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August 29, 2008

Samir Chopra

The wild world of cricket on the Net

Samir Chopra
The fans get the beers in, and beards, while waiting for play to start, England Women v India Women, 1st ODI, Lord's, August 14, 2006
 © Will Luke
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I found Michael's piece on the desirability of looking beyond national boundaries in one's cricket appreciation quite thought-provoking, especially since the appeal was being made on the Internet, which has done a fair amount to both stoke and assuage nationalist frenzy in cricket fans worldwide. My relationship with the Net in this regard is a love-hate one. While it has certainly made possible contact with a larger body of cricket fans (with all the attendant benefits of travel when it comes to exposure to different cultures) it has also enabled a particular kind of xenophobic conversation that is extremely dispiriting.

Before I moved to the US, I had met very few cricket fans from other countries. A couple of Australian and English friends and acquaintances were the extent of my contact. My exposure to other cricketing cultures was largely a textual one: books, magazines and the like. I saw players and grounds on television, read about them, made up fantasies about how I imagined them to be. (Thus Australia was always sunny; imagine my shock when I found that Melbourne in August was nasty, cold and wet.) But moving to the US changed matters. I now met cricket fans from other countries in the flesh, talked to them, asked them about their favourite players and grounds, told them about mine, and traded the odd "favourite cricket moment" story and so on. Going online to talk about cricket (this was in the late 1980s) further changed things.

I met cricket fans here too. But the medium of conversation was very different, and the nature of the conversation radically so. The anonymity of the net, the speed and size of the distribution of messages, the 24-hour asynchronous link all led to a conversation that was rich with a diversity of insights, factual detail, analysis, and unfortunately infected by a great deal of rudeness, misunderstanding, and invective. The flame war was, as far as electronic conversations on cricket were concerned, an early, persistent, and tiresome companion. And the content of the flame wars was not just passionate disagreement; it quickly degenerated into xenophobia, chauvinism and deliberate ignorance. For cricket has its nationalist lines, most clearly visible in the teams and the fans that support them. These lines can be exhausting ones; I stopped reading cricket discussion fora for a very long time because I had become worn out by constant exposure to nationalist bickering. While I enjoyed reading a lot of the material (and being exposed to the passions of other cricket lovers) too much of it was trapped in a sludge of juvenilia.

I am not the first (nor will I be the last) to note that the Internet has its good side and its bad side. As a medium for getting in touch with an international community of fellow cricket lovers it remains unparalleled. When my desire to engage in a conversation with them and express my thoughts about the game grew too strong, I took up blogging. For the expat cricket lover, it is the only way to maintain one's sanity. But that doesn't mean it cannot exacerbate misunderstandings, shade subtlety and often lead to more corroded discourse. And at this present time, with the game facing a critical moment that could affect its future, it behoves us to try and evolve a conversation online that could approximate our favourite moments offline. Which in my case are talking about the cricket, while at the cricket, with a cold one close by. If only our Internet encounters could be as mellow.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by Precious on (December 23, 2011, 13:07 GMT)

Of the panolpy of website I've pored over this has the most veracity.

Posted by Liaquat Ali on (August 30, 2008, 9:59 GMT)

Very good article. As an avid follower of cricket I'm absolutely amazed at the degree of polarisation between the different fans and also the crude language that sometimes appears in some of the blogs.

I think the anonymous nature of the internet brings the worst out of people; as they would not dream of repeating some of their comments to somebody's face.

Posted by R.Narayan on (August 30, 2008, 7:12 GMT)

I hear what you're saying. But, perhaps, it is better that people unload some of this Xenophobia on the Net, rather than thump someone in real life. Just as cricket is an acceptable substitute for war!

Posted by AJAX on (August 30, 2008, 5:32 GMT)

Yes and I blame Pakistan and England for this, they have ruined cricket and the internets! We need more polite, classy (not pretentious) people on the internet, like S Ganguly, people whom we can sit down and enjoy tea and biscuits and a good discussion on the finer things in cricket. There was this one time we were discussing Tugga and crass Aussies in general and he took delight in explaining how he got one up on him by making him wait at the toss, oh happy day! Then I told him about my favorite cricket moment when all of a sudden he got scared and said, "You're moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air." I whistled for a cab and when it came near the license plate said FRESH and had a dice on the mirror. If anything I could say that this cab was rare, but I thought, "Nah forget it, yo homes to Bel-Air!" We pulled up to the house about 7 or 8 and I yelled to the cabby "Yo holmes, Smell ya later!" Looked at my kingdom I was finally there To sit on my throne as the prince of Bel Air

Posted by saurabh kukreti on (August 29, 2008, 21:56 GMT)

And at this present time, with the game facing a critical moment that could affect its future, it behoves us to try and evolve a conversation online that could approximate our favourite moments offline.

The above line brought a smile to my face, it looks eeringly similar to the words spoken by the Great Don

Posted by Ashwin on (August 29, 2008, 20:12 GMT)

well said...Sameer. We sure need some sanity and respect for other's opinion while discussing cricket on internet forums.

Posted by Raka on (August 29, 2008, 18:36 GMT)

I completely understand! I think perhaps on the web where people really are exposed to a plethora of different viewpoints the only way some people have of keeping track of their 'identity' is to follow national boundaries since it automatically gives you membership to a clique of fellow India/England/Australia/etc-lovers. Though I have to say I guess you can see the same with other sports fans across different sports on the internet--being a huge college basketball fan in the U.S. the same juvenile mud-slinging is found. The whole situation sort of recalls Naipaul saying Bradman was the best cricketer on his grade school test. Some people don't really follow cricket per-say but follow their nation's success, with cricket just becoming the medium for it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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