Bhavya Doshi

Bhavya Doshi walks out to bat for Divine Sports Academy.

My Cricketing Journey from South Bengal to South Wales . . . and How the Cricket World Cup Keeps the Indian in me Alive in Another Country

All wales sports

Cardiff Met student and professional cricketer Bhavya Doshi has arrived in Wales, just as the eyes of the cricket world are focussed on his home nation of India. As the hosts prepare to take on Pakistan, this is how he’s coping with missing out on the party.

Moving to a new country from India in a Cricket World Cup month meant that my friends would not stop taking a dig at me, as well as feeling bad for me, at the same time.

It is a time in the year when people travel to India, not from.

The holy month of Navratri, innumerable traditional festivals, temperatures coming down to moderate figures, and of course, the most awaited of them all – the ICC Cricket World Cup at home!

If there has been one phrase that every Indian has heard since the Indian Premier League final in front of 110,000 people in May, it has been “India will win the World Cup at home again”.

Bhavya Doshi Fast bowler Bhavya Doshi.

Meanwhile, here I was, figuring out what spices and curry I need to carry from India to the UK to avoid spending money on “Indian food” in Britain.

Little did I know that Indian cuisine in Cardiff would not be too bad.

I always fancied the idea of playing cricket in Britain. Cool summers, lush green outfields, a beautiful red cherry by the name of the Dukes ball, and ever-so-favouring fast bowling conditions.

Mind you, I have always trained in hot and humid conditions, breaking my back to get the ball to rise after pitching, almost always to no effect.

Flat hard wickets, bumpy grassless fields, and short boundaries in a batting-frenzy nation meant that I would always envy fast bowlers plying their trade in England, South Africa and New Zealand.

But having made the state team, equivalent of county in India, I started enjoying the challenge of bowling in India.

Enter: Covid-19. In a country where every second kid wants to be a professional cricketer, and are willing to fudge their age for it, I painfully came to understand that I had to keep another window open for my future, especially after being out of action for two seasons thanks to the pandemic.

I found that window in Cardiff Metropolitan University in the beautiful capital city of Wales, who accepted my application to study an MSc in Sports Broadcast, also allowing me to play university and club cricket under BUCS and Glamorgan, respectively.

I made the move from my home town Kolkata only a couple of weeks ahead of the Cricket World Cup opener, which was a rather bitter-sweet feeling. Upon reaching Cardiff, I came to know that people here were loud and vocal about the World Cup as well, but not the cricket one.

Rugby is king in Wales, and I did not know just how big it was, until a random guy in a pub told me that the sport was a symbol of national culture.

Hang on, I have heard that somewhere. I even relate to it.

That is what cricket is in India! It is fascinating how certain sports can bring identity to a nation.

I took time to settle down and adapt to the Welsh weather, food and lifestyle, and just like that, it was October 5 – the Cricket World Cup Day!

Being active on social media, I could feel the build-up back home.

All roads led to the huge packed cricket stadiums across 10 Indian cities. Indian communities in the UK had already organised screenings of all India games.

Thankfully, I met a Pakistani girl who arranged passes for the India-Pakistan screening for me in Albany Road, where South Asians in Cardiff make their presence felt.

To my utmost surprise, cricket is seen as a bit of an elitist sport here, contrary to the subcontinent, where it is mostly played in the streets.

Although cricket is played almost everywhere in Britain, whose people invented the sport, its popularity is restricted to pockets of England and Wales.

Cardiff Met Cricket Club, the cricket wing of the sports-obsessed Cardiff Metropolitan University, took me in with open arms after I got through their strenuously competitive trial process.

They were, after all, the BUCS champions.

After settling in, I got talking to players who followed the game religiously, and often spoke about matches with them at length.

We started watching the games together, often in someone’s house.

Since the World Cup games start early in the British day, and due to college commitments, we barely got the chance to catch the action on weekdays, although we do make up for it on weekends when the big guns play each other.

I struggle with ways to tune into the cricket games, as they are not free-to-air in the UK, and the subscription prices are high, especially if I convert them to Indian Rupees.

Even so, I catch most of the action on social media and other online platforms, and will head to the bars on weekend games.

Cricket is a way of life for me and uncountable other Indians, and with the World Cup in our home and a strong team to our name, we dare to dream.

England might arguably have the best squad leading up to the Cup.

Australia might have their surreal history in the tournament.

Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa might be the quintessential dark horses that they always are.

But as long as a billion Indians believe in the Men in Blue, we will continue to dream.

All wales sports

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