Sunday, February 13, 2011

The curious case of the fickle Indian fan...

As the cricket World Cup gets ever so closer, the excitement levels everywhere around the country is reaching its zenith. The wave of positive energy everywhere with the Indian team’s chances is overwhelming to say the least. Scenes of fans offering ‘yagna’ and worshipping the posters of their stars are doing the rounds in the media. While this mass frenzy is nothing new for the keen cricket observer in India, what is intriguing as always is the fluctuating behavioral patterns of the ever so fickle Indian fan. Not many will forget the immediate aftermath after India’s humiliating loss to Australia in the opening stage of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. Irate fans had taken to the streets, burning the, now almost customary, effigies of players. While all this was still acceptable, same fans took it to a personal level, targeting homes of the cricketers by throwing stones at it. Not long after when we failed dismally at the 2007 edition in West Indies the picture was pretty much the same as the media in hands with the fan took no stones upturned in lambasting our ‘failed’ heroes. However, as fate would have it the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa later that year turned things around dramatically, what with India emerging as champions, and the fans taking to the streets once again, only this time in awe of their heroes and to celebrate with the dance of victory. This see-saw in the emotions of the great Indian fan has continued ever since India has made rapid strides in the game, courtesy mainly to Kapil Dev’s devils in 1983.And with the advent of the rapidly emerging media, the fans now have a new medium to vent out their resentment in blogs and social networking sites as well, and one is left to wonder whether we will ever see some sort of maturity in the temperamental Indian fan.
The problem in India is that everybody is an expert, or at least considers himself one. From the street-smart Romeo, to the local Autowallah or some other grandfatherly figures, everyone has a viewpoint on what ought and ought not to be done. The dissecting ability of some of the subtle nuances of the game by some of these people is truly incredible. From shot selection to team composition, everything is discussed and analyzed in great details. And more often than not, if the fan’s ‘ideologies’ aren’t met by the team, they have to incur their wrath. Here in Kolkata, you are never short of these ‘experts’ as the city is brimming with them in every nook and corner. Famous for being clubbed with the ‘sporting city’ tag, Kolkata has had its history of irate fans known for their over zealousness while halting the proceedings in the famous Eden Gardens many a times if things didn’t seem to be going their way. There was an incident in the 1999 Asian Test Championship match here against Pakistan, where Sachin Tendulkar was given out run out, even as Shoaib Akhtar allegedly blocked his way. What followed what was total mayhem as the crowd erupted in unison against the Pakistan team, for their ‘unholy’ act, the result of which was the match being played to empty stands the following day. The (in) famous 1996 World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka, where the match was awarded to the visitors due to crowd trouble can be another case in point. However, the same unruly crowd is known for its effervescent support to the home team while in dire straits and for its staunch, almost biased support for its local hero Sourav Ganguly. These incidents in itself present the contrasting picture of the Indian fan, who can take you from zero to hero in no moment.

However, to understand this psyche would require further delving on the issue. In the days of the yore, when cricket was young in India, people would long for any sort of news of their cricketing heroes. Listening to the BBC coverage on the radio would be the order, but thing started changing from the 1983 World Cup onwards. Once the finals was telecast live, the fans took to it like fish to water, and what added to the extra spice obviously was the home team emerging as champions. As time passed the coverage grew, so did the expectations and with its reach spreading to every part of the country fans were treated to all the various aspects of the game. However, it also made them ever so vulnerable, seeing their players going down against arch-rivals like Pakistan wasn’t something they would digest easily. And so would begin their tirade every time the home team would lose vital encounters. Players have shocking tales to tell on how they have been abused, not just by their countrymen but by expats as well, when they have failed to perform. There have been incidents when players would fear returning home after a poor series, fearing the ire of the fans. The media too has had a major part to play in influencing the public’s opinion. These days, no sooner would India lose one match, and headlines would come screaming at you with familiar words like ‘Shame’, ‘Disgraceful’ and the lot. Blogs and social networking sites too are notable platforms for venting out your anger and criticism and not to mention pointers to the captain on what the strategy should have been. Self styled analysts of the game too are increasing by the day, and all of them generally have similar points of view, on how the players should concentrate on the game and not on luscious advertisement deals. It doesn’t help, that while in the one frame a Yuvraj gets bowled, while in the other he is shown drinking coke. Questions are then raised about the integrity and patriotism of the players. Not many would agree, but while the whole country is hailing him as ‘god’ these days, it wasn’t too long ago when Sachin Tendulkar too was under the line of fire and people were demanding his removal, saying his days are over.

What we fail to understand is that players too are normal human beings. And what they play is a sport where winning and losing is part and parcel of the game. Surely one understands the disappointment if the team they support and love so much doesn’t live up to their expectations, but to take it to a personal level is a bit uncalled for. The players are at perfect liberty to do the advertisements of their choice, and secondly it hardly takes half a day to shoot a commercial so the question of lack of practicing doesn’t arrive. It isn’t their fault that the broadcasters choose to run those commercials at inappropriate times. These are international players and know the importance of donning the national cap; it takes years of struggle to get there, while the overwhelming support is good the opposite isn’t required either, at least not in the levels we are known to take it to. Criticism is fine, we have the right to do that in fact, but burning effigies and making personal comments would surely not help matters; all it does is to make the players vulnerable. One should look inside to understand, that when we sometimes fail or perform below expectations in life, we won’t like harsh lectures from our parents, but instead some compassion and understanding. In the same way, the Indian fan needs to mature and not be influenced by outside elements, and show some love and understanding at the time when our players perhaps need them the most. It would go a long way in restoring the confidence in the players relating to them, and who knows make them play with extra responsibility and perform beyond our expectations. Going overboard with anything is never good and that is the reason perhaps that we need to draw a line somewhere between love and hypocrisy.

1 comment:

  1. hmmm very very nice article bhawesh we all shud read this coz m also one of them who critisize these players..actually in india cricket is not just a game for us..its sumthing more than that our emotions.feelings everythin attached with that but yess there shud be a limit m 100% agre with wat u said abt kolkata public seriously man every chai shops or in local clubs .."imh! dhoni kalke bhalo khello na, sehwag ko aise nhi waise khelna chahiye tha,ganguly jaisa koi nhi" my god they know everything abt cricket n all..yess u r right bhawes we have the rites to critisize coz we r emotional and we cant control our feelings but as i said there shud be sum limits..and bhawesh uff wat shud i say abt these hindi news god sumtimes i feel shame that these channels r the part of our country..sumtimes i feel that omg how talented these jounalists hai na..?? they know everything abt wat wat dhoni shud do to win the match wat he shud avoid waty was his mistake..and the funny thing is that in these news channels wat they do si they cal few do kauri ke players jinke naam bhi kabhi humne sune nhi hai jaise bhisan singh bedi and few more they com and give their cmnts and sugestions which we dnt need it at its very irritating...we have to change our mentality we shud take cricket as a game its good that we r so emotional abt cricket but yess bhawes u r correct that these playesr are after all human being...newaz its a nice and very informative articl good wrk keep it up