I was jogging through Parque Carolina yesterday when I spotted a game of cricket in progress.
I presumed they'd be rubbish (read: my standard) and wondered if I could worm my way in to hit those Latino chumps with a few of my famous fast deliveries (Max Rayner will know what I'm talking about).
When I finished my run I headed back to the cricket pitch and discovered about 100 spectators crowded around the action. At first I thought cricket was about to take Ecuador by storm, but as I jostled my way to the front I discovered the truth.
The game was being contested by two teams from Quito's Pakistani community. A decision had gone against the batsman and rather than walking slowly back to the pavilion (a Chinese temple folly with a gong in it) he went medieval with the willow.
|Like this... only nobody was smiling|
I've witnessed a few fights in my life but I've never heard such a vocal confrontation involving so many people and with so few punches thrown. The commotion was unbelievable and since the argument was being conducted in Urdu (probably) I have absolutely no idea what was the cause of contention. My guess is an LBW, that's always a bit of a loose rule.
The fight consisted of lots of squaring up and posturing. At one stage somebody took away the wickets in a sulk, only to return them a minute later. The ring leaders were the batsman and the bowler on the opposite side, who looked a bit like a fat version of Shoaib Akhtar.
The indigenous Indian family stood next to me looked very concerned by it all. The father explained to his daughter: “The Arabs are having a fight about their baseball game.”
One of the Pakistani players in the outfield sulked-away, radiating shame. He stood near me and I shook my head at him regretfully. “No es cricket,” I said.
Amazingly, after 15 minutes of bitter fighting the game restarted as suddenly as it had stopped. I didn't hang around to see the inevitable second round. I would not have umpired that match for all the money in the world.
I couldn't decide if the Pakistanis had been good or bad ambassadors for South American cricket. They certainly made cricket seem like the most exciting and important game in the world.
I decided not to volunteer my arm for a few of those famous fast bowls and went to eat a pizza instead.
Surprisingly Quito has a thriving Pakistani community. In fact, so many arrived in the 1990s that Pakistan is now one of the only countries in the world requiring a Visa to enter Ecuador – joining North Korea, Iran, Palestine and Iraq.