And in the wake of the good result in the lab, I realized that I could suddenly leave earlier than usual. I reached home at 5 and quickly tuned the TV to the streaming of the first game of the tournament. Sri Lanka versus New Zealand. And the first innings of the game was a good example to teach a fellow American (and also the average Indian armchair critic who has never played cricket beyond his own batting in gully cricket) of how a long format of the game can be exciting and extremely dynamic. The game shifted sides so easily, swaying initially towards the hosts in the beginning and rather extremely, towards the end. While Herath and Lakmal tried to wrench it back in the visitor's favor during the middle overs. Aah well, the point is, I called Jason over and he immediately developed a likening for the game, which I was totally delighted about!After the first innings we headed to Proof (our backyard brewery, where the whole department hangs out on Friday), where the rest of the gang were already schmoozing. We joined in late and the conversation mildly drifted to cricket, which is really a big deal because hello, this is the United States of America where cricket is chugged down like the worm larvae in the mescal. They immediately draw parallels with baseball, which itself is an endemic sport in this country.This is the explanation that Marina gave me at the pub:"So.. cricket is like baseball, played on a strip in the park..""Pitch. Ground. And no, it's not really like baseball.. but go on..""Okay, so there are two sticks, that two hitters guard..""Stumps. Wickets. And batsman..""Okay, so the batsmen try to hit the ball with their sticks.. or is it called a bat?""Yes..""So, the pitcher throws the ball at the batsmen, who try to hit the ball around the park..""Bowler. Bowling. Batsman.. yes, go on..""And then you score points, God knows how..""Runs, not points.. but.." and that's when I stopped and transfigured into Amitabh Bachchan, only to shout out the famous Kaun Banega Crorepati (the Indian version of 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire') dialogue, "Miss Lauck.. you have created HISTORY!!!"Because she really had, I guess. She was more in the ballpark than an average American trying to explain cricket to an avid follower of the game. The apathy can drive one mad, and Marina's explanation was my only source of sanity on the eve of the greatest match-up in the history of the world.. (drum-rolls please).. yeah, that one!
The greatest gift for me on the occasion of the Valentine's Day came not from my girlfriend living in what seems like a galaxy far far away, but it came from the fixture of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015. Reportedly, the tickets to the India versus Pakistan game were sold out within 20 minutes. That has to be some kind of a record! How did they last so long? How did the servers not crash? Thanks to the difference in time-zones, the One Day International game taking place on the 15th of February in Australia was being telecast live, on 14th February at night in my place.Incidentally, that morning I almost broke up with my girlfriend. I called her up to calm my nerves before the game - albeit still 11 hours left for it to begin. But as I told her that "I'm really tensed about the game", she said "There are better things in the World than an India and Pakistan cricket match". Yes yes, I know, I know. I've been really easy on her this time. Perks of being in a seriously long distance relationship, I'd like to believe.I had invited a few friends over for the night and even though they all brought beer, which is the American way of watching a sport, I maintained my tee-totalitarian ways of abstinence during the game (because that's the Aussie way of watching a cricket game and I bloody hate them)! While we acclimatized ourselves to the Zimbabwean sucker-punch that South Africa was tackling in another stadium before the big game began, we ordered Chinese."Honey.. what eez ewr aaaaaddrez?" asked the desperately fresh Asian voice, for the umpteenth time in the dying minutes of the Valentine's Day. Her accent was so thick and so very Asian (racist alert) that it would even put Eleven Jinping to shame. And imagine her difficulty in listening to a brown guy's desperately English accent from the other end. America is thus, a country, where people have some serious identity crisis!"Timbers.. T.. I.. M.. B.. E.. R.. S.. Court.. C.. O.. U.. R.. T.." I tried to spell it out. At that moment we were so hungry and craving for Chinese food that even teaching her English over the phone was making sense."CIMBERS..? VIMBERS..? EIMBERS..? GIMBERS..?" she asked, as if T was a lost alphabet of alien origins."T! T! TEEEE! TEA!! The T for the TEA YOU DRINK! The T for TOILET! THE T FOR BLOODY TIENANMEN SQUARE!!!" Lost control, we totally had.After a minute of silence, another voice replied "Your order would be there in an hour or more. Sorry for the delay, but it's Valentine's Day. Bye-bye!" and the line was dead.And in the next 8 hours, we watched the greatest game in the planet unfold with the most well known rivalry in the galaxy. The cricket match between India and Pakistan is akin to a war, not too different from the four wars that these two nations (armed with nuclear capability) have fought, ever since they were formed. Tensions were high as always before the big game. But the speed by which we filled our mouths with peanuts from the Kung pao chicken that we had ordered, slowed down to a relaxed 'chew' as Dhawan and Kohli racked up runs against the seven feet tall Pakistani bowler - the giant, that goes by the name of Mohammed Irfan.
The lone girl among us had also stopped comparing players by their looks. Although I do agree with her that Ahmed Shehzad would have a good shot at his chances at a beauty contest. But the fact that he made significant contributions to my fantasy team might also be clouding my judgment.Some really funny and some really PUNny commentary have always made cricket an interesting game and although Nasser Hussein's accent almost made Mohammed Irfan an 'orphan', Harsha Bhogle's comments about the beamer that the giant bowled to Kohli were both hilarious and witty: "It was like a Yorker, but only to the keeper!" Even the satire newspaper Faking News took on the Pakistani guy waiting to burst the box-full of firecrackers since 1992. In a cheeky advertisement, the Pakistani guy is reaching for the box full of happiness and joy and hope every four years later, only for all that to be shot down in each edition of the World Cup, as India maintains it's long standingrecord of total dominance against Pakistan at the tournament. To sum it up in a short statement that is also music to one's ear's, India has never lost a single World Cup game against Pakistan! And the score, over the years and before this match, was India 5 - 0 Pakistan.
Here's that brilliantly made advertisement for the game by Star Sports: