While the prime ministers of the United Kingdom and India consider their countries’ future relations in New Delhi, India, this week, the leaders of the British American Business Council of Georgia and the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce are preparing for an historic cricket match between their members to be held at Oglethorpe University on the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 13.
Mark Pierson, president of the Georgia Indo-American chamber, told Global Atlanta that although the Brits probably exported the bat-and-ball game to India it is the Indians who have become obsessed with it and many consider it a national pastime if not the national sport. Mr. Pierson and Atul Deshmukh, a chamber member who heads the Atlanta office of the public accounting firm KNAV P.A., formed an organizing committee with Duncan Sandys, a Buckhead realtor who chairs the British council’s alliances committee, to launch the event, which they plan to make an annual affair.
It’s not likely that cricket will become an issue during the trade and visa related discussions between Theresa May and Narendra Modi. But Consuls General Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford and Nagesh Singh, both based in Atlanta, latched on to the idea when Mr. Pierson suggested that the chamber and the council come up with a joint event.
Mr. Singh was hosting a dinner at his residence in May when Mr. Pilmore-Bedford first came up with the idea of a cricket match, immediately supported by Mr. Singh, who recalled his days playing cricket when he was posted in France.
Cricket is considered India’s most popular sport, but for many years field hockey was the national sport until recently when the government decreed that the country should have no sport with this distinct designation.
Commentators often are befuddled by why cricket is so popular in India drawing as many as 400 million spectators during a national tournament. Their befuddlement relates to the difficulties encountered in playing the game, which requires ample space, a good turf for the playing field known as a pitch and expensive equipment.
Today’s matches stand in sharp contrast to the origins of the game, which are considered to date back to the 14th century when shepherds, who had plenty of time on their hands, let their sheep mow their pastures into playing fields and started using their staffs to bat leather balls at the gates of the pastures.
Those gates have been transformed into the wickets, which are protected by batsmen who wear protective garb including abdomen guards, leg pads to protect their shins, a helmet, protective eyewear and special gloves.
The game’s popularity in India has been traced to the prestige that the British attached to the game including the devotion of political figures such as Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.
But the game quickly transcended the elite and became popular in many cities among their workers and labor organizations which fielded teams.
Nor is Atlanta impervious to its attractions. The Atlanta Cricket League, which calls itself “the melting pot of the South,” was launched 10 years ago and today includes 120 teams who play “hard tennis ball cricket” matches between March and October.
Sreedhar Vanagala, the league’s president for 2016, told Global Atlanta that the prospects for cricket in the city and the state are positive. Among the 1,500 players in the area is a mix of immigrants from the West Indies, Australia, Pakistan, England “and all cricketing nations,” including India, of course, as its website announces.
It also has launched an annual “Kids Cricket program” for participants from 6-to-15 years old that lasts for six weeks into September and attracted more than 100 this year.
Mr. Vanagala also is pleased that seven fields are being prepared in Forsyth County near Cumming for future matches and the launch of a high school league at six schools.
Was he aware of the match to take place at Oglethorpe University on Sunday? “Why, yes, I’m playing on the India team,” he replied.
For those curious about what cricket is all about, there is to be a pre-match tutorial conducted by a professional who also is to call the match and explain the action.
The two chambers consider the event “as family friendly” and encourage families to bring blankets and picnic lunches. The Consulate of India is to provide a reception at the university following the match where there also will be an award ceremony with the winning team receiving a trophy. The excellent play of individual players also is to be recognized.
The event begins at noon with the match to be played at the university’s soccer field located at 4484 Peachtree Rd NE – Atlanta, GA 30319. The start of the match is to be at 12:30 p.m. The reception is to begin at 5 p.m.
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For more information, please contact GIACC President Mark Pierson firstname.lastname@example.org.