Indians love, live cricket

2011-04-02 18:28

On touching down in Mumbai, the commercial heart of India, just ­before midnight last Friday, some people expressed their sympathy to me for the ­Proteas’ loss to New Zealand.

They knew who I was because I had handed them my passport and they could easily see I was South African.

The next few days were even more interesting. Each morning, every newspaper I read had something on Wednesday’s big semifinal game between India and Pakistan.

I thought South Africans loved their sport. Indians don’t just love cricket, they live it.

On a bus trip to visit the love temple Taj ­Mahal in Agra, children were playing cricket in open fields and street vendors were promoting cricket gear.

On Wednesday, the team of visiting ­African journalists had to leave ­New ­Delhi for Mumbai.

What this meant was that we could not watch this game on TV.

On the morning of the game many newspapers had something on it, ranging from the front pages to business and lifestyle sections.

Even Shahnawaz Khan, who was providing French translation services to some of my ­colleagues, could not hide his anxiety.

He really wanted the last meeting – scheduled for 4pm – to come to an end.

He had organised a big-screen TV and his friends were going to his home to watch the big game.

When we got to the airport, the Pakistanis had just finished their innings.

A big-screen TV was set up near a car manufacturer’s stand at the airport, while several smaller TVs were also broadcasting the game. A few minutes into the innings, I decided to go for a quick snack at a restaurant.

Before I could finish my food, a loud cheer and whistling erupted and the waiters rushed out to check what was ­happening. India had taken their first wicket. We moved to the waiting area before boarding the flight to Mumbai, and there several more TVs were showing the game. On board the 9pm flight, the captain kept the many anxious passengers abreast of what the latest score was.

What was supposed to be a two-hour flight was delayed by another hour, but this announcement was not as important as the latest score.

When the pilot announced that India had won, all the passengers were on their feet cheering. This made me feel like an Indian, a nation that lives the sport, and loves their sportsmen.

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