» Cover Stories
» World Cup 2003 »
Every morning at 8 am, Dr Maya Sastry is greeted with a familiar sight in her living room—her husband half-asleep in front of the TV, after having stayed up all night to watch a World Cup cricket match. "Who won?" she asks dutifully and he mumbles the winners' name. "Whenever I call him at work, he is not at his desk. At first I was puzzled, but I've figured it out now," says Sastry. Tired from staying up all night, her husband takes short naps in his car.
"Interested in watching World Cup cricket? Seeking sardonic commentaries on cricket? Well, you got company now... We are a bunch of three guys living in a Santa Clara townhouse with a dish network and a 29" TV. Seeking three equally affable cricket junkies." This eye-catching advertisement was posted on craigslist.org, a popular electronic community board in the San Francisco Bay Area. But the quest to find cricket junkies to watch the Cup with did not materialise for Maneesh Sahu, who posted the ad. Sahu and his roommates, Goutham Mallareddy and Amit Bothra, join thousands in the San Francisco Bay Area every night on a cricket vigil. Being ten hours behind SA, the matches start every night as Silicon Valley clocks chime twelve.
Cricket is being beamed, streamed, heard and discussed all over the Valley. Sahu calls up his mother in Bangalore before every match and tells her: "Switch on the TV, the match is starting." Anitha Badrinarayanan calls her parents in Chennai to discuss the finer points of the game while the match is on. Her husband Ramachandran sits with his parents, wife and friends to watch the game while working on his laptop. "I have to get my work done and this is the only way," he says. People have devised innovative strategies to catch up on their sleep—some sleep for a couple of hours before the match, others take short naps while at work. "Lack of sleep?" asks Mallareddy. "If I could do night-outs before the exams, why not for a cricket match?"
Some like Sahu and his roommates, Ramachandran and Sastry, are forking out $300 for a dish network to watch the game in the comfort of their homes. Others like Chirag Panjikar and Aparna S. watch it with others at Stanford University's Bechtel International Centre. Fans also go to places like Kezar's Pub in San Francisco, Banjara Restaurant in Sunnyvale and the Naz8 multiplex in Fremont. "One of our friends isn't watching with us since his wife is not interested in the game," says Bothra. "These are the limitations after you get married. Last year he was a single guy and watched all the games with us." The friend is reduced to watching the Cup on his PC, and calls up Bothra and Co whenever somebody hits a six.
Cyril Hackett, owner of Kezar's Pub-cum-sports bar, got quite a few calls from Indians inquiring if he was showing the Cup. "The Indian community is a large group and if I could tap into their database, I could increase my customers," says Hackett. "On the first day, six people came to thank me, and that's unusual since people take it for granted when we show games." Hackett is charging $5 a game and the next day they show the taped match to patrons. The bar has 14 satellite receivers and 20 TV sets. "I don't understand the game but I am learning," confesses bartender Bridget McCarthy.
Aparna, a computer scientist with AltaVista, has bought two Stanford season passes. She watched the last Cup too at Stanford. "AltaVista has a deal with cricinfo.com that allows users to search the site's content and this deal was specially put together for the Cup," she says. And to help the cricket project team understand the sport, Aparna is planning to take a bunch of engineers to SA for the India-Pakistan match. She's hoping that she get the tickets. "We haven't yet started issuing tickets. I expect to have it sold out in a day," says Panjikar, president of the Stanford Cricket Club.
"I'll probably have a lot of sleepless nights," says Hackett. "But then, it's the pride of the country that is involved." As Bothra puts it: "It's a game beyond boundaries." Says Sastry: "I have to do it somehow. Basically, this comes only once in four years. Of course, I watched our boys perform against Holland the other day and was absolutely livid. I vowed never to watch them play, but then I've made this promise and broken it many, many, many times."