Building a deep-rooted sporting culture is probably tougher than setting up the world’s largest stadium.
Sunday, March 23, 2003 was probably the most heartbreaking days for each cricket fan in India. That day, Ricky Ponting scored 140 runs and crushed a billion Indian hopes as Australia defeated India in the World Cup final. After a number of days, a hearsay began circulating in India and, as rumours typically do, it took the type of a reality.
The hearsay was: There was a spring in Ponting’s bat, which helped him make the spectacular rating, resulting in India’s defeat in the match. The declare appeared wild however the suspension of disbelief might be blissful on explicit days. This might need been the 90s children’ approach of coming to phrases with actuality. One sees a contemporary model of this in Gen Z’s in style phrase: “Delulu is the one solulu” (Delusion is the one answer).
So, how must you take care of the harm when your staff is shedding? Why is it thought of taboo to understand the efficiency of the rival staff? Do Indian followers solely come to observe their staff win and don’t respect the nuances of the sport?
Let’s delve into the culture of sports activities spectatorship in India, inspecting the assorted turns it has taken and the way it has been influenced in the age of social media.
The crowd in Ahmedabad watching the World Cup final on Sunday has been extensively criticised for being too silent and uninteresting when the Indian staff wasn’t performing nicely. It’s been argued that whereas Ahmedabad could have higher infrastructure, it lacks the sporting culture of Mumbai and Kolkata. Construction of real sporting culture maybe is tougher than the development of the world’s largest stadium.
In reality, the group on the Narendra Modi Stadium was so silent that any non secular individual might carry out Vipassana with out getting disturbed. Maybe it’s simply dangerous manners to understand and clap when your staff is shedding. Perhaps, it’s like singing the ‘Baby relax’ tune at a funeral.
It isn’t nearly rival groups; the group was additionally accused of being uninteresting when the Indian staff was going by troublesome instances. Many social media customers posted on X that the group ought to have a minimum of pumped up the morale of their staff.
I keep in mind watching many cricket tournaments, particularly the Ashes, the place the group appeared to be relaxed and appreciative of no matter they noticed on the sector. One might see them studying newspapers, mendacity on the grass, holding glasses of beer, or simply watching life unfold in entrance of them. For India, the sport is a do-or-die scenario that should be gained in any respect prices. The stakes are too excessive to relax. In reality, many followers additionally do “totkas,” or interact in superstitious actions, hoping it will assist their staff win. Some keep frozen in one place for hours as a result of they assume shifting even an inch would possibly disturb the supernatural vitality of the universe. And presumably outcome in shedding one other wicket in an already collapsing batting order.
Amitabh Bachchan additionally tweeted that each time he doesn’t watch India’s match, the staff wins. Before the India vs Australia final, followers on X had requested Bachchan to not watch it. Now, the outcomes counsel that maybe Bachchan did secretly watch the sport.
Perhaps the Western angle towards the sport can be seen in the dearth of ardour; there’s not a lot to lose. The lovely factor about not being obsessed with something is that the sport’s consequence doesn’t offer you any anxiousness. This is clear in their excessive-wired vitality towards soccer and Formula One, which tells one other story.
Indians are too desperate to prove their place in the world. The remnants of colonial insecurity contribute to it. Sports, in particular, is viewed through the lens of hyper-nationalism, where Indians feel compelled to provide answers, even when they are not sure if any questions are being asked. The world doesn’t really take cricket that seriously, as it is only played in a handful of nations. However, the essence of pride lies in the belief that there are individuals who speak highly of you.
This is the reason why, at one point in time, we became obsessed with beauty pageant where every winner talked about Mother Teresa. I was a teenager when Lagaan (2001) didn’t win the Oscars, and I cried. I saw it as our only hope for prestige and to tell the world that we had arrived.
In the era of social media, this general attitude and desperation for validation can be seen when foreigners post pictures of cooking Indian food. “Proud to be Indian,” an Indian commented on a video of an American man cooking aloo gobi.
In this sense, any international game is not just a match but a vessel for the manifestation of a nation’s love affair with itself. In this competition and exam-obsessed nation, the psyche is shaped in such a way that we are hyperfocused on ‘clearing the exam’ anyhow. Any appreciation for the beauty of the game or its nuances is dismissed as trash talk.
That’s why sometimes fans even abuse Indian players for losing, or international players for winning. Furious cricket fans stormed the home of India’s former cricket captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, to express disappointment over India’s defeat by Bangladesh in the opening World Cup match of 2007.
Around 200 fans brought down walls and pillars of Dhoni’s house, which was under construction. The same fans might have thronged to India Gate to dance on ‘Chaar baj gaye lekin party abhi baaki hai’ when Dhoni led the team to victory in the 2011 World Cup.
If you existed in that era, you might not have forgotten the match played on March 13, 1996. It was the World Cup semi-final at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens played between India and Sri Lanka. After India lost its eighth wicket, sections of the crowd vented their disgust by setting the stands on fire. They started throwing fruits and water bottles onto the field. The match was briefly stopped, and when it was about to resume, the crowd again started the bottle assault on fielders. The game was then stopped, and victory was handed to Sri Lanka by default. To this day, the picture of batter Vinod Kambli crying as he walked back to the dressing room remains one of the iconic images of that tournament.
There is another side to it too. Sometimes there are admirers of the game at unexpected locations.
My village is situated in the mini desert of Rajasthan, with just 10 houses. The literacy rate may be very low there, but everyone is a hardcore cricket aficionado. The villagers watch every match and know the rules of the game by heart. During a 2002 ICC Champions Trophy match, a bowler named Douglas Hondo from Zimbabwe emerged as a surprising talent. He took four wickets against a strong team like India. At the time, a child was born in the village and he was named Hondo. To date, we call him Hondo, or, as Rajasthani people screw up names — Hondiyooo. The boy, who is now a grown-up man, remains a symbolic monument of fans’ love for the game in this faraway place. Perhaps there are some cricketing and life lessons to be learned from this quaint village.
There is also a stark difference between people who get to watch cricket in the stadiums and those who are true fans of the game. Tickets for the 2023 World Cup final were sold at exorbitant prices on the black market, making them affordable only to the nouveau elite.
In a world where everything is social media content, the game itself becomes a manifestation and announcement of the affluent lifestyle — a statement conveyed through selfies and Instagram posts to show the world that they have arrived. When the team underperforms, it dampens the joy of being in the stadium. The likes on the photos too seem like a bad omen.
In a social media-driven world, performance in a match needs to be viewed beyond just the players — the audience also plays a role. A life without a consistent stream of non-stop dopamine injections may not be worth it. For a dopamine junkie addicted to the reward circuit, every wicket becomes a short circuit.
This article was originally published on The Print and has been reproduced with permission.