I have finally found my legitimate claim for being unique: I don’t follow cricket.
Yes, you heard me right. Despite being born and raised in Sri Lanka, and still being based there about half of my time, I have never been a great fan of cricket. I must be the only one in my office who gets a decent night’s sleep these days. Practically everyone stays up till the wee hours of the morning watching live TV broadcasts of the ICC World Cup cricket matches taking place literally on the other side of the globe: the West Indies.
There’s now a very close nexus between television and cricket. Live broadcasts beam instantly into our living rooms the action on a cricket field anywhere on the planet. In fact, thanks to the zoom-ins, slow-motion instant replays and other techniques, those who watch a cricket match on the small screen can share the action even better than the few thousand who witness it physically at the stadium. (And the screens are no longer very small: across cricket-crazy South Asia, sales have soared for plasma screens of increasingly large – if not mostrous – sizes.)
The man who made all this possible is slightly bemused — but not one bit affected — by all this frenzy. Sir Arthur C Clarke, science fiction author, futurist and inventor of the communications satellite, sits in his living room, pondering the near and far future of humanity that he helped transform into a Global Village.
That’s the only other person in the whole of Colombo that I know who isn’t infected by the current World Cup fever. (See my other post today for views of a rare Indian who doesn’t follow cricket and instead prefers to watch old movies.)
Writing a foreword to the UNDP’s Human Development Report in 2003, Sir Arthur noted: “Today, television rules how Sri Lankans work, dine and socialise. And when an important cricket match is being broadcast live, I have to look hard to find any signs of life on the streets of Colombo.”
We might opt out of following the cricket, making ourselves rather dull conversationalists these days, but if we dare to utter even a word against this de facto religion of South Asians, dire consequences are sure to follow.
A decade ago, Sir Arthur had a first hand experience to prove this. In a wide-ranging media interview, he told a visiting Reuters correspondent that he shared some people’s skepticism that cricket was the slowest form of animal life, because it takes so long. (A Test match can take as many as five full days, and still end without a clear result!).
Having mis-heard Sir Arthur, the Reuters man filed his story saying Arthur C Clarke calls cricket the `lowest form of life’.
That was enough to stir up a mini storm. It couldn’t have come at a worse time — Sri Lanka had just won the 1996 cricket World Cup and the country was still euphoric. For weeks, Sir Arthur had to cope with irate Sri Lankan cricket fans — as he told a visiting American journalist from The Philadelphia Inquirer, ‘I had a lot of explaining to do’.
Moral of the story:
1. Be always careful when talking to journalists.
2. Keep your criticism of cricket strictly to yourself.