The first time I remember picking up a cricket bat, I was 5 years old, tucked away in the basement of my home in Amherst. My dad and I would play downstairs where we wouldn’t have to worry about breaking something, which my mom definitely appreciated at the time.
A year later, my dad and I traded in the Amherst basement for a courtyard by our apartment in Iowa City. Many things changed in the 750-mile move; our shared love of cricket was certainly not one of them. When we moved to Australia a year later, we found ourselves in a cricket fan’s paradise.
Cricket was the backbone of my relationship with not just my father, but my extended family as well. The sport helped us transcend the minor language barrier we faced — while I can speak and understand Hindi, there’s only so much I can say. When it comes to cricket, however, there’s a lot more that I can talk about.
Although cricket took a backseat when my family and I settled down in California, baseball and swim played a bigger role in my life. From elementary school through high school, playing sports was an important outlet for me. Frustrated with a test? Hit a ball. Annoyed by someone in a group project? Go to the pool, swim a few laps.
The move to college abruptly cut many of those outlets off. It’s hard to play baseball when you’re not part of a team and don’t have the equipment, and while UC Berkeley’s swim facilities are world class, it’s just too hard to find the time. I stayed up to date with cricket matches, but it wasn’t the same without the constant commentary from my dad ringing in my ear. When the pandemic brought professional sports to a standstill, it didn’t really make a big difference to me — I hadn’t been truly engaged with sports since starting college anyways.
During my junior year, though, things started to take a turn for the better, starting with an unlikely weekly ritual: fantasy football. I felt like I gained an investment in a sport I had never cared about before. In truth, it was an investment in my roommates, creating a new routine that was reliable and brought us even closer together. Sundays became a time when we could all sit down in front of the television to cheer for people we knew nothing about.
Football was the first domino to fall on my path to rediscovering my love for sports. Around the same time that October, the World Series was in full swing. MLB administrators graciously allowed college students free access to the baseball postseason, so there was no longer any paywall to hold me back. While I admittedly spent more time watching baseball on my couch than actually doing my work, it was still one of the most comforting parts of the end of 2021.
Coming into 2022, watching football with my roommates had become a given rather than an outlier. By May, finding cheap baseball tickets to San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics games was one of my favorite things to do. But I recently came to a realization that caught me off guard — while I enjoyed seeing Mike Trout launch bombs over the centerfield wall or Aaron Donald take a man down with the ferocity of a rhino, it wasn’t really the games themselves I loved.
It was the people.
Every sporting event I watched, there was always someone I could share the experience with. The one time I pushed myself to attend an A’s versus Angels series alone at the Oakland Coliseum, I had a hard time not turning to a nonexistent friend and asking for their commentary out of habit.
I realized that sports have always been part of how I have connected with my loved ones and friends. In my childhood, it was the foundation of my relationship with my dad, and eventually my grandpa. As I grew older, swimming and playing baseball was how I made more friends in a new city. And, after years of dormancy, watching sports became a way for me to get closer with my roommates and college friends.
2022 was an eventful year for a number of reasons, both good and bad. But when I look back at the year, what stands out is just how much more time I spent watching baseball, cricket and football with those I cared about.
In a way, I rediscovered my love for sports this year. But at the same time, I rediscovered a meaningful way to connect with the people I love.