Hitting the ball out of the park

I+pick+my+favorite+team%2C+Mumbai+Indians%2C+from+the+ten+different+teams+that+play+in+the+IPL+and+cheer+my+heart+out+for+them%2C+learning+how+to+connect+to+my+culture+and+family.

Photo by Sports Section

I pick my favorite team, Mumbai Indians, from the ten different teams that play in the IPL and cheer my heart out for them, learning how to connect to my culture and family.

Amishi Chandra

The sound of cheering hits my 7-year-old ears, and I jolt up in bed before the break of dawn. Disgruntled, I run through all the possible scenarios of why people are cheering at the television at 3 a.m. I promised myself I would never watch this adult sport, cricket, or try to understand it. Someone had just caught a ball and was dancing on the field and pointing to someone in the crowd. I rolled my eyes with annoyance. What was the point in watching a game where a bunch of men tried to hit a ball and score runs? I thought it was a complete waste of time.

My mind changed as my dad explained to me how cricket is a sport that requires patience and hard work. He tried to convince me of the entrancing feeling of hitting the ball, the adrenaline rush as the players run back and forth and how gratifying watching it with family can be. Yet to me, it was just cricket, a yearly sensation called the Indian Premier League, IPL, which draws in millions of people for two months.

Fast forward three years and I am visiting India with my family. My cousins and uncles rumble through the house at 7 a.m., the sound of shouting piercing the air. Someone drags the covers off my head, demanding I join them. I follow them to the beaten-up park and watch as everyone around me starts setting up the game. I don’t know the game’s rules, too chaotic for me to learn. I would have rather been anywhere else than standing here watching the bat hit the ball and listening to one of my cousins give me a play-by-play.

However, there is a method to the madness, and I watch in awe as everyone comes together and starts planning their strategy. My dad runs forward and throws the ball, my cousin hits the ball and it goes flying. Everyone on the batting side cheers, and suddenly, this ridiculous game starts to hold meaning for me. I find myself joining in, relishing the teamwork, bonding with my family and practicing my leadership. Suddenly, everything clicks: I understand why my dad wakes up and dedicates his time to cricket. His most cherished memories originate from cricket; growing up, cricket was a way for him to connect with his peers. Now, I use cricket to connect to my culture.

Come sixth grade, I find myself waking up at the break of dawn and watching the team play, except this time they aren’t faceless, and it was me and my family cheering at the top of our lungs for our favorite team. As I started growing up and watching the game, I learned more about these players. They deal with millions of eyes and the weight of India on their shoulders, as cricket is India’s sport. Yet they ignore the rash comments and zone into the game. At the end of the day, they are proud to represent India.

It was amazing watching all the politics and language barriers break down between players from New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Britain, so these players could work together to win. They became my role models, and I aspired to have their mindset and dedication, to be able to work diligently under pressure and always be proud of what I was doing. I still use everything I learned from them today as a way for me to nod back at my culture and all the lessons I have learned.

Now, every year around March, I am the one who wakes up early and switches on the TV. I pick my favorite team, Mumbai Indians, from the ten different teams that play in the IPL and cheer my heart out for them, learning how to connect to my culture and family. Until the next game!