It’s been really evident on my Insta stories recently that I am a cricket fan! And I’ve been talking about this cricket world cup to anyone who will listen! Even my Jhoomers – who are not at all interested – have been subjected to my witterings on about how well or badly the teams are doing. And, I’ve had a lot of quizzical looks about why I love cricket so much – actually one might call it a bit of an obsession!
As we head into the semi-finals with India playing New Zealand on Tuesday and England playing Australia on Thursday I thought I would explain why cricket is more than just a sport for me. You see cricket for me is a raft of childhood memories, an affinity to my Indian heritage and culture, an ongoing bond with my sister and most importantly an everlasting connection to my husband Jeremy and my father who both loved cricket.
Growing up in Kenya, my father would regularly take us to see cricket matches at the Nairobi Gymkhana – especially when the Indian team were visiting. But, because of the involvement in cricket of my uncle and the fact that my father ran the best Indian restaurants in Nairobi – the cricket team would often visit the restaurants or be invited to our family home for dinner. It was not unusual for the team including Sachin Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Dravid to be milling around with family members.
My most endearing memory of this close friendship that my family had with the cricketers was one morning I stopped at my cousin Anushka’s house to pick her up on the way to school – and I walked into the kitchen – and there sitting in his kurta pajama was the legend himself – Kapil Dev. He had just woken up and was having a cup of masala chai. Yes – those are the kind of fab memories I have – this legend casually drinking tea in my aunt’s kitchen!
My father was a huge India fan – and so my sister and I grew up with that. Although there was a Kenyan team – it wasn’t very good – and we didn’t really support it – we did what my father did – supported India. I suppose it was part our upbringing and part cultural affinity to that perceived notion of our motherland.
Overtime my sister switched allegiances to South Africa – as she feels more of an affinity to Africa then to India.
I on the other hand was a staunch supporter of India. And more so when I moved to England and was blessed to have met my husband Jeremy who also just happened to love cricket! Ah the perfect man! And as he passionately supported England, I equally passionately supported India which led to some fabulously tense rivalry in the house during test series and one day internationals. It was not unusual for us to go up to the Oval to watch both teams playing. And, when the IPL started we both chose different teams – me CSK and him RCB – and so another cricket rivalry was born.
This year, I am hoping for an India v England final. And this year in memory of my darling Jeremy I am supporting England. I know my father won’t mind me switching allegiances! But, as I prepare to leave the country I have called home for 23 years – I realise just how important England has become to me. It is the place that I have spent my whole adult life, the place I have made true friends, the place I have found complete happiness, and the place I found my soulmate and true love in Jeremy. I owe England so very, very much.
So, I am cheering England on – and hey if it is an England v India final – then at least one of the men up there – my husband or my father will be happy with whatever the result is. And, I know they will both be watching, beer in hand – and down here I will be cheering England, but perhaps also wanting India to do well…. I know weird! But at the end of the day it is about loving the sport that has brought me so much joy over the years – and so much human connection – and it continues to do so.
Cricket Meri Jaan!