"Dude, who won the Bangladesh - Sri Lanka match in the Asia Cup yesterday?”
"Oh. There is some Cricket going on? Sorry, didn’t notice."
"What? How CAN you sit and cheer for some gora foreign country when India is playing at the Asia Cup? You don’t have any love for your country.”
There we go again. In those three sentences I was told:
1. You are not a 'true' Indian if you don't follow cricket religiously (Bollywood too, I am told)
2. Rooting for India playing Cricket is some sort of national duty. (Like it is in North Korea)
3. Whatever it be the world thinks, Football is totally inferior to cricket. (The FIFA World Cup is not the only reason I don’t follow cricket)
4. Please note: 1. Less than half of the countries playing in the World Cup are 'gora'. Africans, Asians and South Americans are not. 2. Seems it is fine moving heaven and earth trying to get your ass off to the ‘gora’ country, but cheering for them is not. Hypocrites!
I do follow cricket, but only on very select occasions. I am a much bigger fan of football (soccer) than I am of cricket, and if you are not Mallu, Bong or Goan, please excuse if you don’t understand this. But sorry, I follow EPL more than IPL and UEFA more than BCCI (it is easier). Oh and I am as much as Indian as any of the next 1.2 billion.
But cricket has developed as our national past time. So why the ‘unfollow’ on cricket?
Cricket Overload: I had to shut the pipe to prevent myself from drowning in cricket! I mean, who the hell can keep track of all these games going on all the time and everywhere? It seems that they play endlessly like a queue in front of a BEVCO liquor shop in Kerala. Once the IPL is over, bang! There starts the blah series. That over, starts blah blah trophy. Then the triple blah cup, and so on. Today, just following cricket has become a full time commitment and requires all your energy. All the stats and fixtures occupy so much disk space in your head that you tend to forget other things (Like your Anniversary?) leading to potentially explosive situations. The only thing more continuous than India playing cricket is Arnab’s interruptions.
IPL: Make no mistake, the grand spectacle called IPL invented for Cricketers, Bollywooders, Industrialists and other assorted ‘beautiful’ people to drink, dance and party their asses away for two months (Oh, and to play some cricket also, during intervals in between parties) at the expense of the Indian cricket fan replaced my interest with disgust and indifference. The IPL was so ridiculously long that it would have become impossible to keep up levels of interest and remain sane at the same time. The sheer number of matches over an ungodly number of 82 days made sure that it kept up the freshness of stale bread. Many matches were boring to the point of deadly, with some players committing mistakes on the field that were humanly impossible to commit. The slash-bang version (T20) had lost its novelty, the entire thing reeked of corruption, and then there was the whole Modi vs. Tharoor slugfest.
Dismal Indian Performances: Now don’t get me started on this one. Ravindra Jadeja, anyone? But even then, we did win the Asia Cup, didn’t we? But unfortunately, that noise was noise was drowned out by the FIFA World Cup (which is in turn being drowned out by the Vuvuzelas)
Boring. So sue me. Cricket IS boring. The most part of it is anyway. Have you noticed how slow the matches are? I am not even talking about the Tests. Even for an India ODI, I wouldn’t want to sit through the 33rd over with the score at 137, don’t have an entire day to spare, sorry. Don’t most of us just skip the overs from 20 to 39? Now coming to the T20 blam blam version, it is almost always expected for the batsman to whack at the ball with all his might like a logger wielding an axe to fell an Oak with a single strike. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he doesn’t. Any yes, it is still two times longer than a football match. Enough said. And take this: We waste quite some time waiting between deliveries. That is a lot of juice, baby! Care to lend me some?
Over Commercialization: Putting it this way: Cricket has totally become an ad-whore, with IPL being the Pimp. When the entire existence of the game is purely for on business and revenue targets, it brings with it a certain level of disgust. And I am not talking about fixed matches. Let me put it this way: I don’t pay Tata Sky to watch 4 hours of commercials interrupted by some cricket here and there. There are ads till the moment the first ball is bowled, for every four, six, wicket, catch, missed catch… Then between overs (sometimes missing the first and last deliveries of the over) the moment the match is over and the latest innovation, between deliveries too. Why don’t we remove cricket altogether from this and show just commercials for 3 hours??
In India most people take to cricket because that is the first sport they are exposed to, it is easy to play, there is not much physical exhaustion and cricket is also one of the two things that we as a nation have to showcase our ‘Unity in Diversity’ (the other one being Pakistan). In my case, Football was the first sport I started following: Italia ’90. And then came the Euro cups and EPL. And one never forgets his first love. Since then, the goals, the passes, the speed and magic of the game, the passion, the fans, the colorful characters playing it etc were enough to preserve my attention. “The beautiful game” was much more preferred in my family too, as cricket was termed as a ‘time waster’ and hence low grades. Oh, and please compare telecast of the World Cup by ESPN and that of the IPL by SET Max.
All said and done, some of the nail biting finishes cricket has thrown us cannot be compensated by any other sport. Oh, and Sachin isn't God and cricket is not my religion.
So I have decided to selectively follow cricket, for some series or tourneys only. The Asia Cup was not one of them. I was not aware that India won the Asia Cup until someone tweeted about it.
Now imagining a conversation between two ‘prude’ English gentlemen in top hats and waistcoats somewhere in Victorian London:
"My dear Arthur, did you ever so happen to cast your eye on the county game of cricket between Essex and Derbyshire?"
"By Jove, yes, Edwards. I most certainly did. Excellent game, if I may say so myself. That Hutton fellow is a fine man of the bat."
"Speaking of games, Arthur, some scoundrels were engaged in the fiendish game of 'Football' hither to my estate, causing great duress to our fine ladies.
"It is an outrage! A rouge sport as such not worthy for a gentleman being conducted in our premises is a travesty! I shall be dispatching a note to the constabulary with great haste”.
“I most certainly agree, dear Arthur. However, I have been told by a certain acquaintance of mine, a gentleman of most reputed stature; that the tavern we frequent at Convent would soon be taking upon itself to put forth a group of players of said game for the purpose of taking forth engagement in games of competitive fashion with many a likely team of similar nature.”
“By God! This shan’t be of occurrence in the fair land of England! Gentlemen are not to be of such abandon as to follow a rogue game! The World we live in is an unholy place, Edward”
Such was the old English prude. We Indians carry this baggage to this day. Oh but cricket had ceased to be a ‘Gentleman’s game’ long back. I continue to love Football.
Also read: A Brief History of Cricket in India.