On Cricket, Monty, Sikhi, and Potato Chips

Once upon a time, a fellow langa(w)riter commented that you know youve made it as a ‘notable’ community, when you are featured on the game-show Jeopardy.

While she may or may not have been right, in todays consumerist I think when a member of your own has a potato chip named after them that social recognition Monty_Panesar_walkers_web_1.jpggrows near.

Cricket has never featured very prominently at The Langar Hall, possibly as many commenters have noted, the current American-bias of this young blog. Despite the blogs current limitations (which we do hope to change in the future), sometimes cricket does make it to our attention, albeit in ways still tied to the diaspora.

A recent article in a Californian newspaper discusses cricket’s popularity. Cricket aficionados have been gathering for years on weekends to come together to play cricket. From software engineers to truck drivers from small store owners to behavioral technicians, sports is one of those rare fields that maintains the potential to bring scores of people together. Although still hardly a blip in the American sporting world, crickets popularity continues to blossom:

There are at least 600 official cricket clubs in the United States, with registered players numbering between 10,800 and 14,000, and growing.

The Sacramento Cricket Association, which was founded in 2002 with four teams, now boasts 14. And the creation of more teams is expected, Khader said.

“Two years back, when I would talk to people about cricket, people hardly knew anything about it,” he said. “Today we actually have people who come and watch our matches.”[link]

While people of South Asian descent still make up the majority of players in America, there are efforts being made to reach out to others. The article lists many ex-high school and collegiate baseball players that make it to the cricket fields on the weekends. In addition, in Los Angeles, unofficial teams like the Compton Homies have garnered worldwide attention in using cricket to engage with the inner-city youth.

While cricket may be something new for Sikh-Americans, for Sikhs in other areas of the world, cricket remains a religion and depending on your loyalties either Harbhajan Singh or Monty Panesar (wow he even has his own fan website with products and updates) reign supreme.

Monty Panesar is the first Sikh on the British cricket team. He had a stunning first appearance in 2006 in a test match against India. In the two years since, he has become an icon and has achieved almost cult-like status amongst the British cricket crazies. Fans wearing fake beards (here you can print and cut your own ‘offical Monty beard’)and something like a patka (or bandana depending on whatever you think it is) can be seen in the stands and fans. The “Beard Liberation Front” (wow something like this exists??) even honored Monty last year in 2007 with “Beard of the Year.” Despite his many accolades, the 26 year old bowler remains modest and the British press cheers:

cricket.jpgHe doesnt drink, doesnt swear, doesnt sport tattoos or dye his hair, doesnt gamble, doesnt drive flash cars and keeps his private life to himself.

Yet hes a cult figure for cricket fans.

The Barmy Army of England supporters love him for his eccentric celebrations, his fielding foul-ups and his passion. They love him because hes one of them a hard-working, honest lad from a council estate whos living their dream by sheer hard work.

The first Sikh to play cricket for England, Monty, 26, is more than just an example to British Asians. Hes an example to any youngster faced with obstacles to their ambitions in Broken Britain today. [link]

On a recent trip to London, I picked up Monty Panesars autobiography at the Heathrow Airport. I finished the short Montys Turn: Taking My Chances on the three hour flight. About his religious influence, Monty writes:

Stopsley was a mixed area rather than a Sikh community. As a family we still tend to speak Punjabi first, but outdoors we soon switched to English. My brother, sister and I are all equally fluent in both languages. We followed the normal principles of Sikhism. I have never eaten meat, tasted alcohol or cut my hair. We said prayers daily and visited the temple where my parents met in Coventry once a month. I think of religion as being a part of me. I have never known life without it or rebelled against it. I am proud to wear a patka when I play cricket or go out, just as my father wears a turban, but I am not making a statement and would not persuade anybody to follow our particular faith. Religion has helped to guide me but has never taken over completely. I have friends of all faiths and some who do not follow religion at all. That is their freedom. I have always had English as well as Indian friends and have always tried to understand everybodys point of view. (page 6)

I smile to myself, too, when people say that I am different. I consider myself to be very normal indeed. I do not know how it feels to be anything else, not to wear the patka, have a beard and follow my faith. No doubt the beard will turn grey and I will wear a turban, like my father, but otherwise I do not expect much to change. I feel so proud when Sikh people I have never met before stop me in the street to say that their mates at work call them by the nickname Monty. I have heard that so many times now. I will never push my beliefs on anybody. A lot of them are personal to me in any case. But it makes me so happy when I hear Sikh people say that I have given Sikhism some recognition in England. (page 242)

Hoping to capitalize on his cult-status Walkers potato chips have named its newest flavor in his honor chili and tomato chutney-flavored Magic Montys Spicy Spinners. The bag boasts that they are So hot theyll bowl you over. While some may argue that only Asians in Britain will probably eat such a flavor (or others may wonder why we should highlight consumer advertising) still it is significant for it is the the first time outside of South Asia I have ever heard of a product named after a member of our community.


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12 Responses to “On Cricket, Monty, Sikhi, and Potato Chips”

  1. Ottayan says:

    I wish Monty shows some restraint while appealing and while celebrating the fall of a wicket.

  2. […] Continued here: On Cricket, Monty, Sikhi, and Potato Chips […]

  3. Ottayan says:

    I wish Monty shows some restraint while appealing and while celebrating the fall of a wicket.

  4. I wish to see Monty in a Full Turban !!!

  5. I wish to see Monty in a Full Turban !!!

  6. I don't follow cricket but certainly follow Monty's cricket exploits. I do wish to see him in a full dastaar but for now we all will have to settle for my Sikhtoon rendition of him in a dastaar.

    http://www.sikhtoons.com/MontyRoyale.html

  7. I don’t follow cricket but certainly follow Monty’s cricket exploits. I do wish to see him in a full dastaar but for now we all will have to settle for my Sikhtoon rendition of him in a dastaar.

    http://www.sikhtoons.com/MontyRoyale.html

  8. Chak de Fatte Monty … you made us proud

  9. Chak de Fatte Monty … you made us proud

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  11. Nobin says:

    Fantastic idea

  12. Alvert38 says:

    I like to play cricket. I think most of the people like to play cricket. Yesterday my friend said me about Superbowl Parties Houston. That's why i want to know about it. If you have any idea so please let me know. Thank you so much for your valuable post.