How I did the unthinkable as an Irishman and watched a cricket match
I am from Ballyfermot. This working class area of Dublin is a very sporting area. Almost all sports are represented, however, there is one that is taboo. That is the sport of Cricket, a lot of Ireland feels that this sport is one of the biggest symbols of English colonialism.
I had expected to live my life and watch every sport that I learned of, give every one of them equal chances, however, cricket would never even be considered, surely my mother would disown me for such a breach of trust. Circumstances change though, and for me this came in the form of a relationship with an Indian. In India cricket seems to hold a place near sainthood, and my girlfriend was no different.
I felt myself explaining cricket’s relationship to Ireland a lot. A nebulous job that I wasn’t truly sure of. Ireland has a cricket team, however, the team I always assumed it was a concession, a vestigial aspect of the Anglo-Irish in Ireland. I know some of the wealthier schools and areas can play cricket but for the majority of the country if you ask why they do not like cricket, the simple answer will be “because I’m Irish.”
Nationalism is an important part of the Irish identity, it is not as tainted here as in other countries. In other countries nationalism is the fight against the minority, the exclusion of those unfamiliar. Irish nationalism involves the fight against oppression and as is seen through the fans of Celtic FC, and the party Sinn Fein, Irish nationalism is the nationalism of the underdog and the unrelenting adherence to anti-racism.
My relationship meant I had to watch some form of cricket. My girlfriend had to support Manchester United in football and Dublin in the GAA. It would be hypocritical not to do the same for her, however, for a while it still felt dirty, years of being proudly Irish now seemed to slip into fragility. I had to support Cricket teams, and also learn the rules of the game. I wondered if that was even possible for a proud Dubliner?
My first option was to pick teams. The club team was easy, Royal Challengers Bangalore, my girlfriend’s home town team, it became mine, an easy exchange. I can be quite stubborn and when I began to learn the rules I would see cricket scores. When I told people that I would be learning of this alien sport. One thing was certain I could never support the Irish Cricket team, I am under no
The Indian Premier League is the biggest club cricket league in the world. There are some differences between that and the football system, for instance there is a draft. This is not the only American sports style change, there is a league that results in the top four teams entering into a play-off system. It is a closed league. That means there is no promotion or relegation. The most beautiful thing in sports has to be the system of footballing organisations where you could start a football club in your back garden and with however unrealistically end up in the champions league playing against Barcelona in the next thirty years. American sports don’t allow this and it seems the cricket world doesn’t either.
I had done my research, I knew a wicket and a run but it was still a long way to be able to tell a batsman from his partner and the other rules that come easy to those raised in a cricket friendly country. The first match of the IPL season came and to my luck my new team where first up. The Bangalore Royal Challengers took on Chennai Super Kings at M.A.Chidambaram Stadium, in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. To my surprise I was excited. It was my first cricket game. I think of myself as a loyal man and when I said to my girlfriend I would support the Bangalore Royal Challengers, I meant it, I would have to support them like I did any other team.
I watched the pre-match build up, the little I could understand. The captain of the Bangalore team was Virat Kohli, who is India’s captain and is considered one of the best cricketeers in the world. The game started and Bangalore where the first to bat. I was clueless, whenever anything happened I had to revert to the Indian sitting next to me. I would be excited when they got one run from ten balls, only to be told to calm down. I would be upset when the batsmen switched thinking I missed something.
This match was an oddity though. Virat Kohli was taken out of the game early due to a catch and from there the Royal Challengers would just go downhill, all their batsman struggled to get anything other than 1 or 2’s. This is T20 format of the cricket, and the average score will be somewhere in the one-fifty to two-hundred realm. Bangalore scored seventy. This was the equivalent of scoring one out of five penalties. My first time supporting a cricket team and they scored ridiculously low and lost. Chennai went on to win the game at a cantor. The commentators said it down to the ‘defensive play’ of the Chennai team. This was my first cricket game, to say I saw this ‘defensive play’ would be dishonest. I was still living as an Irishman thrust into cricket fandom but still hopelessly lost in ignorance of the game.