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November 9, 2008

Samir Chopra

Why is the Indian fan so angry?

Samir Chopra

One thing the India-Australia series was bound to do was generate a few flame wars between Indian and Australian fans. One didn't have to wait long, starting with the sniping in the press, the release of Adam Gilchrist's autobiography and ElbowGate.

One common thread in these debates, at least from the Australian side, is the sense of disbelief that Indian fans could be so unbelievably over-the-top in their sensitivities. Do they really think the world is out to get them? I don't think the world is. But I want to highlight a small part of the subtext to the sensitivities of Indian fans. I do not speak as a representative of the group, but merely want to offer a small personal glimpse into the set of accumulated feelings that could lead to this state of affairs.

Consider umpiring. The Indian distaste for Steve Bucknor was most notoriously on display at Sydney earlier in the year, and we haven't heard the end of that debate yet. But why would Indians ever think particular umpires were against them? What could their motivation be? I'd like to suggest that while there might be no overt prejudice in umpiring decisions against the Indian teams, the alert fan has not been ignorant of what might politely be called an "attitude" towards the Indian team. And that isn't a trust-engendering state of affairs.

Here are two, small, anecdotal vignettes. In the 2001 'Kolkata' series, Peter Willey was umpiring at Kolkata. The Indian 12th man ran onto the ground with either gloves or a bottle of water or a message or all three. Willey waved him off the ground imperiously, much like a District Collector might have waved his khansama off the gymkhana polo grounds. I wonder whether he would have employed that body language to an English or Australian player. I think Willey would have waited till the player was on the ground and gone over to talk to him. In the Delhi Test, Billy Bowden called a dead ball on VVS Laxman, cancelling the runs made by the batsmen because they had run on the pitch. When Laxman asked Bowden why the runs had been cancelled, Bowden put a finger on his lips, much as a schoolmaster might chastise a schoolboy. Again, I wonder whether Bowden would ever have used such a patronising gesture to an English or Australian player.

What does this have to do with the quality of umpiring decisions? Aren't they professionals doing a job? Yes. But they are also human beings, prone to all the foibles of our species. So are Indian fans, in suspecting prejudice subconciously underwrites patronising behavior. And they express themselves the most vehemently on the Net, not the best venue to express subtlety in arguments (those happen best over beers and face-to-face).

Back when neutral umpires were first introduced, I'm ashamed to say I was worried about Pakistani umpires officiating in Indian matches. I wondered whether they would actually be neutral when it came to Indian teams (all the umpiring controversies in India-Pakistan games had left their mark on me). It is both an indication of my current (mild) mistrust in other umpires because of many little incidents like the two I have cited above, that I now feel the most relieved when I see Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf umpiring in India's games. Their umpiring is of decent quality (Taufel beats everyone hands down) and best of all, I never worry about whether they have got their backs up during their interactions with the Indians.

Perhaps my worries are unfounded. But I'm speaking here frankly as an anxious Indian fan, one used to Murphy's Law balefully staring down at the Indian team. I do not offer this post as an exculpation for any over-the-top expressions of national paranoia or insecurity, but just a small glimpse into what might ground the expressions of this very large, very vocal, and very passionate group of cricket lovers.

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

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Posted by Adam on (March 19, 2009, 12:21 GMT)

Indian fans are both the best and the worst in world cricket. No fan is more passionate or supportive towards the game.

But no fan is more damaging to the game with this continual whinging. This article is reflective of that. Examples of 7 years ago? come on, what a joke. I don't see any report about decisions in India's favour, of which there are many.

Seriously Indian fans, this continual complaining about umpires/officials is simply making excuses for your team. They don't play the game, they simply do their best job. If you want to blame someone for losing blame the players, make them accountable for their form. I'm sure, deep down, you all know that India receive as many good decisions as they do bad.

Stop making excuses for your team. It's ugly, embarrassing and a blight on the current game. Why don't you just enjoy the current team which is pushing to be the best in the world. They're exciting to watch. Just take the good with the bad guys and STOP THE WHINGING!!

Posted by 12th Man on (November 18, 2008, 8:32 GMT)

Aleem Dar is a good umpire and i admit that. Asad Rauf should have been history by now. The only consolation is he is equally bad when it comes to umpiring decisions and that removes any bias he might have.

