Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Dump the crazy Indian Fan

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Sport is a very complex animal; it arouses extreme emotions/passions among people which when uncontrolled, can be difficult to handle. Who better than the Indian cricket team can confirm the extent to which this works? From being world beaters and tigers to paper tigers happens all so fast that it requires a realty good psychologist to convince our cricketers to stay cool without worrying too much.

What do we (in India ) do if we win tournaments- we build temples, worship our heroes and when we lose, we demolish houses, burn effigies, stage protests and do what not. Theoretically, all sport is supposed to create a sense of cameraderie among people who play and cherish the higher values of the game but modern sport has consigned all such thoughts to the dustbin. The only thing that matters is winning and we celebrate the victor, irrespective of the means involved.

India lost to Bangladesh fair and square and there’s no doubt who was the better team on that particular day. But do we actually love the game or it’s just India winning that matters? Our love for the game is so much that Ranji trophy and other domestic matches are played amidst empty stands without any involvement by the fans. Cricket has evolved from a sport to a form of entertainment where 22 persons sweat it out and the rest of the world watches. But modern cricket (from an Indian fan’s perspective) has very less to do with cricketing ability; it’s only about winning.

Despite the presence of a few superstars, the Indian cricket team cannot claim to be at the top of the cricketing pyramid but that does not stop the media and the public from looking at us as world beaters. Every tournament is an acid test and as we go through the familiar grind of “snatching a loss from the jaws of victory”, there are thousands of experts who analyze and explain what went wrong and what should have been done. We may not be as bad as the ICC one day rankings show us to be (No. 6) but I really can’t look at India as among the better teams in the tournament. But what the heck? After all the SWOT analysis done, we expect the team to pull off a victory because we want to feel good about ourselves, we want to stand up and tell the world that we are also somebody and the mantle firm rests on the shoulders of Dravid and Co. to perform this miracle.

As a nation, why are we obsessed with this game so much? Despite our eminent economic progress in the world especially in the recent past, we are still looking for a symbol that portrays our growth. Cricket plays that role and considering our rather dismal standing in other sports, there’s no competition from any other discipline by miles. The 2 C’s – cricket and cinema – are two larger than life obsessions that the Indian public cherishes. But cricket merely as a game is losing its appeal, therefore, the need to reinvent it as an entertainment jamboree. Sony is playing this role currently by broadcasting the Caribbean tamasha – incidentally also covering the matches – using the poor Charu Sharma and ‘Noodle’ Mandira as the front end for this. Never mind that there are thousands of us (millions may not want to) who are waiting to press the mute button or change the channel the moment the focus shifts to the two of them.

But even then, the obsession is not with the game despite whatever the media may want us to believe. How can we justify the vandalisation of Kaif’s and Dhoni’s house? If you call that love for the game, then you don’t understand what love is. Cricket has become another tool of nationalism and so if 12 guys come back with a trophy, billions of us go to sleep forgetting all our work because all we care for is that we have won. Where is the fun left in the sport then? I admire Sachin not merely for the thousands of runs he has scored but for his ability to handle the stress of millions of ‘fans’ who do not understand the meaning of silly terms like ‘sport’ and ‘fun‘.

India bowing out of the World Cup is now surely a catastrophe. Just think of the money that is at stake – sources say it’s close to Rs 4000 crore. The West Indies Cricket Board, Sony and advertisers all wait in abated breadth for India to beat Sri Lanka . Not to forget the grotesque world of punters, underworld bookies and nationalist fans all out there hoping for an Indian victory. Was Woolmer a victim of the betting and underworld syndicate? We do not know but we have allowed the cricketing world to become another Greek arena where gladiators need to perform or perish. Just imagine the pressure that the Indian team faces with all these thoughts being drilled into them incessantly by a media, that is constantly waiting to fill the cauldron of expectations with generous dollops of hysteria.

A friendly opinion raised suggested that all good things come in packages and that even though their houses may have been vandalized; they still make a lot of money doing nothing. They get fabulous flats from the Sahara folks, play less and spend most of their time modeling. If only they practiced more, they can surely do better. So, what is the mindless Indian cricket fan? An administrator of justice or a crusader of socialism, who decides what each person deserves to be paid? I know it hurts to see the Coke ad depicting the team as tigers, especially after we crumble to Bangladesh but can we hold their income against them? Do we grudge these players their earnings and feel that they need be treated as human beings? Incidentally, the advertising income made by the players is also based on performance and it does not come cheap with zero performance.

Another opinion hinted at greater accountability saying that the taxpayer’s money is being wasted by the team. Excuse me; the BCCI is not a government body or a limited company that is surviving on public funds. It is a legitimate private entity that raises its own money and the public has no role in it. Yes, the team represents the nation and there needs an accountability. It calls for public outrage when sports betting and match fixing takes over the game but using vandalisation as a tool when the performance or efficiency goes down is really a way over the top attitude.

We want our team to be tough, fight it out and be positive but are we any better? Sitting as couch potatoes in front of TV sets, decorating oneself in blue flannels and war paint is our contribution to the game. Every time there is a discussion, standard sarcastic remarks are made but never anything positive. Difficult to expect the team to be positive without us changing our general outlook.

