test matches.
(That’s why Patiala House was so sad, as a British-Indian, Akshay didn’t have an international team to play for, and nothing besides international really counts)
And then IPL came along. Which is either a blessing, giving you international level cricket widely broadcast with players from all over the world coming together for a limited series of matches. Or a travesty of the nobility and grace of “true” Cricket. It really depends on who you talk to. Most people I talk to land on the “travesty” level.
(Great investment though. Despite the gambling scandals and T20 matches (T20 being a shortened version of Cricket that is ruining the world and the worst thing in history, as I understand it) and all the rest, IPL makes A LOT of money. Very smart for all these movie stars to be riding that wave)
Now, here’s the thing you have to struggle to understand. The India-Pakistan match is the most important, the one everyone watches and cares about. But Australia (as I have been told by many reliable sources) is the most hated team. The reason being, so far as I can tell, they are simply hateful people. Not all Australians, just the ones on the team.
So here we are, during an India-Pakistan match. The whole world (well, much of it) is watching. And no one is really seeing any movies. Oh well, I will just keep providing my counter-programming for those of you who are quietly suffering through the eleventy-billion hours of men hitting balls with sticks.
(Or you can just watch Dishoom, in which everyone accepts the premise that any true Indian would choose death over losing to Pakistan in a Cricket match.)