Every Friday morning, I watch a group of workers play cricket in an empty construction lot. In Doha, the sunrise pierces through the darkest of curtains at a truly ungodly hour, and I can’t sleep. I stumble into the kitchen, punch the buttons on the coffeepot, and sip my coffee while I contemplate my plans for the day. Should I call a friend for brunch? Go shopping at a mall? Which mall haven’t I visited in awhile? What about the souq or a road trip out of the city? Or should I curl up on the couch and binge-watch a TV show? Maybe I could pull out my laptop and do some work – surely there’s a deadline bearing down on me.
The workers must have woken before dawn in order to get to my part of town while the heat is still bearable – around 90F during the summer, and that’s nothing compared to how hot it will be by the afternoon. Once, I saw them line up neatly in a row as if to number off and create new teams, but usually they’ve already started a match by the time my coffee is ready. Each man’s swing of the bat sets the other players in motion. The dust kicks up as a worker sprints across the lot, racing towards (from?) a tiny speck of a cricket ball. I can’t hear their shouts from where I stand, but several wave their arms enthusiastically. Even as the temperature inches upwards in the heat of midday, the match doesn’t lose any intensity.
I don’t see the end of these games, when the men board a bus back to their crowded camps, eat some dal and rice around the communal cookfire, rest in preparation for the six-day work week, and probably relive some key plays of the day’s match. I’ve finished my coffee and have chosen how I’ll spend my weekend. I have no idea how you play cricket, and I doubt I’ll ever really understand.