South Asians in US agog over Mohali battle

March 28th, 2011 - 3:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Sachin Tendulkar Washington, March 28 (IANS) With three teams from South Asia in the semi-finals of the cricket World Cup, the large South Asian community in North America are all agog about the upcoming mother of all sporting battles between India and Pakistan in Mohali on Wednesday.

Millions of Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan cricket fans speaking a myriad tongues have watched the progress of their favourite teams for over a month, spending sleepless nights or getting up at unearthly hours to watch their favourite game.

“India has been doing very well,” Ali, a Pakistani cabbie from Lahore, tells his Indian fare returning from a trip to New York. “I was watching India’s match with Australia” in the quarter final on the computer, he informs helpfully.

“India has a good batting side, Pakistan has a good bowling one,” he says, analysing the prospects of the traditional rivals. “Whoever wins the semi-final should win the Cup too!”

“That way the Cup will come back to the neighbours,” Ali, glossing over the two countries’ not so friendly relations, told IANS.

Like Ali, Mukesh Kumar from Faridabad, who works for the World Bank, gets up early to watch feeds of the World Cup on his laptop before rushing to catch the metro to his office downtown.

Others Skype with friends and relatives back home to discuss if Sachin Tendulkar would be able to get a century of centuries at Mohali or would he end his World cup run at the nervous 99.

In their search for the best way to watch Cricket World Cup 2011 in the US, where cricket is a strange animal, fans have turned to satellite DISH or DirecTV, both of which offered “Cricket Ticket” packages for $149 in HD.

Those without satellite can go to Willow TV, an exclusive 24/7 online network dedicated to cricket in North America. For $129, they can watch all the games live on a browser via personal computer or on their mobiles and other IP ready devices including Google TV, Roku, and Samsung Internet@TV.

Willow acquired the exclusive rights to distribute cricket’s marquee competition on television, broadband and the Internet in the United States through an agreement with ESPN STAR Sports (ESS), ICC’s global broadcast and production partner.

ESPN or other major cable networks are not telecasting the Cup in the US,

but game updates and results are available at ESPNCricInfo.com

In a first of its kind move, Hindi general entertainment channel Star Plus has been broadcasting highlights of the World Cup throughout North America since Feb 26.

Americans today may not know much about cricket, but the game has been played in the US since the country was still a British colony, according to www.america.gov, a State Department website.
The troops of George Washington, who became the first US president, played cricket. The grandfather of the third president, Thomas Jefferson, also played cricket.

Today, there are more than 100,000 active cricket players in America, it says citing Rohit Kulkarni, director of a new documentary film, “Pitch of Dreams: Cricket in America”.

There are 15 to 20 million cricket fans in the US, says John L. Aaron, executive secretary of the USA Cricket Association, who grew up playing cricket in Guyana where his father was a cricket commentator.

For the last World Cup in 2007, India had the most television viewers. “But guess who had the second-largest viewership of cricket? The United States!” Aaron is quoted as saying. “It’s unheralded and nobody knew.”

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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