I have never understood cricket in Sharjah and I continue not to. It is certainly not the national game of the Arabs, nor their adopted game. They are more suited to camel racing, or hunting with the falcon. And, of course, some of the Arab states have taken to football very well. The sheikhs also dominate English racing and have virtually taken over the English turf from the British, much to the latter's chagrin.
But cricket - no. In spite of all the efforts of Sheikh Bukhatir, who is actually a Mr. Bukhatir in Arab robes, it is difficult to find more than three Arabs on our TV sets during a Sharjah match. They made a sad sight, sitting there like foreigners in their own country.
They, of course, do not play cricket. For that matter, all those others who sit in the stadium and make the loudest noise have never held a bat or ball in their hands. Or the cricket correspondents, who sit in the press-box and write such wise things, they also have never played the game. Fortunately, TV is a little different; with a few exceptions, it only employs ex-players.
But to come back to cricket in Sharjah. The local Arabs do not even help, or participate, in the conduct of the tournament. That is left to Asif Iqbal, who is to Bukhatir what Tony Greig was to Kerry Packer.
So for whom is cricket played in Sharjah and these twice-a-year tournaments held there at tremendous cost and no profit? It is certainly held for the benefit of the cricketers, who make, earn and win a lot of money out of it. Both present cricketers and former cricketers for whom benefits are held. And it is held for the benefit of the Indian and Pakistaniexpatriates, who shout and cheer and wave flags and sing in chorus. I cannot explain why when an American baseball crowd shouts and cheers and abuses the umpire it looks so matural, and why when an Indian or a Pakistani cricket crowd does the same thing, it looks so ridiculous. Maybe because the game does not lend itself to such public behavior because cricketers do not respond to the shootings of the crowds and quietly go about doing their own thing, unlike the baseball players.
I also do not know whether the results of these matches in Sharjah and the individual performances there go in some international record book or are forgotten as minor games in the desert.
I would like Sunil Gavaskar, who is like a son to Mr. Bal Thackeray, explain all this in his next column.