Saturday, Nov 01, 2014

The day Shecket, ‘America’s only cricket fan’, won

Written by Daksh Panwar | Cardiff | Posted: August 29, 2014 3:55 am | Updated: August 29, 2014 10:39 am

If you were to ask me the outcome of the second international in Cardiff, I would give a slightly non-traditional answer. The scoreboard will tell you that India beat England by 133 runs on D/L method. But my take on the game is that Jon Shecket and cricket won on Wednesday. As a tag team. And they won almost as soon as the first ball was bowled.

Cricket you know, of course. But Jon Shecket who?

Well, Shecket is someone who hadn’t heard of cricket till he was 15, but in whose life (in the most crucial moments) the game ended up playing a monumental role. The sport was by his hospital bedside when he fought Acute Myeloid Leukemia a decade-and-a-half later.

I met Shecket a day before the Cardiff one-dayer. It was as a chance meeting. Having arrived at the capital of Wales on Tuesday, I took a bus to my accommodation. There he was, wearing a baseball cap, with his 31-year-old large frame practically occupying one-and-a-half seats in the front row. He was grumbling rather noisily about the weather in Bristol in a gruff, discernable American accent to other soft-spoken Brits. I spotted a BBC Sport lanyard around his neck, put two and two together, and asked, “Are you here for the cricket?”

“Yes,” he replied. I had suspected he was one of the production crew members for the broadcaster and asked him as much, but he answered in the negative and announced: “I am perhaps cricket’s only American fan.”

Despite the hyperbole — which is not a hyperbole by much if you really think of it — my curiosity was heightened. I got up from my seat and planted myself next to him. On that remaining half-a-seat. He was more than willing to talk. As it turned out we were heading to the same block, same street, and actually the same house.

He started narrating his story. “It all started when I was 15. I was always a soccer fan, and a Columbus Crew supporter. Around that time I was getting interested in English soccer and was listening to reports on BBC. It was there that I heard about some kind of England Test match where they were doing really poorly.”

It stroked his curiosity. For reference, he went to the local library and picked up a book ‘What is a Googly?’ by Rob Eastaway. The same book (also sold in America under the title ‘Cricket Explained’) is said to have been gifted by the former British Premier John Major to the former American President George Bush. If Bush Sr got anything out of it, it’s not known, but young Shecket surely got sufficiently interested in the sport. Then Cricinfo did the rest.

In 2001, Shecket got a chance to come to London for an internship stint with the Daily Star and watched county cricket. But it was only last year, after January 23, 2013, that cricket became a constant companion. That day Shecket was diagnosed with AML Leukemia. “I was immediately made inpatient in continued…

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