Was just reading Dileep Preemachandran’s Wisden India speech when I stopped at this passage:
My second question is this: What makes a sport? The players are at the centre of the sporting universe, because they’re the ones that make our dreams reality. The other indispensable element is the fan. Everyone else, whether it’s the administrators or the media, gets something out of sport. Those that invest financially usually get their rewards. But what of emotional investment?
I came across a couple of boys in Nagpur just before the India-South Africa World Cup game. They’d travelled 10 hours by train in an unreserved compartment to get there. They had no hotel room. They had freshened up and had a quick bite at the railway station and once the match was over, they had to head back to Mumbai the same way.
Passion is the most abused word in sport. But travel around India when cricket is played, and you can still feel it…people who get nothing tangible from the game, but give so much of themselves to it.
My parents tell me that when I was a child, they could predict my mood based on the Indian team’s scorecard. I don’t feel like that anymore (well, not usually), so Dileep’s passage got me thinking: a) What happens to a cricket fan as he ages? How does his childlike passion for the game change? b) Can a cricket writer be a critic and a spectator at the same time? c) Does watching more cricket deaden the rush of victory (or pain of defeat)? Is it like a drug that fights tolerance, or a good music album that yields more pleasure with every extra listen?
I ask all this because of all the comments made during India’s World Cup run this year, Sanjay Manjrekar’s comments in Bangladesh still stick out for me. During the opening ceremony (in Dhaka), he said the atmosphere reminded him of India in the 1990s (I’m sure the Bryan Adams soundtrack helped). The Bangladeshis seemed so much more innocent, he reported, compared to Indian fans. Is this because cricket coverage has grown so much more sophisticated (what with Hawkeye and replays and what not?) that the Indian cricket child has grown into a cricket management consultant? Or has blogging turned us all into detached cricket analysts, always eager to step back from the emotions caused by the game and ask, “Why do I feel this way? What explains my reaction here?” Or is it all this money, these contracts, the board politics — the stuff of adults? Maybe the simple fact of success — the Test wins, the World Cup, the T20 World Cup — maybe just victory ushers in maturity and its own brand of angst?
I’m not saying I don’t enjoy the game. I obviously do. And I still feel like a child-fan during the best moments (like, say, VVS + Ishant against Aus.). But more often than not, I think more about the commentary and the strategy. I’ve rarely felt like hopping in a stand, the way many spectators in India do, when a boundary has been struck, or holding my head stunned when a wicket falls. “Oh, that magic feeling…Oh, where’d it go?“
You sort of answered the question by citing the VVS-Ishant example. Winning as an underdog is much more satisfying when compared to winning as a contender. Come-back wins, pulling victory from the jaws of defeat, etc. For example, everyone likes the 1992 World Cup because it was a wild comeback from the Pakistani team. Ditto 1999 for Australia. Contrast that to their next two wins. When someone is steamrolling the opposition or they are expected to win, there is no fun. Do you feel thrilled when India beats Bangladesh by an innings or when India beats Australia by a run?
As far as spectators go, there are obviously people who are die-hard fans. They have to see every ball of every match and they go bonkers for silly events. Of course, this is not a cricket-only phenomenon. You see that with other sports, movies (Trekkies, anyone?) Don’t worry you are not as insane as them.
A side note: I am not sure why travelling 10 hours by train in an unreserved compartment in India is cited as some special sacrifice. That is what most people in India do. If you don’t get reservations, that is what you do. That or a bus trip, which can be a little more tiring/costly. I suppose Dileep cannot imagine anything other than a flight from Nagpur to Mumbai. To be frank, a very stupid example.
Thanks for the comment. Just on your last point — I think most people travel in India travel on train for a necessity (work, e.g., or seeing family). Dileep probably mentioned it because these guys traveled for a cricket match.
Probably. But take the context. Before the World Cup started, the India v SA match was the biggest guaranteed-to-happen match for India in the first World Cup played in India after 15 years. Of course, India did qualify for the QFs where they played Australia (big match) in Ahmedabad (closer to Mumbai), but you couldn’t know that before the tournament started – it could have been India v NZ. And SFs were in Punjab and there is a high probability that India could get knocked off in QF or SF.
So even for a non-fanatical cricket fan, it was a pretty big deal to attend that match. So how to go? Bus, train or plane. Even if they could afford it, I would think that many people would have already been flying from Mumbai to Nagpur to attend the match! There couldn’t be that many flights anyway. So you are left with bus or train. And likely that Dileep saw many people who did the same, except that he only learnt it from the two boys he talked to.
I’ve had some time to think about your comment, Krishna, and I think I wasn’t being clear in my post (I usually am not, so this isn’t surprising). I guess my post wasn’t meant to be about whether or not matches are boring or exciting because, yes, I prefer thrillers to dull draws.
I guess I wanted to know if writing about cricket — or watching cricket through the increasingly modern lens of replays and technology — detaches you from the game. Are we getting jaded? Does the state of your cricket fandom stay the same as you go through life?
All a bit silly, I suppose.
Because of all the new mediums used to discuss the game, like Twitter/Facebook, we’re instinctively on the lookout for things to analyse and report on. It’s a lot more innocent when a bunch of people are watching a game together, enjoying it.
That’s how I feel it has changed for me, anyway.
Nice question. I am not sure. In one sense, writing about cricket makes you also want to follow more cricket such as writings of columnists/bloggers, obscure factoids, Twitter commentary, etc.
But on the other side, instead of just going with the flow, writing makes you take a pause about what is happening and try to analyze it. In one way, you are more immersed and at the same time, detached.
This seems an interesting article about a journalist (and for my money the best but we probably should not go there) transformed from his usually detached self. It does take a circumstance not available to most us though: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/sport/let-me-introduce-my-good-friend-ed-cowan/story-e6frg7t6-1226227961519
Over time some become “detached analysts” as you point out and while we still love the game and reserve as much passion, the involvement is at a controlled level, emotionally.
Others retain a more jingoistic enthusiasm for the game and seem to retain their passion in that form.
I feel its who we are that decides how we evolve as a sports fan
I remember sitting near a man at a Premiership football game who shouted and swore at his team and the referee throughout the match. Some brave soul in the crowd asked him to tone it down. His response was that he worked all week so he could earn the money to come and watch his team and bark at them if he wanted to.
I’m sure sure there’s great tranches of the internet populated by narrow-minded, nationalistic cricket followers, doing their own barking.
I’m glad there’s space for the likes of yourself, communicating your own passion for the game quietly and articulately. And I reckon when your team takes a big wicket or a young batsmen on your team scores a crucial ton, you’ll be punching the air and jumping around the room.