Samir Chopra February 27, 2009

Indian Foreign Service

When India play at home, they provide entertainment, razzle-dazzle, and a display of sporting skills

My gut reaction to India's losing the two T20s against New Zealand was disappointment. Not because a couple T20 internationals had been lost. In the larger scheme of things, these still rank third behind Tests and ODIs. But because, these days, every time India loses a match overseas, I instinctively sense a lost opportunity to give the "boys overseas" - the large, vocal, Indian diaspora--something to cheer about. It's yet another burden for the Indian team to bear but it is one they should be familiar with.

When the Indian team first played in the West Indies in 1953, they provided plenty of joy for the Indo-Caribbean spectators that came out in throngs to see them play (the best description of this reaction can be found in Mihir Bose's A History of Indian Cricket. And when India won the World Cup in 1983, an Indian expat living in London on a visit to India, said to an uncle of mine, "World Cup jeetne ke baad hum mahinon tak chati nikaal ke chalte te London mein". [For months after India won the World Cup, we walked around with our chests stuck out in London]. Like it or not, when the Indian team plays overseas, they do duty of a sort very different from that when they play at home.

When they play at home, they provide entertainment, razzle-dazzle, and a display of sporting skills. When they play overseas, they provide ammunition for bragging rights, comeback lines and a cushion of respect (which might help, for instance, in making sure you get picked up early in a pickup game).

Back in 2004, shortly after Amit Varma had started his now-defunct blog 23 Yards, and had written a post wondering why Indian fans treated their teams so harshly, I wrote to him, offering a tongue-in-cheek explanation:

Lots of Indian fans that write to you are writing from the great diaspora, and part of the frustration expressed in those emails comes from the team's perceived failure at backing them up in those edgy conversations they seem to be perpetually having with other expats about far the most vocal is the Indian expat who gets to work and has to listen to his English, Aussie, South African or Kiwi office-mate ask him, "Say, Vijay, what about your boys last night?" The Indian, used to endless jokes about his accent, his country's poverty, the weird movies with the actors that run around trees in saris singing songs, seethes internally and curses himself for having been born in a country whose cricket players do not provide him sufficient rhetorical ammunition for these encounters. When he gets home, he fires off his emails.

But speaking more seriously and from a broader perspective than just jousting with the locals, Indians overseas are aware they are slowly settling into societies not fully adjusted to all the differences between their respective cultures. The Indian cricket team gives them a point of contact with the local culture. They want that point of contract to be one they can take pride in, one that is not to be hidden away or disowned, but to be highlighted and bragged about. Like it or not, their expectations, even more heightened than when they lived back in India, add to the Indian team's already heavy baggage.

From personal experience I can tell you that after Kolkata 2001, the best place in the world to be an Indian fan was Australia. Nothing will quite match the feeling of walking out on Cleveland Street in Sydney's Surry Hills, hearing the hooping and hollering of all the "locals" that had turned out at the Crown Hotel to watch the dramatic final moments of that game. And nothing will quite match the pleasure I took in all the conversations over morning coffee the next day at work.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on September 19, 2009, 0:41 GMT

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

  • testli5504537 on March 5, 2009, 7:32 GMT

    As cricket fan resident in India with an Indian passport and citizenship by birth,I feel that people rsident elsewhere with their Indian passports and citizenship intact may be wondering why after all the efforts to become an Aussie or a Brit,the naturalised Aussie or the Brit, cannot support their national teams.

  • testli5504537 on March 5, 2009, 5:22 GMT

    @fanon mate give the new zealanders a break they havent had much to gloat about in terms of series victories and espechally against a team of indias calaber! and that bad host jib at australia and new zealand being bad hosts... did you see the scg test that all you indians jump up and down about the bad umpiring on day 5? if you watched day 3 you would have seen the crowd give a standing ovation to sachin & vvs??? bad hosts yeah right! and look at how the south africans were treated in the just finished series. their coach spoke about the warm receptions the south african players got! indian crowds would do well to follow the australian crowds example and applaud good cricket not just their own team!

