Australia smashed India in the latest test match, played in Pune. My resident advisor on all things sport explains to me that this is unheard of. ‘India is unbeatable when they play at home. They’re the strongest cricket team in the world,’ he says. ‘This hasn’t happened since 2004.’
I’m not even interested in sport, but I’m disappointed that there’s been a reversal of fortune this time around.
If it’s a contest between my two homes of India and Australia, I will always be rooting for India. It’s not just that it’s where I was born, the place where I grew up, the country where something deep and visceral in me feels absolutely right in a way that it doesn’t anywhere else. No, it’s a simple matter of mathematics. If India wins, a billion people will be ecstatic. If Australia is victorious, there’ll be a mild case of happiness for a few million. When India triumphs at cricket, the sum of human happiness around the globe is increased mightily, which on some cosmic plane, has to be good for the universe.
Anyone who has spent time in the Subcontinent cannot help but be aware of its love affair with the gentleman’s game. Eighteen months ago I was back, and delighted to see that the national obsession has not waned. Everywhere you look: in vacant city blocks, in dusty village streets, in factory warehouses during lunch breaks, in fields in the middle of nowhere as you trundle past on a long train journey, even precariously on the flat roofs of houses, are little boys and bigger boys and young men playing cricket with an enthusiasm that defies the ferocious heat and enervating humidity.
I was often asked “Where are you coming from?” and when I responded “Australia,” a look of near rapture would come over the faces of my interviewers, because they associate this country with cricket. The fact that this particular Australian knows next to nothing about the game wouldn’t stop them going into rapturous accolades about our star players and theirs.
They revere talented cricketers of every race, even if, like Shane Warne, they commit unforgiveable sins such as taking cans of baked beans to eat in a country that has arguably the best cuisine on the planet.
When there’s a big match on, the country comes to a standstill, and if India wins, the streets explode in jubilant celebration.
So, take a leaf out of my book. Barrack for human happiness. Barrack for India.
Published in The Melbourne Age 3 March 2017