Cricket Is More Than A Game

March 02, 2007
Tanay Behera

The Cricket World Cup is just round the corner and cricketers along with their fans across the globe are waiting eagerly as the biggest event of the game takes center stage on March 9, 2007 in the West Indies.

The game of Cricket is not just a game but a "religion" that drives 1.2 billion people into a state of frenzy once the men in blue are on the field. Introduced in India as a rich man's game, today there is hardly any place in India or any heart in the Indian diaspora that is not infected by its tentacles.

"Lagaan", a period film, was written with the intention of appealing to the contemporary viewer, particularly the cricket buff about this shift from a phirang aadmi's game to an aam bharatiya game. The country comes to an abrupt stop when a cricket match is being played, the roads are deserted, parties and weddings are postponed, operations in hospitals are rescheduled, parliament goes in for early closing, work schedules at offices are re-planned,etc.

The World Cup is like a festival for us. The craze, the frenzy, the excitement and a feeling of patriotism reaches its pinnacle during this time. Every Indian is soaked in the tricolor whether in his/her attire or spirit. All cricket fans bond with each other ignoring all differences of caste, creed, color or religion. Just about everyone becomes an expert discussing each and every aspect of the game.

For example, I myself follow the game but am not an ardent follower or die hard cricket fanatic. But what charges me is the spirit and the liveliness of the fans. Someone holding a transistor in a busy local bus or the busy Mumbai local trains or near a chai shop to know the latest score. They shout for their team and pray for one single cause - an Indian win with a wide spectrum of human emotions on display.

Isn't it amazing? So much so that the drama of the game continues off the pitch, and in recent weeks, the marketing and the branding fraternity has not left any stone unturned in cheering for the men in blue. This is exactly what Nike, the official apparel sponsor for Team India did in its latest ad.

Nike has signed a 43-million-dollar deal to kit out the Indian cricket team after outbidding rivals Reebok and Adidas, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said.

The five-year contract, which starts on January 1, 2006, also gives the US sports goods giant the rights to sell the BCCI's official merchandise at its retail outlets across the country.

Nike's bid for 1.97 billion rupees (43 million dollars) topped Reebok's 1.19 billion rupees and Adidas's bid of 1.28 billion rupees, BCCI vice-president Lalit Modi said on Friday.

The ad is a little too long and can be bracketed as a short movie snippet. It starts with a typical Indian scene, a traffic jam (something very common in all Indian cities) and the city that is highlighted is Mumbai, home to some of the best cricketers the world has ever produced. It's like "I think cricket, I drink cricket, I breathe cricket".

One go-getting boy jumps on to the roof of a bus while another gets on to an adjacent bus and thus the virtual cricket pitch is formed instantly. The game starts amidst the crowd trapped in the traffic blockade. The batsman hits the ball hard and like a projectile it hits a hoarding and then a balcony and after passing through 'N' number of hands, the ball suddenly gets under a moving car and one of the fielders risks his life to collect the ball. Note the elephant there in the video, I feel it symbolises the Rising Elephant economy growing at a rate of more than 8% a year. Watch more below, aaram se.

North-south, east-west, rich-poor, men-women, rural-urban, Hindu-Muslim, a craze bordering on madness unites the nation when it comes to cricket. One of my cousins, studying in standard seven in the US asks me for the blue T-shirt of Indian cricket team in case he doesn't travel to India once a year. It's a must-buy in his list when he is in Bangalore, else I have to send it somehow may it be by post or through some person. The reason: my cousin wears this blue T-shirt whenever India plays any important cricket match. Few call this craziness but even though he is born and brought up in the US, he is still soaked with cricket-mania.

The matches, the highlights, the strike-rates, the pre-match predictions, the post-match analysis, the schedule, the records, the cricketing histories, and other nitty gritties of the game would be feeders for all forms of media such as newspapers, blogs and television in the coming few days. So let me leave that part here and get into some interesting stuff.

India's latest pace sensation Sreesanth is all set to rock cricket fans. It is not his bowling that I am talking about here [though I want that too], but his song, the lyrics of which he wrote himself. His 6-year old niece lends a seraphic tone to the song. Watch more here.

"It is a motivational song that gives a feeling that the whole nation is there for the team to support them in their ups and downs. It gives a dream that we are going to win the World Cup.

"The song has to be there on the lips of all Indians at the Caribbean grounds to motivate the players," Sreesanth adds.

How can you think of the World Cup and forget noodle strap, Mandira Bedi, who will once again anchor Extra Innings on SET. This time she will drape herself in saris, specially designed by fashion house Satya Paul. So from noodle strap to no strap, rest all hoooo la la lee le ho hoooo la la lee le ho. The saris will be auctioned by online website eBay after the mega event and will include flags of the participating nations, signatures of players, a red cricket ball, newspaper mastheads and cricket figurines.

Mandira Bedi has also acted in a movie "Meerabai Not Out" made by her husband Raj Kaushal. Meera, a 30-year-old lady is a teacher in a school, hails from a middle class family that lives in Mumbai's Shivaji Park, the mecca for budding cricketers. Since she is 30, she is in a kind of a set-up where she seems to have missed the boat as far as marriage is concerned. Of course, her family is still on her case to get her married soon but she is not interested; her first love being cricket.

The World Cup has always been garnished with spicy anecdotes, which make it even more interesting. From the dressing room gossips to the food to the late nightouts if one is across the other side of the Caribbean, everything becomes the flavor of the season. The fans just go crazy and the media, the sponsors even the restaurants all over, try to score on it. Like it happened to me yesterday.

I along with two of my friends, started for a late night dinner in some restaurant near my residence. We heard some loud music before entering the food hall, only to realize that something special was happening in a pub, "The Legends of Rock", adjacent to the dinning hall. To satisfy our curiosity we barged into the pub only to find that a live coverage of cheering hangama for the Indian Team being shot by Headlines Today, one of the leading news channel of India today. This was part of the cheering campaign before Team India left for the West Indies on Feb 28th'07.

The time has arrived yet again and it will be no different. The game of cricket would be at its glorious best along with its favorite sons aiming for the trophy. This tournament has always been a test of team spirit and the ability to perform under pressure. At the end of the day, the team that displays power, performance and passion for the game, will be the ultimate winner. So let's get set, all equipped with our lucky charms, anthems and prayers to be with our teams as the battle begins.

By the way, do you know what is the official song for World Cup 2007? It's 'The Game of Love and Unity', sung by Jamaican-born reggae star Shaggy, Barbadian entertainer Rupee and Trinidadian Faye-Ann Lyons. Yes it's the same old Grammy Award winner, Shaggy, best known for his hit singles Oh Carolina, It Wasn't Me, Angel and many others.

Tanay, a simple person. Has four simple needs in life: to read lots, to meet lots of people, talk and interact, to have his laptop connection in place always, to travel anywhere and everywhere.Wants to work for United Nations soon. You can read my blogs here .
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