  • testli5504537 on March 2, 2009, 2:56 GMT

    Samir, You have hit the nail on the head, being a staunch Indian cricket fan an expat in NZ, the two defeats have left me in a pile of crap, you know what I mean!!! I am so looking forward to the start of the One day series from tomorrow and hope that the team will turn a new leaf and give me some ammunition to fight back. Go the Men In Blue!!!!!!!!

  • testli5504537 on March 1, 2009, 11:26 GMT

    I agree with what Iyerwazh and One eyed Desiji say.

    The Indian cricketer or any sportsman for that matter doesn't owe anything to any fan, foreign or not.

    All a sportsman owes us is to be a good sportsman. By ensuring they follow the rules of sportsmanship and by being a good ambassador of the game - which btw has the most +ve impact on the most innocent set of fans - children.

    Being a fan is voluntary and it is sad to see if it is based on vicariousness and lack of understanding of the game, lack of understanding of human fallibility, lack of appreciation for opponents and last of all a need for bragging rights. Leads to an intolerant, unappreciative, unreasonable, immature, insecure set of fans.

  • testli5504537 on February 28, 2009, 14:52 GMT

    Guys, guys, this is not an Indian team to be messes with. It's one thing being over confident and it's another being confident in your teams abilities. Under Dhoni, thiis indian team can easliy outshine all their opponents, barring the odd off day. This team may have been guilty of underestimating the NZ side, but surely that will be corrected. The conditions havn't been too unfamiliar, except the cold (maybe), It's down to the approach of the team- mental approach. Not knowing much about this NZ team and not having played them much is also a factor. Things will fall into place soon, I'm sure of it. Even if the team wasn't to change, we still have a PRETTY good shot at taking the ODI and test series. Well played to NZ, so far. I've always liked them. India needs to tone down the flair and keep their heads down. Something we expect with Dhoni being at the helm. The big blue wave's coming, I just knwo it.

  • testli5504537 on February 28, 2009, 13:26 GMT

    You know,thing is,the Indian fans,esp. the younger Indian fans(I'm 21),are confident,extra-competitive & used to excellence & domination.We don't consider ourselves lesser than anyone on the planet.NRI's are a confused lot & put up with a lot of nonsense which young indians dismiss.Also If I was a true-blue englishman,I'd be disturbed when indian-origin,british passport-holders cheer for India & not England.That goes for the other countries with sizeable Indian communities as well.I'd stated there that I hoped that Indian origin, non-indian passport holders show respect to those passports & cheer for the country that hands them out. Please don't call yourself Indian either. 'Well-off,well-travelled Haryanvi jat-Ranbir Singh Hooda from New Delhi.'

  • testli5504537 on February 28, 2009, 11:22 GMT

    i've never seen a hastier epitaph written for a cricket side......

    two t-20 games lost and the side is already being rubbished.....

    yes, indian sides have tended to underperform when playing overseas.....but this side has been improving all the time.......

    although things don't look too good right now, i think i'll reserve judgement till the end of the series.......

  • testli5504537 on February 28, 2009, 8:25 GMT

    Well said Iyerwazh. I am a standup comedian in San Francisco and I try to do what you write. Hope others follow suit instead of cringing.

    Samir, sorry dude, but your writings don't muse me at all.

  • testli5504537 on February 28, 2009, 7:38 GMT

    I'm an Indo-Canadian, and I've been following this tour as I do every tour of India, and I think the media in NZ has been very generous to the Indian team, I know because I enjoy reading the local dailies from the host country whenever India tours. Secondly, I totally agree with you Samir, I can speak for myself in saying, I do look at the Indian cricket team as one more thing I can point to about my motherland and be proud of. It's another thing entirely that it's bittersweet being an Indian fan, especially when they can't put this NZ team to the sword. But, hope springs eternal, and the tour is still young. Though I have to say, anyone else impressed by Martin Guptill, the guy is fun to watch(but he still should have been given LBW 1st ball at CHCH)

  • No featured comments at the moment.