Cricket-crazy Chennai – Tedly’s becoming a fan

It’s the second most popular sport on planet Earth.

It’s played in 120 countries at an international level (mostly former British territories).

It was MORE popular than baseball in America until the Civil War (1860s).

Now, it’s almost completely unknown in the Americas.

But for us Earth Vagabonds — living 12 of the last 18 months in India — we see it being played most every day.

It’s CRICKET! And I’m finally taking notice and trying to understand the game.

In fact, the professional cricket season is just starting here in India. Our local team is the Chennai Super Kings. I had heard some buzz about the new season (the Super Kings are the defending champions). Seemed like it would be fun to see a ‘big league’ match in person.

Indeed, I have enjoyed going to foreign professional sporting events during our years of global wandering. But as you might guess, it’s usually been soccer (in Mexico, Indonesia, Bulgaria). After all, it’s estimated that nearly half the population of the earth are soccer fans. Most everywhere we’ve been, kids are commonly seen kicking a soccer ball around.

It will probably surprise Americans, but here’s a table from “World Atlas” of sport popularity worldwide:

1. 3.5 billion fans — Soccer (football)

2.  2.5 billion fans –Cricket

3.   2  billion fans — Hockey (ice/field)

4.   1  billion fans — Tennis

5.   900 million fans — Volleyball

6.   850 million fans — Table Tennis

7.   800 million fans — Basketball

8.   500 million fans — Baseball

9.   475 million fans — Rugby

10.  450 million fans — Golf

Truthfully, in all our months in India, only twice have I seen a soccer ball. Everyday, everyplace — it’s cricket!

This would then explain why getting tickets to a Chennai Super Kings match turned out to be impossible.

Cricket game hunt

The population of the Chennai metropolis is estimated at 12 to 15 million persons. The home town stadium seats 38,000 maximum. Season ticket holders are a majority of that number. Tickets for sale to the public are via online lottery (with local payment card required). Impossible!

I tried. I recruited a couple Indian friends to get tickets. I was willing to pay $25-$30 each for cheap seats (online tickets start at $20) and treat them to the game – including food and drink beforehand. 

No chance! Despite their inquiries and efforts, no tickets could be had.

On game day, I rode my bike to the stadium area. Just like in the US, a party atmosphere was in full swing hours before match time. Police were out in force, roads closed, vendors selling merch everywhere… but tickets — impossible. Not even any scalpers.

Watching the game

Instead of an in-person experience, I ended up watching the game at a local ‘sports bar’. Sounds normal enough, but I assure you, such ‘western style’ establishments are rare in India — and in most developing nations. Bottom line; drinking is frowned upon and expensive for most the local populations. Such western-type venues are often only found in nicer hotels.

Nevertheless, I met up with Venkat – a young guy we met at a gym. He took me on his motorbike to a decent bar/restaurant called the Ministry of Drinks. They did indeed have drinks; a full bar, including draft beers — and chicken wings too. The photos below show me and Venkat and the place, including the big projection TV screen. 

I enjoyed a few big cold brews (Venkat: soda pop only) and we ate and watched with a crowd of a few dozen revelers. Total bill with tip: $32. Venkat was kind enough to help me better understand the game and rules (I did study online first). The Super Kings defeated the Gujarat Titans 206 to 143.

For the record, it was an Indian Premier League (IPL) match-up in the T20 format (that means 20 “overs”/6 bowls per over) — a condensed, more exciting style of the game, which traditionally can take literally DAYS to play a single match. The league features other Indian teams like: Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Hyderabad Sunrisers, and Delhi Capitals.

In fact, some of my British friends say the best players in the world play in the IPL. And they enjoy watching the games back in the UK via satellite.

Overall, it was another neat travel experience. And I feel I have a basic grasp of the game. Yes, it’s somewhat like baseball — but also quite different. (Here’s an overview). 

A few cricket facts:

  • The bowler (pitcher) is NOT allowed to ‘snap’ the elbow when throwing (like a baseball pitcher). Thus they make a long ‘run-up’ and fling the ball with an arcing straight-arm motion.
  • The cricket ball is almost the same size and weight as a standard fast-pitch baseball… but is slightly harder.
  • The only player permitted to wear a mitt/glove during a game is the “wicket keeper”/catcher.
  • A cricket bat/paddle is 4.5 inches wide (twice the width of baseball bats).
  • The bowler (pitcher) tries to hit the wicket with each bowl. The batsman stands in front of and ‘protects’ the wicket — swatting away each bowl.
  • A “home run” is called a “SIX”, and counts for six runs. A batted ball that bounces or rolls over the playing field boundary counts for four runs.

I would still like to see some live cricket. I’m thinking maybe I can find a high school or college level game to attend in the coming weeks while still in India. Of course, there’s always kids playing in the streets, on the beach, in parks, etc. I’m sure they’d let me take a few swings with the cricket bat. That might be even more fun.

As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

About Theo

Tedly (Theo) retired early from the news business to wander the planet with wife Ellen. He enjoys exploring all Earth has to offer: jungles and beaches, volcanoes and deserts – always drinking beer along the way.

Thanks for reading, “Cricket-crazy Chennai – Tedly’s becoming a fan.”

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