World Cup Cricket Meets the Wonders of India

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The Lotus Temple preaching the unity of all religions. An inspiring concept for our world today.

ON DRIVE with SHAM SAMAROO

(India, October 7, 2023) – Among the world’s three earliest civilizations, India is the only one still in touch with its past. Its history is a ten-thousand-year epic. I am in India on a pilgrimage to Varanasi (Benares). I am enjoying too the sights, sounds, and passion of cricket meeting the wonders of India. It is said that cricket is a religion. If it is, then India is where the cricket gods play. They are all here, and for the next six weeks will do battle for cricket’s richest prize – the World Cup.

The magnificent Jama Masjid (Friday mosque) built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650. The courtyard accommodates 25,000 worshipers for Friday prayers.
The magnificent Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650. The courtyard accommodates 25,000 worshipers for Friday prayers.

The roots of India’s philosophy of life date back to 3,000 BC and the Indus Valley civilization. With the fall of the Roman Empire around 500 AD, Europe plunged into the Dark Ages while India enjoyed a great flowering of culture. The power of ideas in Indian history is everywhere: Yoga; Buddhism; the concept of non-violence; the belief that no one religion holds the ultimate truth and, perhaps, India’s greatest gift to the world, the Bhagavad Gita. There is also that original and inspirational idea – the value of zero. How can zero have a value you ask? Indian philosophy teaches that nothingness is a value: that, in fact, it is the most important value. Man’s ultimate goal is to achieve nothingness. It is this idea, the infinite richness of nothingness that is at the heart of the Indian philosophy of life. By blanking the mind (making it zero, if you will), one begins that magnificent journey within to discover the spark of divinity that lies within each of us, and experience the infinite richness of nothingness: Nirvana – the state of divine bliss, the amazing grace. What an idea!

The Sikh temple in New Delhi, where everyone is welcomed to free meals cooked daily by volunteers in service to God
The Sikh temple in New Delhi, where everyone is welcomed to free meals cooked daily by volunteers in service to God.

India’s vast richness and diversity of its peoples and cultures, its music, dance, and literature is the foundation of its “Unity in Diversity”. Known for its religious traditions, India gave birth to two world religions. Hinduism, the oldest surviving religion, traces its roots some 5,000 years to the Indus Valley civilization. Yet, every religion finds a home in India where temples, mosques, churches, synagogues, adorn its landscape. I visited the Lotus temple in New Delhi that preaches the unity of all religions and the unity of humanity.

Riding a rickshaw in Old Delhi to experience the sights, sounds and passion when cricket meets the wonders of India.

After Independence in 1947 India flirted briefly with that political evil “affectionately” called socialist rule. It has since recovered, and today it is the world’s largest democracy. Arriving in New Delhi where ancient and modern blend seamlessly; one is simultaneously overwhelmed with awe and anticipation that sends the pulses into On Drive…ahem, overdrive. New Delhi, India’s capital, sits on the banks of the sacred Yamuna River. The talk all over town these days is of one Shubman Gill. In the market square I got an earful: “Shubman will be the star of the World Cup”, they boasted. I saw this young man. He can bat a bit!

The final footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. The prayer garden in New Delhi where he was assassinated on January 30, 1948

For centuries Delhi was the commercial, political and cultural capital for successive empires. Today, Delhi’s green cover – tree-lined boulevards, lush gardens and parks – is unique among other global metropolis. In fact, one is instantly reminded of the wonder of New York’s Central Park in the midst of the world’s foremost commercial and financial city. Once a haven of peace and tranquility, Central Park today may easily be mistaken for a rat-infested sanctuary for violence, robbery, murder, drugs. But I digress. The walled city of Old Delhi, founded by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan; India Gate War Memorial; Parliament House, and Rashtrapati Bhavan (the Presidential Palace) with its Mogul Gardens patterned geometrically with sandstone, all reflect Delhi’s colonial past. And I would certainly be remiss if I did not mention its culinary delights – delicious curries, barbecued tikkas and kebabs.

Humayun’s Tomb commissioned in 1560 by Humayun’s son, the great Mughal Emperor Akbar.

I must confess that I have not been in touch with cricket for some time. This year’s WC seems overblown with countless warm-up games followed by 45 preliminary round matches. But money talks. Except for the Australia/India match-up on October 8 and the blockbuster India/Pakistan encounter on October 14, the early rounds don’t offer much. Expect a few surprises but eventually the usual suspects turn up in the semifinals. Given the amount of cricket played today, injuries are already having the biggest say at this World Cup. India are hometown favourites but in recent years have acquired the tag of chokers. India have not won a major tournament since 2013, the year Sachin Tendulkar retired. Surprisingly, a lethal pace attack is India’s trump card this time around. Not surprisingly, Australia are perennial favourites. England? Could they finally win the World Cup for real FOR REAL? And where are the West Indies? In a 30-year slump with much needed reparations to their cricket starting at the school level. Unfortunately these days the Islands are focused on a different idea of reparation. Just ask the learned doctor, President Irfan Ali. About the tournament, who will win it? Your guess is as good as mine. At the hotel last evening, I asked Google to play Bumrah. The response: Sorry, Bumrah is unplayable!

Monument to the Salt Satyagraha, Salt March led by Mahatma Gandhi against British rule in 1930