The thing about the IPL is that it requires an audience. It needs a brotherhood, or a sisterhood, or a peoplehood. It’s not like watching a movie, which is often better alone because the experience is intensified. With sport, a solitary watch is a lonely venture. You see the throngs in the stadium, you hear the chants and cheers, and part of you longs to be there and to feel those vibes of energy. When you are watching alone and you witness something wonderful – Matthew Hayden hitting a six or Lakshmipathy Balaji taking a wicket, for instance, the most you can do is give a little clap, or a short yelp of joy. It’s really quite unsatisfactory, because what you really want to be doing is jumping up and down with the crowds, whistling, hugging a stranger.
Well, I don’t know. Among my immediate family, I am the sole cricket fan (tennis was bigger in my household). And when a relative did show any interest, it manifests in thousands of silly questions about rules (which always irks me, because I picked up the game as an 11-year-old. Honestly, it’s really not that hard!). So, I spent most of my time as a cricket spectator alone.
Have I been missing out on something? I don’t think so: part of the fun of being alone is how completely silly you can be as a spectator. As a solitary teenage fan, I pretended to be a bowler in my tiny Mumbai bedroom, bowling tennis balls at a dresser, or I picked up a bat and practiced imaginary strokes. And, being alone, I gave full vent to my emotions as I didn’t have to observe any social conventions (in other words, yes, I’ve cried a fair amount and danced many a crazy dance).
And, finally, watching cricket alone offers two additional advantages: alone, you can observe the cricket ritual as you want to, without needless interruptions from friends or whoever. And secondly, especially if you’re watching Test cricket, there’s nothing like reading or doing work as the commentators drone on in the background. It’s weirdly calming to hear ball after ball hit the pitch, knowing nothing or next to nothing will happen in a given hour.
I don’t know — to each his own, I suppose, but if you need others to enjoy cricket, then maybe it’s not cricket you really enjoy. (Gosh, I sound like a snob!)