Photographers' Blog

Little gladiators: China’s cricket fighting

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-hoon

On a late summer day in Beijing while roaming through the narrow alleyways of an old pet market I heard the chirping of insects. It was such a refreshing sound on a stiflingly hot day. At one point, the chirping grew louder and louder, and my curiosity led me into one alley. There, I found countless little insects in bird cages and small jars on sale and waiting for their new owners.

According to a cricket expert, keeping crickets as singing pets is an old Chinese tradition which dates back more than 3,200 years. Unlike in some countries, where people treat crickets with disdain and repel them with bug spray, in China the chirping of crickets traditionally has been regarded as beautiful music. Even more interesting than the singing crickets in small cages was the men observing hundreds of small jars with very serious faces.

The creatures in these small jars were small brown crickets, and the men were looking for little gladiators to bring them the glory of victory in cricket fights. Cricket fight lovers claim that this sport has more than 1,000 years of history in China and that there are many Chinese who still enjoy this ancient tradition every year in August through October.

GALLERY: CRICKET FIGHTING COMPETITION

Cricket fighting sounds like kid’s stuff, but this is really a serious sport for those who spend a lot of time and money to care for and train the creatures. Cricket fighting begins with breeding and training. Serious trainers often purchase more than a dozen at a time hoping to find champion fighters.

Only male crickets which are raised in the wild can be chosen to fight in the transparent oval-shaped rings and ones from Shandong Province are regarded as the best fighting breed. Prices of crickets vary. Usually they go for 10-50 RMB ($1.50 to $8). One vendor I met in the market said the most expensive one he sold this season was 1,000 RMB (about $160). I also heard from a cricket fighting expert that a selling price of more than 10,000 RMB ($1,635) is not rare in the illegal underground cricket fight gambling market where it is said that 1,000,000 RMB ($163,000) is often bet.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 14 August 2011

This week Pakistan marked its day of independence from British rule with parades, parties, face painting and bombs.  Two pictures of faces covered in colour, one paint, the other blood, seems to sum up all there needs to be said about the national pride Pakistan feels while facing so many challenges. Visually the complementary colours of green and red (colours on opposite sides of the colour spectrum) make the pictures jump out of the page especially when put side by side. The angry eye staring out of the face of green in Mohsin Raza's picture engages the viewer full on while in Amir Hussain's picture the man seems oblivious of his wound as blood covers his face, again more opposites, this time not in colour but mood. India too is preparing to celebrate its independence and Dehli-based photographer Parivartan Sharma's picture of festival preparations came to mind after I put together the red-and-green combination picture from Pakistan.  

 

(top left) A man, with his face painted depicting the colours of the Pakistan national flag, attends a ceremony to mark the country's Independence Day at the Wagah border crossing with India on the outskirts of Lahore August 14, 2011. Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

A man, his face bloodied by a head injury, is held by a resident as he waits to be evacuated from the site of a bomb blast in Dara Allah Yar, located in the Jaffarabad district of Pakistan's Balochistan province, August 14, 2011. A bomb ripped through the two-story building in Pakistan's restive southwest on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding nearly 20, police said. REUTERS/Amir Hussain 

Editing thousands of cricket pictures a day

Sports and Action photography is all about timing. It’s about reacting. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and it’s about execution.

India's Gautam Gambhir is bowled by Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera during their ICC Cricket World Cup final match in Mumbai April 2, 2011.                          REUTERS/Philip Brown

These are all qualities of the athlete and those of the photographer covering them as well. Each sport has predictable and unpredictable moments. For instance, in cricket, photographers will have opportunities to capture jump shots, players diving to make the crease, diving to take a catch, diving to field the ball, a bowler leaping in the air as he bowls, a batsman screaming in joy on reaching his century, etc. Understanding the timing of these predictable actions allows a photographer to capture the peak moment; when the action is most dramatic.

Before I start editing I always have a brief chat with the photographers about what could be the day’s great picture. The staff never fail to deliver and meet expectations. I briefed two photographers covering matches from the quarter-finals onwards not to forget to look for emotion in the players and the fans. A good number of the best shots come from the crowd. I received a bunch of nice pictures of the crowd from the final.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures, March 27, 2011

Japan continues to dominate the file from Asia with new photograhers rotating in to cover the twists and turns of this complex and tragic  story.  In a country were the nation rarely buries its dead, the site of mass graves is quite a shocking scene to behold. Holes the length of football pitches are dug in the ground with mechanical digggers and divided into individual plots by the military and are then filled with the coffins of the victims of the tsunami. Family members come to weep and pray over the graves. Some are namless and marked only with DNA details, others bear the names of the victims. There is not enough power or fuel to cremate the thousands of bodies that are being recovered from the disaster zone. 

JAPAN-QUAKE/

Members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force carry a coffin of a victim of the earthquake and tsunami to be buried at a temporary mass grave site in Higashi-Matsushima, in Miyagi prefecture, northern Japan March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

People who have either been made homeless by the tsunami or have fled the 30km exclusion zone around the stricken nuclear plant live out their lives in evacuation centres, not sure what the future will hold. There is a backdrop of growing concern over the radiation that is continuing to leak out into the atmosphere from the nuclear plants in Fukushima.  Thousands of people are still unaccounted for, international help has arrived to help with the massive task of clearing up, industry is still crippled and the weather is poor.  Next week, a school will reopen at a temporary site, 80% of the classes are either dead or missing. It is under these conditions our team of photographers continue to work. Again I wil let the pictures speak for themslves.

Clash of two cricketing titans

The second quarter-final of the cricket world cup was a clash between two huge teams. India, the world’s no. 1 team with its power batting lineup. Australia, three-time world champions who have reigned supreme over the game for 12 years. Whoever won, it would be a huge story. Whoever lost, it would be a huge story.

