Who is the craziest cricketer ever

Soccer. What a narrow-chested word. Fssssssssssssssss. You see, all the air is already out. What is left is a slack, wrinkled ball. The English "football" sounds an iota better, but also just an iota. Soccer, my goodness.

Soccer. What a narrow-chested word. Fssssssssssssssss. You see, all the air is already out. What is left is a slack, wrinkled ball. The English "football" sounds an iota better, but also just an iota. Soccer, my goodness. Either way you look at it, it just isn't cricket. If I can allow myself an honest word, then there is only one game in the world (the world begins and ends with India, as is well known), and its name is cricket. C-R-I-C-K-E-T. Roger that?

What do you even know about cricket? First of all, it's very simple: it's a game for gentlemen. Of course, it doesn't matter that there was quite a row in the friendly against Australia recently, because an Australian player claimed that one of ours was racist and called him a monkey. I beg you, are we barbarians? The player in question, Harbhajan Singh (1.1 billion Indians affectionately call him Bhajji), said nothing of the kind, we protested. He only indicated that the other player was, uh. . . Let me start all over again. He just said, yes, hmm, "Mother (...)". And of course he didn't say it in English, but in Punjabi. That's not as bad as "monkey", is it? Who should feel offended?

Cricket as the state religion

And yet we suddenly had an interstate dispute on our backs. It was considered that the whole series of games could be abandoned and the Indian team threatened to leave. The nation's honor was sullied, and pictures of the disdainful Australian were burned all over India. Fortunately, an Australian federal judge absolved our idol of all guilt. Otherwise we would have broken off diplomatic relations, probably would have invaded Down Under and would have done exactly the same thing to the residents as they once did to the Aborigines. But we were right, Bhajji had done no harm. A gentleman from head to toe.

But let's put the whole thing in the right context. It is true that Indians tend to burn, slaughter and blow up their compatriots of other faiths every few years, but when it comes to cricket we forget our politically motivated animosities and stand like one man. Because - I quote - «Cricket is our faith», and Sachin Tendulkar, without question the best batsman in the recent past, is «our God». Alleluia. And amen.

Kicking ricochets

But despite this state-sponsored religion, there are still a few ricochets, crazy people, show-offs and eccentrics who play football or hockey. Admittedly, in a country with a billion or so people, those few are a few million; and strangely enough, until the late 1980s, cricket was hardly more popular than football or hockey. It was the total commercialization of cricket, as a result of which individual players were hyped up to become superstars, which only condemned the other sports to a shadowy existence. It can hardly be assumed that younger Indians still know that from 1928 to 1956 the Indian hockey team won gold at every Olympiad. We played 24 matches at 6 Olympiads and we won every time; and also in 1964 and 1980 our team won the gold medal. The Indian football team, on the other hand, unfortunately does not look back on such a glorious past. Only once, in 1956, did she make it to the semi-finals.

It is strange that India owes its three most popular sports - cricket, hockey and football - to the British colonial rulers. They have supplanted all the traditional games that have been played on the subcontinent for centuries, maybe even millennia. There were games like "Kho-kho", which were played rapidly and with great grace, or games like "Kabbadi", which required stamina, agility and enormous breathing techniques. The Machiavellian British policy of "divide and rule" was used in sport as well as in politics. The differences between religion and caste were also played out to the full in cricket: Catholics, Hindus, Parsees and Muslims had their own sports fields and competed against each other - but for a long time never together, as a cohesive Indian team.

While cricket is ubiquitous on the subcontinent, hockey and football are mainly played in the English-speaking schools, which are mostly run by Catholic or Protestant clergy. Accordingly, these sports are particularly widespread in regions such as Goa, Nagaland or Manipur, where the mission's influence was particularly strong. The real ricochet is West Bengal. The majority of Hindus and Muslims live there, but they are just as crazy about football as the most passionate fans in Switzerland, Italy or Germany. Numerous theories, mostly of a dubious kind, are circulating about the cause of this phenomenon, of which only two are mentioned here. Firstly: The Bengalis may not be white, but they are even better suited to "sahibs" than the British - so their love for football is more or less natural. (They love cricket too, of course.) Second, football appeals to macho more than cricket, and the Bengals idolize machismo. (As if the rest of the Indian population didn't too.)

Sit football

But thanks to the wonders of marketing and publicity, there is also a new form of football on the subcontinent. Since the 2006 World Championships, eagerly watched in Indian bars, clubs, gyms and living rooms, the sport has grown up a generation of disciples. However, they have never come into contact with football; they neither play in the dead ends, nor on Sundays in the streets, nor on one of the few remaining sports fields in Mumbai, like the cricketers do. Instead, these young people fly to Birmingham, Barcelona or Munich at their parents' expense to see a big match.

I myself renounced football in sixth grade in every respect - when I finally realized that the number of own goals rose by 793 percent whenever I was on the field. It wasn't until 2006 that I broke my oath and watched the final between France and Italy. That taught me two things about myself. Actually, I had always thought of myself as an independent and just judgmental person who allows the better side to win. Nonsense with sauce. No matter how much or how little one understands the technical nuances of a game, the human mind is incapable, absolutely incapable, of remaining impartial. Less than ten minutes had passed since kick-off when I was quietly praying that France would win.

Zidane taught me the second lesson. You can be one of the best players in the world, but if you are willing to sacrifice a match to your own righteous anger, you should have gotten the red card long ago, forever. Zidane was the team captain, but instead of using his fantastic gifts in the penalty shootout, he headed Marco Materazzi - and France lost the game.

Oh, one more insignificant comment on this. The Australian judge mentioned at the beginning later said: He would have decided differently if he had known that Bhajji treated opposing players with the endorsement we suggested with great regularity.