Friday, March 23, 2007

AS THE CRICKET WORLD TURNS

NOT WHAT WAS EXPECTED. News of the strangulation of Pakistan's national cricket team coach at the ICC World Cup in the West Indies is drawing attention to the world of cricket. Not the kind of attention the sport wants or needs, but attention. You can follow the ICC World Cup online. Even if you know very little about cricket (except that it's like baseball with only two bases and no foul lines), the fact that it draws multiple millions more fans than any American-based sport should pique some interest.

NEW FROM WEST INDIES. So far, three news items have dominated the 2007 ICC World Cup: (1) top-seed Pakistan losing two of its three first-round games--and bowing out of the tournament; (2) the murder of Pakistan's coach, who was reported to be in the process of writing a book about the sport's game-fixing underside; and (3) the defeat of cricket powerhouse India.

IMPACT OF INDIA'S DEFEAT. The biggest news from today is India's defeat at the hands of its tiny neighbor to the south, Sri Lanka. Having been upset last weekend by its eastern neighbor Bangladesh, Team India is out of the ICC World Cup at the end of the first round. Tournament organizers and media magnets are scrambling to assess the monetary damage India's ouster causes. India has nearly 300,000,000 avid cricket fans who have a religious fixation on their boys in blue. But, alas, they will no longer be tuned in to TV and radio; revenue from media and ads is now expected to be dismal.

THE POWER OF CRICKET. While I rode my bicycle through the heart of India in January and February, one of the constants from south to north was the nation's obsession with cricket. Little children played it in sandlots. Youth picked up a game in the school yard. Bats were on bicycle racks. It dominated TV sports and news. Intrigue within Team India made front-page headlines. Combine American youth and adult interest in driveway basketball, backyard baseball, football, and soccer and all of that at professional and international league play and you begin to approach the power of cricket. It's the Indian national pastime--on steroids.

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