Indian national sport Cricket in Germany?
Silence. Suddenly a loud black resounds, the kind that can only come from a hard, leather ball with a cork core that hits a wooden bat at a speed of ca. 120km/h. All eyes look into the air and two men – holding the same kind of wooden bats in their hands – start wildly running back and forth. This is a typical cricket scene – except it isn’t being played in the Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata or on the Wankhede pitch in Mumbai, but rather on a field in Bonn’s Rheinaue park.
Cricket in Germany? Yeah, it exists. And maybe more than you thought. Even I had heard about cricket at one time or another, that game that people in India, for example, are so crazy about, kind of they way we are about football. So I knew what it was and even knew the difference between cricket and crocket. I don’t think that many people in Germany can say that.
Licking blood in EnglandAdmittedly, the first time I saw cricket in action was outside of Germany, during a two week school exchange in England. I was 16. I saw the strange way of throwing the ball in this windmill movement (bowling) for the first time. I saw a batman wind up for the first time. And, for the first time, I saw how nine players attempt to catch as fast as they could as it hissed through the air.
Football, no thanks.I’m not sure exactly why, but the game immediately piqued my interest in its own peculiar way. I never really became close with football, Germany’s favorite sport. For some reason, I never understood what all the fuss around this black-and-white checkered ball was about. I was completely indifferent to watching the ball go back and forth for 90 minutes, unless it was the World Cup or European Cup.
Maybe what fascinated me about cricket was how foreign, strange and even a bit absurd it seemed. The players’ appearances, their equipment, these three weird poles in the ground, the supposed boring parts, the incomprehensible terminology, the thousands of rules, and, and, and … For me it was immediately clear: This could be your sport. So in England I threw my first balls and got acquainted with the windmill technique.
The ball was in the air. Now someone just had to hit it.
Bonn, surprisingly interculturalBack home, I googled everything I could about Bonn and Cricket. I didn’t have my hopes up, since cricket is about as popular in Germany as vegetables are to children. I knew that cricket was a colonial export played across the entire Commonwealth. What was surprising to me, was how present the Commonwealth is in Bonn. When Bonn was the capital of the country, there were a lot of foreign representatives here and it’s still home to some intellectual institutions that didn’t move to the new capital, Berlin. Things like Deutsche Welle, DAAD and UNESCO.
So I found what I was looking for on the Deutsche Welle website. They were list different sports from around the world, among them, cricket. I ignored the message saying, “employees only.” I thought for think kind of fringe sport, and support would be welcome.
And that’s exactly how it was. After sending a mail saying I was suffering from cricket fever and would like to cure it by playing regularly, I promptly got a response from the team captain.
Unknown and hard to findThe night of my first practice, I had to search for a while, before finding the gymnasium on a high school campus. I asked a few teenage playing football (what else?) on the school pitch. Their reaction was sobering. “Cricket? What is that supposed to be? Are you sure they have it here?” I was about to give up and then, through the twilight, I could make out eleven men carrying big bags and bats. I got nervous and suddenly was no longer even sure if it was a good idea to start playing cricket in Germany. Nevertheless, I went up to the group.
I was warmly welcomed by everyone. I found out that most of the team came from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and that only a few of them actually worked at Deutsche Welle. I was still only 16, so I was about 15 years younger than the other players. But they seemed really interested – and sincere – in being finally able to see a German bowl and bat.
So that’s how my cricket career started, on December 6th, 2001, in a gymnasium in Tannenbusch. For a whole year, I learned every Tuesday night the proper swing when bowling and the proper technique for batting. I threw, hit and ran. I was getting more and more into the world of cricket.
Now I know that Germany even has a national cricket team, which has participated in global tournaments since 1990, but only after 20 years, in 2010, did it succeed in coming in second place at the European Cup. One of the eleven main players on the national team, an Australian by birth, even once played on my team.
Bonn, a cricket strongholdWith five teams and several smaller school teams from Bonn’s international schools, we were able to hold some friendly games one weekend in the Rheinaue park complex in Bonn. Cricket was always in the foreground, but there was much more. This tournament united fans from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia and England. And the players’ families were always part of the cheers when something happened on the pitch.
Cricket on the Rhein – Cricket on the YamunaMy father was pretty excited when he accompanied me to my first cricket game. He was excited for a sport packed with action, where you swing a bat around you while wearing protective pads. After about a half hour, while the batter was being change, someone tapped me on the shoulder. “Hey, I think it’s boring. Are you going to play on, or is the match over? My father seemed disillusioned. Like many others, he was asking himself if this was actually the kind of sport where a lot of it is “just standing around and waiting for something to happen.”
I had to laugh and let him go home. Who wants to make their bored, grumpy father sit around for hours on a field in the midday heat of summer? That evening, he explained in detail to my mother how little actually happens in cricket. I guess he only thought a small portion of it was interesting – when I was throwing my twelve balls (two over).
Today I live in India, one of the most cricket crazed countries that exists. The World Cup just ended, the IPL (analogous to our Bundesliga for football) is on. Now I can follow a lot of the games on TV, which was only possible in Germany in certain pubs. I’ve already planned a trip to visit the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground. It’s been a dream of mine since my cricket days in Bonn in the summer, on the green fields of the American sector, next to the Rhein, to see a professional team play live. In this case, it will be the Delhi Daredevils.
And whoever comes to Germany and feels the need to bowl a few balls on the pitch or to land a few good balls with a bat, they should definitely seek it out. It’s worth it.