What would happen if India continues to win this way? Nothing, the expectations continue to spiral and the game becomes no longer something that can be enjoyed by purists like me. I know we live in a very cynical world and all thoughts of treating sports as a form of fun is purely utopian but I’d still like to imagine that we can enjoy it that way in a more unadulterated fashion. Even at the risk of using a cliche, I agree with George Orwell when he says that all sport is “..war minus shooting”.

Just as I’m about to finish this post, I come to know that we have lost to the Lankans and are almost out of the tournament. Welcome to Round 2 of chest beating and team bashing!!! Come back with the trophy or stay in Caribbean , says a poster. Poor Chappell and Dravid would be scared of the prospect of returning to India . This would, effectively, close the Chappell’s stint at the helm of affairs while we may as well be seeing the last World Cup performances of the Holy Indian trio of Sachin, Saurav and Rahul and our old warhouse Kumble. They would have wanted to exit the stage in style but then the world can be a great leveller at times.

Anyway, I am putting my money on New Zealand to lift the trophy - the world needs a new winner...

This article was written just before the India - SL decider match in the World Cup.


  1. Read your article with great interest, cricket being a game very close to my heart, and having played the game with great pride for almost 10-12 years, I do tend to follow it bit closely. I had to quit playing professional cricket, and I am not here to discuss the reasons for the same. But somewhere the passion for cricket is still there, because of which I stop on the road to see a local cricket match, or young boys practicing in the nets. I used to follow domestic cricket very religiously until I took over the reigns as the Head Operations-ICICI Bank Corporate Credit cards!!!!!!

    I am writing to you at a time when India has lost to Sri Lanka, and on their way back to their bedrooms. It was a disappointing outing for India, and the team deserves to be just a spectator now.

    I could not fathom what you meant when you wrote, “Do we love the game or its just India winning that matters?”…it is like asking, “Does working matters or working at my best that matters to our bosses?” When the players are being paid so much it is imperative that we demand a performance that commensurate with the amount being shelled out. If I am being selected as representative of a nation, then I am answerable to the nation as well. Somebody has to lose, and I am not ruling out that, but at least put up a show, that even after you are defeated, you can walk tall. Why is it so that most of the time we as a team do not click? Ganguly, Sachin, and Dravid have more than 35,000 runs under their belt, and still we pin our hopes on some team losing rather than we go out & winning. Apart from a tournament held in Sharjah, have not really seen Sachin ever performing when India needs him. Ganguly got frustrated & threw away his wicket…really sad!

    Every one is playing the blame game now. Each member of the team is trying to make his stand clear. Vengsarkar opted for a senior player in the form of Kumble who was not even part of the team in the crucial match against the Lankans! If you do not play him, why take him? Even after a reasonable performance in the domestic circuit & international arena, Ramesh Powar does not get a berth! Even after performing well in the series against England, Gautam Gambhir does not make it to the team…I find it really difficult to understand. Viru requires a team like Bermuda to strike form! What examples are we setting for the people who are religiously attending the nets and are burning their fats in a summer afternoon?

    Cricket is like a job. You are paid to play well. If not in results, let at least your efforts speak for you!

  2. It is natural to expect disappointment when a country loses and when it is a game like cricket which has a national following, the disappointment is only going to be even more.

    Its reasonable to ask why we lose without a fight. In the last few years, you would have seldom seen India lose after putting up a fight. Whenever they have lost, they have lost comprehensively.

    But whatever happens, vandalism is still not an answer to show the frustrations of the fan.

    As for selection its anyway a thankless task. There is no magical formula for selection. In most selections, the first 6-8 players are selected without any disagreement. Its the next few set of players in the 16 over which selectors have to realy take a decision. Sometimes you select on the basis of form. Sometimes you select on the basis of experience. You also select on the gut feeling. Since you have a finite number of people to select, no matter who you select, somebody will always complain. Everybody in the country will have thier opinion.

    Its debatable if Viru should have been given that extra chance by listening to the gut feeling of Dravid. Its debatable whether selection of Kumble or even Ramesh Powar would have made a difference between that crucial win or loss. Its debatable whether Gautam Gambhir should have played instead of Viru. There is no perfect answer.

    Even if you select these people, its upto the captain and the coach who they want to play on the basis of the strategy they adopt for that game. Just because you have 16 players its not mandatory that every body will get a chance to make it to final 11.

    As for the coach, his job is provide a strategy and if the team does not adopt that strategy, there is very little that can be done about it. Like every failure, people want a punching bag... a scape goat. So you then blame the "foreign coach", the captain, the selectors, the board.

    Have a system to produce bench strengh, having pitches of all kinds of conditions, having a domestic league which is as tough as the international game...these are pre-requisites for a continuous promotion of the game, irrespective of whether India wins or loses. Its never late to work on these things. India still has lot of talent and keeps producing more every day despite the lack of any organised effort. But if we get complacent and dont develop a system to keep producing them, one day the game of cricket will become like the game of hockey in our country.

  3. Nice post, its a really cool blog that you have here, keep up the good work, will be back.

    Warm Regards

    Biby Cletus - Blog