India’s Favorite Pastime
Yesterday the majority of us went to our first ever cricket match. For most of us attending a cricket match was one of the things on our checklist to complete our trip to India. Some of us prepared for this moment months ago in the US by practicing cricket with a professional coach, some read a few articles and watched a few YouTube videos to get an understanding of the game, and a few went to watch without knowing a thing about cricket. Though we all came in with different levels of understanding, I believe we all left Eden Garden with pretty much the same unforgettable experience.
The game was to start at 4pm so Tyler and I made sure to leave our home as soon as we could catch a metro knowing that there would be many people with the same idea going to this match to fill a good majority of its 85,000+ seats. Luckily since we left earlier enough the metro wasn’t too full, that was until we reached Esplanade, the metro stop closes to the station. I think that metro station was more packed than the metro train during rush hour. The metro stop was filled with purple and gold (or colors close to it) reminding me of the streets of Minneapolis before a Vikings game minus about 30,000 people. I was one of the few people that stood out not only because I was one of two foreigners in the station but that I was wearing a bright blue t-shirt.
After somehow swimming our way through the sea of sweaty people we made it out of the station. Once outside we see thousands of more people; hawkers, fans making their way to the stadium, and I guess you could call them tailgaters sitting on the grass listening to the game over the radio. Out of all the chaos I managed to hear a hawker from behind me selling jerseys for RS 150. I immediately purchased one and then we headed on our way. On our way from the metro to the stadium, Tyler and I were stopped over a dozen times. People were trying to sell us things, trade tickets, and paint our faces. Finally one managed to stop Tyler and paint his face. This man mentioned absolutely nothing about charging Tyler until he finished his face painting which looked like it was done by a 3 year old. The guy holds Tyler from leaving and keeps telling him, “50 Rupees! 50 Rupees!” I had Tyler’s money on me so he obviously couldn’t pay the man if he felt the man was being reasonable. He had 2 rupees in his pocket and gave it to the man. Not amused, the man came after me telling me I had to pay him. I tried to bargain and got the price down to 20 rupees and then the man bumped it up to 30. I reached in my pocket and gave the man only 10 rupees and Tyler and I ran off.
Before reaching the stadium, we had to walk through a few security checks. Before going through the first security check, we waited for a few of our classmates. After waiting a little while and trying to figure out where to meet up we decided to just head to the main gate. As we were leaving, we were stopped by some people asking to interview us. I told them I wasn’t interested and started walking off, but Tyler stayed so I came back. They told us they were going to ask us a few things about cricket and we got a bit nervous. One of the camera men said something about Bideshi (foreigners). When I heard that word, I snapped at him, “Amra Bideshi na, Amra Bangali!” Which means, “We aren’t foreigners, we are Bengalis.” Everyone laughed and we went on with the interview. After the interview, we noticed the first security check was taking people’s water bottles. Tyler and I tried to outsmart them by taking out one of our three bottles, taking a big drink, and then turning it over to the guards. Luckily that worked and we weren’t checked again until we reached the main gate.
Finally we reached gate 13 of Eden Garden and met up with a few more of our classmates. Knowing now that our other two bottles of water would be confiscated, we entered the gate and walked to the security table to have my bag checked. The security was tighter than an airport. My classmate Connor and I opened our bags and they immediately removed our waters. They continued to search through our bags questioning anything they hadn’t seen before. They spend about five minutes trying to figure out what my portable phone charger was and Connor’s water purifier almost making us toss them out with our bottles. The same happened to my classmate Andee and her camera batteries. The guards wanted her to toss out her rechargeable batteries, but she managed to look confused and frightened enough for the guards to let her go without any more problems.
When we reached our section, we once again had our tickets checked and the guard pointed where to sit. I took two steps and was stopped again for the exact same thing. It was absolutely pointless. After all that work we finally reached our seats. We had over a half an hour for the game to start so we just relaxed and took pictures. Every once in a while the crowd started cheering when one of the Knight Riders came out on the field and of course we did some cheering too.
It was 4pm and the game started. We were all a bit surprised that the game started on time. Usually when a time is set for something, it doesn’t happen for at least a half an hour after. I was a bit surprised not hearing an anthem played before a game, but I guess it isn’t good to keep a cricket fan waiting. The announcer introduced the Hyderabad Sunrisers with only a few boo’s here and there. Then the Kolkata Knight Riders made their way on the field. The stadium roared and we like to think our little CSB and SJU group helped quite a bit. We stood up and stomped our feet cheering. Apparently we were so energetic we upset the man behind us because he kept yelling at us in Bangali “Bosho! Aaste!” which in English is “Sit down and Shut up!” He said this several times throughout the game until he finally moved away.
The Knight Riders won the coin toss and were up to bat first which was great for us since we didn’t want to stay all four plus hours. About ten overs into the game almost everyone in our group had a basic understanding of cricket and we all knew how to cheer and when and how runs were made. Also by this time the sun was getting to us (though we were in the shade our entire time at the game) and we were all feeling really thirsty. Tyler and Andrew headed out to find some water and after several minutes came back with about 12 small bags of water since bottles weren’t allowed in the stadium.
About two and a half hours into the game, the first half was over and the Knight riders had 180 runs. Most of us didn’t really care to see the other team bat so we headed home with the rest of the crowd that felt the same way. After working our way out of the stadium we walked past several small groups of men sitting around radios most likely listening to the game. The metro was pretty crowded this time too but nothing like it was when we arrived earlier that day. We managed to hop on the first metro without even being shoved on.
When we reached home, our host parents asked us about the game and the experience and I showed off my new t-shirt. After chatting a little bit, I headed upstairs to my host mother’s brother’s apartment. When I walked in, he was in his room watching the game so I joined in while chatting about my experience and my hell of a deal on the t-shirt. At this time the Sunrisers were down by 70 runs with about 13 overs and still had a pretty good chance of taking the game. The view from the air conditioned room on the 26 inch HDTV was quite a bit more enjoyable than the hot stands so far away from the players. We continued to watch the game until the end when the Knight Riders triumphed by 48 runs winning 180 for 4 to 132 for 7.
As I said before, the overall experience was wonderful and unforgettable. Personally since I am not a very enthusiastic cricket fan, the whole 500 rupees or $10 I spent on the ticket probably wouldn’t be worth it again. The atmosphere of the game was a lot of fun, but it was hard to follow the game most of the time. I feel that if I went to a game against bigger rivals or a more important match the experience would be a lot more fun and worth the time, money, and effort put into going to the match. I think I might go one more time before I head home, but next time will be with some of my local friends instead of going with a group of foreigners like me.