March 30, 2011

Way Bigger Than SuperBowl

Article first published as A Match that Merits a Different Language on Technorati.

Cricket is a rather obscure game that’s favored mostly by countries that were once part of the British Empire. It’s quite easy in fact to list out ALL the nations of the world where cricket is played with some seriousness: England, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, South Africa.

That list tells you everything. Cricket is played in England and a couple of other nations where the English migrated to. And it’s played in the Indian subcontinent.

For some odd reasons that are clearly beyond my ability to understand, cricket has become a national passion in India. And India has a great historical rivalry with Pakistan. India and Pakistan have gone to war thrice and wars being messy affairs, the countries are trying hard to avoid another battle.

Cricket therefore offers the opportunity to wage a war by proxy. The World Cup of cricket is clearly the biggest stage to host this battle. As luck would have it, India and Pakistan are both in the semi-finals of this tournament and pitted against each other.

What this means is difficult to describe in words. The only way this can get better is if India and Pakistan were to meet each other in the finals.

Let me mention some of the statistics of this match that will demonstrate the scale of this encounter.

The number of people who are expected to watch this match: 600 million to 800 million people.

Everybody who's anybody in India and Pakistan is in Mohali for the match including the PMs, the Gandhi family, and movie stars.

When can one find a story about India and Pakistan on the home page of the New York Times except when they’re fighting a war?

State governments are working hard to give their people a break for a day from power cuts.

Astrologers are busy putting their reputations and necks on the line by predicting the results of the match.

Indian fans have become ultra-patriotic which otherwise happens only when there’s a war going on.

The powerful bureaucrats of India are in a spot as they suddenly appear to be powerless at least in so far as arranging tickets for the match is concerned.

Celebrities are doing wacky, superstitious stuff.

Opportunistic politicians are busy using this match as an opportunity to curry favor with the electorate.

India’s usually industrious people are on mass leave.

Even the government has made it official by declaring a half-day leave for employees.

Busy streets across India wear a deserted look because of the match.

All of Kolkata is closed.

So is the growing IT hub of Hyderabad.

Even usually truculent politicians in state legislatures finished work early.

And people in the troubled state of Kashmir have forgotten their troubles for a day.

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