Posted by Random Aussie on (November 15, 2008, 7:25 GMT)

A thoughtful piece of comment well written. And the usual Indian complaining about the umpires. We know that if it were not for the umpires, India would be the rightful champions of cricket. Even after a great series win we still have fans who want to whine and whine about umpires, talk about umpires, compare umpires, find racism hidden here and there and look for someone to blame. It is a lack of maturity and objectivity in watching cricket here with the victim mentality holding strong.

Posted by Cameron on (November 13, 2008, 1:43 GMT)

I really think that there is a need for perspective here. There is no doubt that every country in the cricket world could select a range of incidents in isolation, scrutinse them to the enth degree & come to a conclusion that the world is out to get them. For every example the Indian fans site on this blog one can easily think of a counter example that has impacted England, Australia et al. I do not know whether it is the majority of Indian fans who feel this way but the supporter base is so large that even a small minority can make a significant amount of noise in forums like this. When you combine this with a large and often hysterical Indian media, a BCCI who appear to have had an ethical bypass it is giving the world an unfortunate impression of the broader Indian cricket community.

Posted by Pete on (November 13, 2008, 0:55 GMT)

This topic fascinates me. I still remember (before neutral umpires) when Australia were 4-20 against India in India, and not one batsman was legitimately out. Mark Waugh was given out bat-pad when his bat was a foot from the ball. It really was laughable. Now we have neutral umpires, and Indian fans constantly think all the umpires are out to get them. On top of that, if you listen to Indian supporters, bad decisions against their players is somehow 'cheating' by the opposing teams, and no Indian player has EVER used sledging, only in 'retaliation'. Sometimes I think all Indian blog contributers are about 15 years old.

Posted by krishna on (November 12, 2008, 18:58 GMT)

My little contribution for whatever it is worth. While I do not believe that the World is out to get India, I definitely believe Australians do get the rub of the green more often than not from the lawmakers, officials, umpires, everybody concerned.Frankly,their their on-field behaviour is atrocious and the lack of punitive action (think McGrath(countless occasions),Slater,Warne) against over-appealing,foul-mouthing opposition in the name of "fair" sledging is laughable. Aussies get more umpiring decisions in their favour as well,just ask anyone.This comes simply from the fact that they are the dominating force in cricket and somehow have made the World believe the ludicrous "Hard but fair" propoganda. This is not uncommon to other sports-just observe the number of times in football,hockey-in fact any olympic sport-the better team/player gets favourable decisions from the referees.In a sense,it is a subtle reflection of a natural order-people like winners.

Posted by Longmemory on (November 12, 2008, 2:52 GMT)

Firstly, to PK who argued that Indian family values and culture make us over-sensitive to insults about mothers or sisters, whom are you kidding??! The two most common cusswords in India are "maadarc...h" and "behnc....h" - you know what I mean - and both words show no respect whatsoever to mothers or sisters. The idea that Indian players are so pained at hearing sledges at their mums and sisters is simply laughable. Secondly, to all those who keep harping on Harbhajan and Symmo, there was a hearing presided over by a New Zealand judge, he weighed all the evidence and concluded "not guilty". Moreover, he explicitly slapped Symmo on the wrist for starting the whole damn thing. What part of a verdict of "not guilty" do you not understand? If an umpire's decision - right or wrong - is the last word and the batter has to walk, since when is a judge's verdict not the last word? So just shut up about Harbhajan and Symmo - both those morons fully deserve each other in my view.

Posted by Lloyd on (November 11, 2008, 13:14 GMT)

Valid points.This is also why the Olympics do not see fit to include cricket,because its the primary sport of India,Pakistan,Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.There is defitely prejudice,modern Apartheid as evidenced by the Eurocentric nature of the Winter and Summer Olympics. Cricket2012Games.com believes we should be talking about this version of apartheid more

Posted by Prad on (November 11, 2008, 13:02 GMT)

Sunil Gavaskar is wright when he says the subcontinental players are treated seperately when compared with players from england and australia. if you take the statitics of players punished for any offence in matches involving australia and england you may find most of them are subcontinental players.

Posted by Gazzo on (November 11, 2008, 10:44 GMT)

It's interesting how this anger seems to be manifested mainly in the Indian cricket fraternity. Surely if racism were rife within the ICC the West Indies would also experience similar problems? Or the non-white players representing SA and England? Unfortunately there seems to be a culture of victimhood in Indian cricket, fostered by the refusal of the BCCI to force players to take responsibility for their actions

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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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