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So, you wanna play cricket in India?
Being passionate about cricket my whole life, India has always seem to me to be the place where cricket is probably held in the highest regard. Cricket is so much more than a game in India, it is a way of life. Almost a religion in some parts. I remember watching a documentary about Indian cricket with Sachin Tendulkar. He was talking about what it was like to be an Indian cricketer, in India. One thing stuck with me in particular - he hadn't been out in public alone since he was 15 (he was about 30 at the time of the interview).
Whilst in Chennai, I was lucky enough to stumble across a local game.
I got talking with one of the players, who once he learnt I was Australian, desperately wanted to talk sport with me. I asked him about the structure of the season and how it all works.
Basically, it goes something like this.
Someone, either an individual or a company of some sort, will hire a playing surface at a fee to whoever owns the ground. In this case, it was 12,000 rupees (about £150) for each day you wish to play games on it. The person who hires the ground becomes the tournament director.
The director decides on the tournament structure, and then advertises for teams to enter the competition. The interested teams then pay a registration fee that covers the cost of the ground hire, umpires, balls and a table full of trophies to be presented at the end of the season.
A mini-season is then organised for about 6-8 weeks, with games being played on Saturday's and Sunday's only. Each match day consists of 3 games at the ground. The start times were either 9am, between 11 & 12pm or between 3 & 4pm.
All the games in this competition were T20's and as they have the potential finish earlier/later than expected, the start times for the second and third game were a bit flexible.
After each team has played each other twice, there is a knockout final series for the top 4 teams. We just happened to be watching the final match of their season.
The teams that entered are not affiliated with any clubs or anything like that. On this particular day, the teams were made up of work colleagues from a shipping company. Some of the other teams were just made up of friends.
Overall, there was a decent crowd to watch the local cricket. I was impressed that this sort of structure was available for people to be able to play every week in a competitive way. The players were thoroughly enjoying the atmosphere of the game, and most of them were keen to come and talk with me, or pose for a photograph.
Seeing other people enjoy something the same way I do, in a place I struggled to feel connected with, was quite uplifting. The cricketing culture is alive in local communities of India, and more impressively, it seems to so very accessible for everyday cricket lovers to play a game each week.