WELLINGTON: Greg Conley didn’t know much about cricket until he watched the noisy high-profile World Cup game between Pakistan and India in Adelaide last week.
The 51-year-old American from Boston has watched eight Summer Olympics (since Seoul, 1988), and as many Winter Games, but had never before been to a cricket match.
So what brought him to Australia and New Zealand for the World Cup?.
Conley, who works in system information at a Boston hospital, said that as there were no other major international sporting events during his holidays, he decided to give cricket a try.
“I love doing new things and exploring new games so on my holidays this time I thought what to do? When I read there is a Cricket World Cup about to start I decided to give it a try,” Conley told AFP outside Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Friday.
“I am enamoured by this sport and want to be as passionate as an Indian fan. They are simply superb with their chanting, colourful attire and unabated following of their team.”
On a 27-hour journey, Conley tried to gather knowledge about cricket through two books (Cricket Tamasha by James Astill and a coaching manual, as well as consulting the Wikipedia website.
– No tickets –
But little did he realise that he had no chance of getting a match-ticket for the clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan at the sold-out 47,000 capacity Adelaide Oval.
“When I arrived at the Adelaide stadium I found lots and lots of people and there were no tickets, so it was a damp squib and I went to watch the match in a pub,” said Conley, who has also watched eight soccer World Cups beginning in Mexico in 1986.
But not getting a match ticket wasn’t his only disappointment.
“Why I decided to watch the India-Pakistan game was because I read about their rivalry, just like the Brazil-Argentine in soccer, and because I wanted to watch Sachin Tedulkar, who is like our Magic Johnson or Michael Jordan (in basketball),” said Conley, then unaware that the ‘Little Master’ had retired.
“But when I asked someone in the pub about when Tendulkar will come to bat, he gave me a stare as if I was an unwanted person,” added Conley, who finally attended his first cricket match in Nelson, on New Zealand’s South Island.
“It was fantastic to be at Nelson stadium and see Ireland win against the West Indies,” said Conley who, in common with many Bostonians, has Irish ancestry.
“I will back India for their fans and Tendulkar, Ireland for being my country of origin and the West Indies as they are the only ones from the Americas (at the World Cup),” he added.
Conley, who will fly back on Saturday, will watch the rest of the games in Boston.
“It’s now tough to leave but I have to,” said Conley who on Friday was able to claim, unlike many lifelong cricket fans, that he’d been among the crowd when New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum scored the fastest-ever World Cup fifty.
“I will watch the rest of the games on big screens in Boston for the next five weeks.”
Cricket officials have long cherished the idea of the game taking off in the United States and Conley said there were grounds for optimism.
“There is some cricket in Boston but they mostly like the Twenty20 games as they are more popular and take less time, but I am sure this game has the fire-power to enamour the rest of the world,” said Conley.
“My next target will be to tour India, meet the great man Tendulkar and watch the World Twenty20 next year.”-AFP