The ball flying for a six invites a few claps, possibly because that’s the closest cricket gets to baseball, reminding the sparse crowd here of a home run. A father is chasing his daughter up and down the stairs. It’s a day out for the family, some of whom are in the shade inside, saving themselves from the blazing sun.
The umbrellas are out in numbers, for a different reason than 4-5 days ago when Hangzhou was overcast, breezy and rainy. A wicket falls, a group of Indian fans cheers; but under those umbrellas, the Chinese visitors to the ground are either trying to figure out the reason behind the sudden noise or have dug their eyes into the cellphones — almost ignoring the fact that it’s a gold-medal match and India beat Sri Lanka by 19 runs.
“Women’s cricket is being played at the Asian Games for the first time.” That mention invites a poker-face look from a local visitor. “Cricket?” That was the reply, or the question in return.
“Most of them are here just to enjoy the atmosphere,” says a volunteer, trying to explain that you may not find a local in the ground who is a combination of cricket knowledge and English. No chance.
But luck can shine when you least expect it.
Jun Yu is walking in the stands holding a hand-written banner. A Geology student from Beijing, enduring an overnight journey to travel to Hangzhou, in hope of meeting ‘Mandhana the Goddess’. That’s what is written on his banner.
“I am her fan. I watch her videos, playing the game, on the internet. I love the way she plays, the style she plays,” says Jun Yu.
As much as he wants to learn and play cricket, Jun Yu says he struggles to find someone who he can bowl to or one who can bowl to him.
“In China it is hard to find some friends to play cricket (with).”
Does the Chinese public in the stand understand the sport?
“A few of them may understand the rules,” he said. “But most of them won’t and want to just feel the atmosphere. I don’t know if there is a cricket team here (in the University).”
Jun Yu wrote ‘Mandhana the Goddess’ in English and not Mandarin. It invited looks from fellow Chinese, intrigued to know what that was about.
“Some of the audience asked me that, and I explained (why I like Mandhana) to them.”
“I have never met her before, just watched her videos. I really want to meet her.”
The match is over. Medal ceremony done. But Jun Yu is still around, hoping to get a glimpse of Mandhana.
The ‘visitors’ too have left the stands. But cricket in China will hope for ‘Ming tian hui geng hao’ (a better tomorrow).