Fans Bowled Over by New Cup
Published: May 16, 2006 (Issue # 1169)
A cricket tournament for international students played from Thursday to Sunday was the first of its kind in St. Petersburg.
The pitch was not exactly as clipped as Lord’s, the ball was borrowed from another sport and the British team crashed out early, but participants in the The St. Petersburg Cricket Cup 2006 brought to the city the passion of one of the world’s most popular and perplexing sports.
The tournament, which took place at the Polytechnic Institute Stadium near Ploshchad Muzhestva, gathered eight teams from four continents.
A team of Indian players, India 11, won the tournament Sunday, beating team Diamond, a combined team of Indian and Pakistani students.
The traditional cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan is often seen as a peaceful alternative to political conflict between the two nations. But on Sunday, politics was present anyway.
“The political discussions will always be there, but it is everywhere — also in football,” organizer Lanson George, an Indian, said.
A team from the British Council fell in the first knockout round to a World 11 made up of engineering students from all over the world.
Cricket, played between two teams of eleven players on a oval grass field with a 20.12 meter flat pitch in the middle, is a bat-and-ball sport from the same family as baseball and softball.
Orginating in England, the sport is wildly popular in countries of the former British Empire and its complex rules and rich folklore often make it baffling to spectators not steeped in its traditions.
A professional cricket match can last up to five days, but at the St. Petersburg Cricket Cup, matches were shortened to wrap up the tournament in one weekend.
The equipment used was not exactly up to regulation standard either.
“We have the bats from home, because we cannot buy the proper equipment in Russia,” organizer Zahid Ahmid said as he dribbled the tennis ball that substituted for a proper cricket ball, which is a hard leather ball about the size of a fist.
Without the correct protective equipment, playing with a real cricket ball can be lethal.
Approximately 40 cricket fans, mainly medical students from South Asian countries, cheered loudly when the final began.
Umpires, who followed tradition and wore ties and hats, kept the match moving as the young students bowled, batted and ran as best they could.
Whenever the ball was in play, the attacking team was ever eager to destroy its opponent’s wicket.
When the tennis ball hit the wicket, putting out the batsman defending it, the attacking team celebrated as if they had scored a goal in soccer.
The final was a four-hour thriller in which India 11 trailed to the Diamonds for the most of the game, but recovered and won by a single run to take home the inaugural St. Petersburg Cricket Cup.
The spectators also enjoyed the sporting spectacle.
“I never thought I was going to see this game in this country,” a thrilled fan said during the match.