Are Indians crazy or passionate about cricket?

The gods of India

Some people only make great careers abroad: the ball game cricket became number one in India. It originally comes from England, but is increasingly being forgotten there.

Cricket is like Bollywood: Every Indian is crazy about it and the rest of the world is scratching its head a little perplexed. It flickers for hours on the screens in Indian living rooms. In the youth rooms there are posters of popular audience favorites like Imran Khan or Shoaib Akhtar.

In Germany, on the other hand, cricket is just a little flower on the wall facing the football field. Although Germany even has its own national team, the sport is hardly known to the population. 80 percent of the members of the cricket club in Frankfurt come from India or Pakistan, as Salim Khan, the club's chairman, says.

Frankfurt cricket fans train once a week on their pitch in Frankfurt-Ginnheim. Along with Hamburg and Berlin, the Frankfurt Cricket Club is one of the few German clubs that has a real cricket pitch with artificial turf. Many clubs have to make do with a soccer field - but they need a space twice the size. Since cricket is very difficult to play in a hall, there is no training in winter.

Cricket originally comes from England. Shepherds invented it to pass the time in the 13th century. In the 18th century, the English made it a national sport. At that time it was mainly the English nobility who enjoyed the game. With colonization, the English brought it to South Asia. In the countries of the British Commonwealth such as Barbados, Australia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it is still very popular today. In England, on the other hand, cricket is only number two. Football rules the hearts and minds of the islanders.

Even today it is a special event in India when the former English colonial rulers play against the Indian national team. "If there is an important game in India, the whole country comes to a standstill," says Salim Khan. "People no longer go to work and turn blue." You have to be a good loser. Because a wrong throw can determine the luck of a player in cricket. There are no multiple opportunities like in football. "The player waits a month for his big performance and then he screws it up in a second," said the 58-year-old banker.

The largest stadium in India is in Calcutta, is called "Eden Gardens" and offers standing room for 130,000 - a paradise for cricket fans. "At national games, the whole people would like to watch," says Salim Khan, "but there is no stadium for a billion people." However, standing is not the best idea in cricket. A game usually lasts nine hours. The passages often take up to five days. American wives are said to have already exclaimed that watching cricket is like watching the grass grow. Salim Khan calls it the most family-unfriendly sport of all. "The men are then gone for days to watch the game together."

When the home team “Kolkata Knight Riders” plays at “Eden Gardens”, fans flock to the oval stadium. The food is unpacked and the players cheered. The two teams toss a coin to decide who will be the first to put the field team and all eleven players on the field. The other team may only be on the field with two batsmen. The batsmen wear helmets, face masks and heavy protectors on their legs and they would do anything to catch the ball with the bat and keep the field team from a goal.

If the goal is hit, the batsman is replaced - until all players have taken on this task. The many rules are difficult to understand for outsiders. “You have to grow up with it to understand the game,” says Syed Ghayur Abbas, who runs an Indian restaurant in Frankfurt am Main. Cricket is like a game of chess, says Syed Ghayur Abbas, who is passionate about playing cricket. "It takes a long time and you have to show good moves." Above all, intelligence is required to confuse the opponent instead of running after the football like a pit bull. There is no such thing as hooligans in cricket either. “It's a sport for gentlemen,” he says. Cricket equipment for one player can quickly cost 1000 euros and therefore cricket is actually a more upscale sport. But the children on the streets of India and Pakistan are happily training with tennis balls. Because there is no difference in enthusiasm for cricket - whether poor or rich, Hindu or Muslim.

Top Indian players are revered as idols, make tons of money, and when they win, thousands of people take to the streets to celebrate. “They are treated like gods,” says Salim Khan. In Pakistan, it is Imran Khan who is considered a national hero. As captain, he led Pakistan to victory in the Cricket World Cup in 1992. He then married an English billionaire's daughter and founded his own political party.

"Bollywood and cricketers have the same status," says Salim Khan. So it comes as no surprise to find out who has a stake in the successful Kolkata Knight Riders team. It's Sha Rukh Khan - the most famous Bollywood star in the world.

Text: Beatrice Tzschentke and Jennifer Warzecha

Continue to the picture gallery on page 2 >>>