One of the problems with being married to a Canadian is that I so often have to defend the sport of cricket. "What is the deal?" asks my ice hockey loving brother-in-law.
"You're seriously telling me that you can watch a match that lasts five days and ends in a draw?" I attempt to fight my corner but it's a difficult thing to do when faced with complete ignorance. So imagine my surprise as I was cycling around Stanley Park in Vancouver and came across a game of cricket.
The fact that I was cycling was a big enough surprise – Vancouver has that effect on you. Everyone is rollerblading or jogging or cycling – on their way to a hike or a 10-mile swim or a touch of zip-lining. Anyway, I cycle round a corner admiring the city skyline over the bay when I come across the surreal scene of a cricket match. This isn't some weird one-off set up by gung-ho tourists. It's a proper pitch with two proper teams playing a proper match. I make some enquiries and it turns out that Vancouver has a huge community from the subcontinent and they are all mad keen on the game.
Now, I've played cricket in some weird places – on a salt lake in the middle of the Syrian Desert, on a lava field in Iceland, I even visited the venue where the one and only game of cricket ever played in North Korea took place (a match just outside Pyongyang between a club from Shanghai and a mixture of ex-pats and bemused locals). I never, however, expected to see a game in Canada.
Cricket is having a bit of an international resurgence right now with the rise of Twenty20 and the IPL. According to the powers-that-be the second biggest market in the world for the game is ... America. Obviously it is up against powerful established sports like basketball, baseball and American football but the Indians think that the simplicity of Twenty20 – "basically you go out and try to hit the ball hard' might just work in the US. There is cricket already played in the States – there are over 20 million people from the subcontinent, the West Indies etcetera who have the game in their blood. I dread to think what the TV networks would do to it if the game ever did take off.
"Here comes the next batterman – this guy's going to have to pull some super-sixes out of the bag if he wants to help the Seattle Sloggers. Meanwhile Biff, what do you think about the Texas Tonkers pulling in some close catchers on this new batterman? They've got a Stupid Point and a Short-Ass Leg – this guy is going to have to feel some pressure here..."
Cricket's international resurgence doesn't stop there however. When I was at the Beijing Olympics I got talking to an official who told me that cricket was something that could really work in China and that they were actively trying to get the game going in the country. Given their record in making things like this happen I wouldn't put it past them. Cricket is already played extensively in Hong Kong so the seed is already sown. Just imagine the scene in 20 years' time when the Chinese team are kicking our butts in a three-way series with the US? Imagine the shame when even more countries around the world start to add to our summers of disappointment.
Another surprise addition to the world cricket scene is Afghanistan. Refugees from the war there ended up in Pakistan and got the cricketing bug. They brought it back to the country and it's taken off like wildfire with them only narrowly missing out on a place in the last World Cup. If the international powers-that-be thought there were security issues in Pakistan, imagine the trouble with a Test series in Afghanistan. "You join us at the Helmand Oval where play has been suspended due to a mortar attack. This gives me time to have a chat with Beefy who has been out and about in a Hijab with Ross Kemp today. Beefy, how was it?"
Back in Stanley Park we lay our bikes on the grass and sit down in the scorching sun to watch a bit of the cricket. It's only a matter of minutes before some Canadians stop next to us and start asking questions: "Is it true you can play for five days and still get a draw?" Here we go again...
Heat is on as Vancouver gears up for Olympics
It was nearing 40 degrees centigrade as I cycled through gorgeous Vancouver – difficult to imagine that there's going to be a Winter Olympics here in six months... That must be a record for a venue?Reuse content