It is just 7 am and a cricket match is on at the Margappata grounds. While many fielders are just ambling around still trying to wake up from their sleep, there is one soul shouting, clapping his hands and trying to motivate his team. He is one of the best fielders in his team and has been strategically posted at deep mid-on for stopping the quick singles as well as to take those sky-high catches when the batsmen slog towards long-on.
Suddenly, his ever alert eyes catch the ball rushing towards the boundary to his right. He runs towards the ball with a spring in his step, does a full-scale dive, catches the ball, does a perfect roll-over (He prides himself on having watched hundreds of cricket videos to learn the perfect dive-and-stop) and throws the ball at the non-striker’s end. It is a flat, hard throw and the aim was perfect. The ball hits the top of the leg stump, sending it into a cartwheel. He is delighted! He shouts in exhilaration and runs towards the pitch punching his fists in the air.But…..
But, no one else from his team is running towards him. He reaches the non-striker end, picks up the ball. Everyone else is looking towards the third-man and the batsmen are nonchalantly taking the second run! He then hears the dreaded words…
Welcome to the world of cricket, in India! A world, where it is not enough if your fielding skills are good enough to stop the ball and throw them back, but good enough to stop the “correct” ball, the one your group is playing with!
Usually before a match, teams huddle together and discuss strategy. But, in matches in India, the teams huddle together and pray, because they need all the luck that they can have. Luck, that will ensure that the balls hit by their batsmen reach the boundary avoiding the dozens of other people standing in the ground and luck, that will ensure that ever-so-willing fielders from other games would stop the balls hit by their opponents!
It is not only for luck that they have to pray for. They also have to pray for their safety as they not only have to fear the fast bowlers in the opponent team but also the hard hitters in the match going on few feet away from them.Cricket, and not Hinduism, Islam or Christianity encourages so many prayers. No wonder cricket is considered the number one religion in India!