Police officers control a crowd of spectators outside Sardar Patel Stadium ahead of the Cricket World Cup 2011 quarter-final match between India and Australia, in Ahmedabad March 24, 2011.        REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

We headed to the stadium at around 10am, well before the 2.30pm start. Traffic was backed up a long way. There was only one road leading to it and we weren’t sure if it was fans waving flags and blowing horns, buses and four wheel drives, scooters or the cops that were in charge. Fellow photographer Andrew Caballero-Reynolds got nervous because on his last 3 trips to stadiums, the vehicle he’s been in has blown a tire. Lucky we made it in one piece. There were thousands of fans queuing in the searing heat to get into the ground, watched over by the usual stick-wielding police in khaki suits.

I installed a remote camera high on a TV tower above the stands, hooked up by usb cable to a laptop, both powered by a 25m extension cord we rented for 150 rupees (about 4 dollars) from a local shop that usually rents them out for weddings. The remote would capture the action from a different angle and would fire whenever I wanted it to from my field side position. I had the laptop running on a data card so the pictures would automatically be downloaded and transmitted to our editing system live, so that we didn’t have to wait for the break inbetween innings to get the disk and edit pictures. It was going to provide some great pictures from the match.

Cricket snippets

We’re into March, and the ICC Cricket World Cup is well under way. Just 32 more days to go (yes, thirty-two!) until the tournament comes to a close with a final showdown in Mumbai on April 2.

Reuters’ lean mean team of photographers have fanned out across three countries in the subcontinent – India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – as we get stuck into covering the first round of the tournament. Photographers Adnan Abidi, Andrew Biraj, Amit Dave, Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, Dinuka Liyanawatte, Rupak De Chowdhury, Danish Siddiqui and myself have started crisscrossing our territories. Philip Brown, who is on an “embed” with the English cricket team, has already covered two cities. Altaf Bhat in New Delhi is anchoring the operation as the main editor for the tournament with me lending a hand on days when I’m not on the move, shooting training or covering a match.

Covering cricket in the subcontinent is not as straightforward as one might think – for one thing, we’re worried about tight travel schedules and the possibility of flight delays – which thankfully haven’t happened yet.

2011 Cricket World Cup: Let’s play

People stand in queue to buy tickets for the cricket World Cup in Dhaka January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

As the cricket World Cup draws closer, the pulse rate of the players and their fans from the 14 participating nations is surely rising.

The build up to the quadrennial event, the equivalent of the FIFA soccer world cup, has been nothing short of spectacular. Despite the game grappling with a spot-fixing saga and an under-prepared Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata losing the hosts a marquee match against England, the enthusiasm of having a “good game” seems to have taken over. Like the previous editions, the 10th ICC world cup will also see some of the great cricketers saying “Goodbye” to the gentleman’s game and all of them would want to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.

Fans will be seeing Ricky Ponting, Muthaiah Muralitharan, Sachin Tendulkar and probably Jacques Kallis for the last time at a world cup but it will be Sachin, who will want to etch his name on the winners’ trophy more than anyone else. The master blaster has achieved almost everything that is there to achieve in the game of cricket but the world cup has remained elusive.

Before a ball is bowled

Reuters Photographer Parivartan Sharma takes us to the town of Meerut, north of Delhi, where cricket balls are still being made the old-fashioned way – by hand. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup starting on February 19.

The Making Of A Cricket Ball – Cricket World Cup Preview from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

Sachin Tendulkar in all his cricket glory

I have always followed ‘cricket’ and ‘news’ but ‘cricket news’ has fascinated me like nothing else.

I was in school when news broke that a young boy was going to be part of the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan under a new captain — Krishnamachari Srikkant. No one in the world had any doubts about the talented young boy from Mumbai but to throw him in the deep end to face the pace battery of Pakistan, led by Wasim Akram and the spin wizardry of Abdul Qadir, who had earned himself a sobriquet of “Googly” for foxing the batsmen world over, had many questioning the wisdom of his selection.

But Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar — who would prove to be the real baby-faced assassin of all bowling attacks and a nightmare for bowlers of legendary stature like Shane Warne — had other ideas.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in Pictures 7 November 2010

A continual struggle with writing this blog is trying to keep it picture led and not wander off into the top stories from the week that may not have produced the best pictures. This week in Asia we have seen the arrival of U.S President Obama in India, U.S Secretary of State Hilary Clinton doing the rounds, the first election in Myanmar for 20 years (no prizes as to who will win though) not one, but two Qantas jets getting into engine difficulty, the continuing tensions between Japan and China, the failed bid by BHP Billiton to take over of Potash, currency woes as we prepare for G20 in Seoul later this week and let's not forget Afghanistan and bombs in Pakistan. So where to start?  Mick Tsikas produced my favourite picture of the week, a fan at the Melbourne Cup; one can only admire the oral control it takes to shout in celebration while holding firmly onto a lit cigarette.  I thought this was a skill that died out with the passing of Humphrey Bogart.

HORSE RACING/MELBOURNE

A race-goer cheers as jockey Gerald Mosse of France rides Americain to victory in the Melbourne Cup at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne November 2, 2010. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas

In Indonesia the stark realities of living in the shadow of an erupting volcano continue to be brought home by Beawiharta. Try as I might I could not edit out any of these four pictures.  So with cries of "overfile ovefile" ringing in my ears I will shamelessly re-publish.  Wearing a hat to protect yourself from the hundreds of tonnes of hot ash raining down, you've been made homeless and the air is filled with dust and smoke - what do you do? Light up - a perfect moment caught as life stoically goes on. The strong diagonal lines and planes of tone in perfect monochromatic harmony.