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Now that India is out of the World Cup, watching the games has become a pleasurable, anxiety-free, almost aesthetic exercise. My nails are beginning to grow back; I have stopped giving the sofa a hammering every three minutes; and my daughter, I hope, will sooner rather than later begin to forget the swear words she picked up by being in my presence during the India games. It’s great fun, unadulterated fun, watching the cricket now. (In fact, it’s a little like the football World Cup: No India, great games.)
And there is so much to watch, so much worth staying up for: Shane Bond’s bursts of pure speed and control (it must be one of the most beautiful sights in the world, a genuinely quick bowler in full throttle); Matthew Hayden’s successive hundreds (the first one reminded me of the choreographed carnage at the end of Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather. Hayden was ruthless and bloodied the opposition but there was such precision, such beauty in the violence); Malinga’s unforgettable four-ball devastation; and the brave manner in which South Africa began its (eventually unsuccessful) reply to the Australian total. It’s all riveting stuff, and there is so much of it around.
But there is this thing: Is it ever possible to watch any sport without actually supporting one of the two sides? (Or players if it happens to be an individual sport.) I think not. The 2005 Ashes series was the greatest ever and I enjoyed watching it more than many, many series in which India played but I was supporting a team: England, in that case. (The reasons are complicated, and I shan’t go into them here.)
While watching England play Australia (or X plays Y when neither is India) I am not as tortured as I would be if India plays, but I am very engaged with the fortunes of a particular side. The game itself gives great pleasure; but we need to identify with one of the two teams to give the experience of watching that extra frisson.
So it is with this World Cup too. I always know which of the two teams on the day I support.
But I am yet to decide which side I really want to go all the way. (In football, it’s always an easy choice. Ever since Diego Maradona arrived, I have been an Argentina supporter.) But I shall have to make up my mind soon.
Have you made up yours?
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 YouFeeds: Soumya Bhattacharya
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