Cheers for Cricket – The New York Times

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Vivek Shankar, an editor for The Times.

A stadium packed with thousands of raucous fans. The atmosphere electric. Hundreds of millions more glued to TVs. Two teams — Australia and India — at the top of their game.

It could well have been last Sunday’s World Cup final in Ahmedabad, India, but this instance was nearly eight years ago at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Supporters of both teams had turned out in overwhelming numbers.

At a pivotal moment during the second half of the match, a voice rang out in a section of the stadium: “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!” The local fans responded dutifully, “Oi! Oi! Oi!”

The same voice then led another cry — in Hindi. “Triumphant! Triumphant! India will be triumphant!”

My wife and I had just moved to Sydney after a long stint in San Francisco. I was excited to again live in a cricket-loving country and introduce my better half, an American, to the absorbing pleasures of the game, both at a stadium and on TV.

Growing up in India, cricket was all around me. I never had any special abilities at the sport, nor was I an ardent student of the game, but I played every chance I got, like so many other kids. So I did not miss cricket much when I moved to the United States in my 20s. Yes, I hunched in front of a computer screen for hours to watch the odd match, but I was not a dedicated follower of the game, even as streaming technology made it easier and easier to catch the action.

Landing in Australia changed that. It seemed there was always some form of cricket being broadcast, children were playing it in parks and on beaches, and it was possible to see the professionals at some of the most iconic venues of the sport.

I started playing again, in a recreational league, with Sydney’s majestic beaches providing the perfect balm for sore limbs no longer used to the rigors of the game. But there was nothing like cheering on India at what was, in a way, now my home stadium, the Sydney Cricket Ground.

One of those times was the night that the fan was leading cheers for both India and Australia. My guess was he was an Indian immigrant, like me, in Australia, and had fallen for his new home. But his support for the Aussie team — a famously ruthless outfit — did not compute.

Looking back, it should have.

Over the decades, cricketers of South Asian descent had played for West Indies, England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. There have been other instances of cross pollination, with, for instance, West Indian heritage represented on the English team.

C.L.R. James, in his seminal book “Beyond a Boundary,” explored how cricket, a game popularized by British colonizers, played a role in breaking down barriers like class and race. That night at the S.C.G., perhaps I needed to cross the boundary of identity.

By the time it was Sunday night in Seoul, where my wife and I now live, the nearly seven-week long World Cup had minted a new cricket fan — our five-year-old son. He was born in Australia, and it is where his cricket allegiance lies.

When India’s loss was official, it was not all heartbreak in our apartment. The resident Australian supporter, who had fallen asleep during India’s innings, had just awaken to see Glenn Maxwell, one of his favorite players, score the winning runs. It was the stuff of dreams.

Now for this week’s stories:

  • Hall Is Suing Oates. Over What Is a Mystery. The duo, whose songs regularly appeared on the top of the charts, is embroiled in some kind of legal dispute, but a judge in Tennessee has sealed the court file.

  • How Electricity Is Changing, Country by Country. Renewable electricity is rising quickly, but the world’s power mix remains heavy on fossil fuels — for now.

  • 100 Notable Books of 2023. Each year, we pore over thousands of new books, seeking out the best novels, memoirs, biographies, poetry collections, stories and more. Here are the standouts, selected by the staff of The New York Times Book Review.

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