Howzat! An enthusiast’s guide to the highs and lows of being a cricket fan. From The Independent:
Nick Hornby’s 1992 debut Fever Pitch, itself indebted to Frederick Exley’s 1968 meditation A Fan’s Notes, made the intelligent fan’s memoir a sort of sub-genre. Ever since, it has been difficult to write about one’s passion for a sport without inviting some comparison to Fever Pitch. Ask me: I’ve been there myself with my memoir, You Must Like Cricket?.
My hunch is that this occurred to Lawrence Booth, one of England’s funniest and most engaging cricket writers, when he was planning his own book. So he presents his memoir of an English cricket fan not as such, but as an addict’s guide to the game, with chapters on the teams, the umpires, the media and so on. He need not have bothered. First, because it’s no bad thing to be compared to Hornby. Secondly, because Cricket, Lovely Cricket? is a wry, self-deprecating and amusing look as much at the “world’s most exasperating game” of the subtitle as at the most exasperating experience of following it – especially if you happen to be an England fan. And I love that question mark, which encapsulates the dualities that underscore the life of a cricket fan – why, as Booth explains, the sport matters so much and yet not at all.
Foreign Policy lists the five countries with the worst Olympics medals record. Read, and weep.
Medal count: 17
Score card: Think of India as the Washington Nationals of Olympic sport. India is by far the worst-performing Olympic country—no matter how you slice it. It’s not for lack of trying. A games participant since 1900, India still ranks behind Nigeria, a country with an economy one twentieth India’s size, in total medals. The country’s athletic ineptitude is so profound that a parliamentarian called for two minutes of silence to “lament the demise of Indian sports” after the squad failed to win any medals in Barcelona in 1992.
What’s wrong? Few sports venues (roughly 33 stadiums and sports complexes for 1.1 billion people), a lack of school sports programs, stingy government funding, and a narrow talent base. The result? A country whose most celebrated claim to Olympic greatness is “The Flying Sikh,” a track-and-field star who broke hearts by placing fourth at the 1960 Rome Games. It’s not that Indians can’t excel at athletics. Since 1933, the state of Punjab has hosted its own “rural Olympics,” where competitors vie for glory in tug of war, mule-cart racing, sack lifting, tent pegging, and various feats of strength. And there’s hope in the air. Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal has established a trust to fund athletes’ training and medical care and “put India firmly on the medal grid” for 2012.
Archery is the national sport in the Himalayan kingdom. Bamboo and reed have given way to fiberglass, but the passion hasn’t dimmed and the insults still fly. From the Chicago Tribune:
Dorji, a house painter with close-cropped black hair, draws his bowstring, hooks his thumb on his cheek and takes aim at what appears an impossible target: an 11-inch-wide slip of wood dug into the soil 460 feet away — deeper than center field.
He lets his finger slip and the arrow streaks down the field, raising a puff of dust when it hits the earthen bank just behind the target. He has missed.
“His wife keeps beating him! That’s why he’s getting weaker and weaker!” taunt his friends, gathered in a grove of willows along the rocky Pachu River. Dorji, 47, is accustomed to the insults that are a staple of archery in Bhutan, and just ignores them.
[Picture: Bhutanese Olympic archers Dorji Dolma, left, and her husband, Tashi Tshering, practice earlier this year in Thimpu, the capital.]
The Indian Premier League is, perhaps, the final step in cricket’s journey to becoming a 21st century business enterprise. Rajdeep Sardesai in Hindustan Times:
My father was obviously born in the wrong generation. For his first Test for the country in 1961, he got a cheque of Rs 150. When he was part of the historic 1971 win in West Indies and England, he got the princely sum of Rs 750 per match. Contrast that with a Robin Uthappa, who without a single international century, is already a crorepati many times over. Or an Ishant Sharma, who after his first international tour, is already lining up mega-contracts. My own favourite story of cricket from another generation is related by the legendary Bishen Singh Bedi. In 1956, India defeated New Zealand in four days in a Test match. The team, paid Rs 50 per day at the time, did not receive an allowance for the fifth day. When one of the players dared to ask a cricket official for an additional Rs 50, he was curtly told, “Who asked you to win the match in four days?”
Tango with cash
Is all this for real, asks Pradeep Magazine in Hindustan Times:
Or was one watching owners of fat cheque-books sitting in a casino and massaging their egos by throwing mindboggling sums at star cricketers? Shahrukh Khan, the owner of the Kolkata team, found the whole bidding process so thrilling that he said he was getting ‘addicted’ to it. IS Bindra, a BCCI official, and a former Indian Administrative Service officer, had never seen a day like this in his life “ever”. Has cricket in India entered the age of sponsored gambling where its stake-holders are abdicating their responsibility and letting the ‘free-market’ forces take control of the sport?