March 19, 2007

It’s either this or nothing

ESPNcricinfo staff
Oh, the agony of that game against Bangladesh

Oh, the agony of that game against Bangladesh. It’s now the day after the day after and I am still slapping my forehead and saying, ‘Oh dear, oh dear, just did we manage to get beaten?’

And the next game against Bermuda is merely hours away. I shudder at the thought.

The fact of the loss against Bangladesh isn’t the worst thing. Watching the pasting India got was a vile experience but even that isn’t the worst thing. The worst thing is this: We’ll all stay up and watch the game against Bermuda tonight. We shan’t be able to bring ourselves to turn away.

The pact between a fan and his team is sacrosanct. It cannot be broken. It is not like the colas or the cars or the credit cards the players endorse. Don’t like it? Sell it off. Flush it down the toilet. Get something better.

All through Sunday, protests erupted all over India. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s new house, still being built, was attacked. Effigies were burnt. Sound bites on TV and chat rooms on the web were incandescent with anger.

It was the same in 2003 after India had squeezed through against the Netherlands in the opening game and got slaughtered by Australia in the next one. It is the same every time.

Advertisers are getting worried. The reported on Monday that “40 per cent of the Rs 12,000 crore (estimated by senior officials across firms like Samsung, LG and Coca-Cola) that rides on the Men in Blue can get wiped out if they make an early exit. That is about Rs 5,000 crore at stake.”

The fans’ anger with failure is genuine. (I can’t condone the ways in which it is expressed but I don’t for a moment doubt its genuineness.) As is their passion for the game and the hunger for success at it. But however disappointed we are, we simply cannot turn away when our players walk out on to the field. If we could, that Rs 12,000 crore would not have been at stake in the first place. The fact that it is – and will continue to be even if India go out before the next stage of the World Cup – suggests that there are millions out there like me: dejected, dispirited but waiting to reach for the remote before the first ball is bowled tonight. Sometimes, it feels like a brotherhood of misery.

Every fan realizes this: feeling miserable is part of the deal. But riding the misery and sticking with it the deal. You can’t support another team. You can’t suddenly become just as passionate about another sport.

It’s only this or nothing. And nothing is so much worse.

Soumya Bhattacharya is the editor of Hindustan Times, Mumbai. He is the author of two volumes of cricketing memoirs - You Must Like Cricket? and All That You Can't Leave Behind - and a novel, If I Could Tell You

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on April 1, 2007, 17:18 GMT

    add on to last post about fan responsibility, India is suffering from an entropy of their COMPETITIVE spirit. As fans what you can do as a first step in aiding its revival is to stop buying player endorsed products. This is not a game of money like the stagnanting NBA, NFL, NHL with their over paid players, boisterous and, generally, asshole like players..They aren't players as much as they are businessmen. Player sponsorship during game season should be banned. An opportunity to earn more should exist off season and after retirement, this way things like match fixing and sponsorship pressures to perform are taken out of the equation, while allowing for financial gain from their fame.

    Fans need to grow up, be mature about this as being nothing more than a game and not a testament of their politics. Of course boasting rights are fun, but only if fans are mature enough to accept defeat as a natural component of competitive sport. If they cannot grasp that, they cannot be a fan of the game and they sure as hell cannot judge the players' worth.

  • testli5504537 on April 1, 2007, 16:51 GMT

    the failure of the indian team is a fault of the social pressures weighing down their game. How can anyone succeed under that burden? The concept of this being "just a game" is so lost on the Indian and Pakistani fan that the palyers play with shackles of consequence every game. No one can perform under those circumstances.

    The Aussie success is that their players approch the game with moderation, just like their fans do. If Australia loses, you dont hear of people taking their own lives.

  • testli5504537 on April 1, 2007, 10:40 GMT

    yeiah thats right, sl did lose to india 6 -1 in that serries, but if u remember we made the stupid error of playin players ike mubarak in the middle order and excluding jayasuriya(he wasn in very gud form b4 then) but he wins matches like no-one else. but credit to india they did win that series, we won when it mattered tho :)

  • testli5504537 on March 24, 2007, 13:11 GMT

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (an extended version of an evil laugh). Sorry couldnt control my self. I guess its nothing now.... Isnt it? Well get used to it...... Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha (contineing with my evil laugh)

  • testli5504537 on March 23, 2007, 10:03 GMT

    Well the next time you want to slap your forehead, give a shout - cos i think there are many who can do a bterr job. Hey this isnt the first time India has lost, nor will it be the last... They are going to lose many more matches. If they dont want to lose, they have to stop playing the game. Wanting to play and being unable to lose is such an oxymoron....

  • testli5504537 on March 23, 2007, 9:57 GMT

    Pradeep's comments about Greg Chappell show a complete lack of understanding of the Australian sporting psyche, at the same level of misconception as Gavaskar's recent opinions on sledging. Pradeep, here in Aus, if you are somehow chosen in a team that plays against your mates, the biggest buzz of all is sticking it to them! Then you can forever wind them up in the pub afterwards. You would be truly very hard put to find any coach who more wants to beat Australia than an Australian! That same attitude is behind a lot (not all sadly) of the micky-taking in sledging. South Africans, I think, are the only other people who would fully get what I'm saying. I hope India beat Sri Lanka and go a long way in the tournament, if not just because like the Aus team this last Ashes series, they have a lot of really great players for whom the playing years are fast sliding away.

  • testli5504537 on March 23, 2007, 7:54 GMT

    I agree with vivek...I am a Lankan and cricket is my life...I love the game from all my heart...we lankans are educated enough to enjoy the game with a true spirit of the sport. I am not pointing fingers BUT it's a sad situation for a player to be scared of getting stoned or losing tehir house just because of a match fail..Cricket is so uncertain...we never know what'll happen...As a Lankan I am proud to say that we always stood by our guys....We love them so much and they will make us proud...India lanka match will be a good one fa sue..India with their superb batting line up can do wonders,,,But the lions are tough fighters too...Let us see...May the game of cricket win at the end of the day!!!

  • testli5504537 on March 23, 2007, 3:14 GMT

    india have good team.they will win against long as australia does not win a wc. i am very happy indian fan.relax and enjoy the cricket.

  • testli5504537 on March 22, 2007, 23:28 GMT

    for a change, fans in india have to stay awake all night to watch the match. Usually, fans in the US like myself have to stay awake all night to watch the match and miss some obligations the next day. staying awake the whole night and watching India lose is one of the most demoralizing things ever, its like Team India has punished you for statying awake and yet when the next match is, you are there at 3am waiting for the match to start. This sucks for me but i have an exam in the morning when the match starts and i will probably still try to sneak in a few overs even though i shouldnt but thats what fans do. Fans rely on hope, hope that the next time india takes the field, they will win.

  • testli5504537 on March 21, 2007, 6:49 GMT

    how are sl fans less passionate/emotional than other asian fans.. look we love this game as much if not even more than most.. hence why we dont react badly.. its because we love this game and the guys who represent us.. we are smart enough to know that anything can happen in a game.. win or lose dont matter as long AS WE GIVE OUR BEST.. and what you will find is that srilankan teams always try their hardest.. hence why for the last decade we have had the fittest and best fielding team from the sub continent ..because fielding is an area where commitment and hard work pays off most.. you cant be a talented fielder and you have to put in the yards and chase down lost causes..india especially has had to score 20 runs more in a game because of their fielding..

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