Samir Chopra February 27, 2009

Indian Foreign Service

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

  • Dryer Vent Cleaning on September 19, 2009, 0:41 GMT

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

  • SANJEEB KUMAR 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.

  • REDNECK 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!

  • Denzil Rodrigues 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!!!!!!!!

  • Vivek 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.

  • Siddharth HK 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.

  • Ranbir Hooda 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.'

  • Kinshuk 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.......

  • Samson Koletkar 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.

  • Altamush 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)

  • Dryer Vent Cleaning on September 19, 2009, 0:41 GMT

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

  • SANJEEB KUMAR 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.

  • REDNECK 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!

  • Denzil Rodrigues 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!!!!!!!!

  • Vivek 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.

  • Siddharth HK 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.

  • Ranbir Hooda 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.'

  • Kinshuk 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.......

  • Samson Koletkar 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.

  • Altamush 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)

  • Raza on February 28, 2009, 6:39 GMT

    I think its time the indians came back to earth and faced reality. No matter how many stars (rockstars) they have, they have never been able to win consistently away from home. Their super stardom exists only till home series. If an average but well knit team from a nation of 4 million can beat you repeatedly then it would be a saner approach to get rid of the stars and focus on a team combination which works. Having a rich board does not guarantee a good team. Team India is all hype and bravado.

  • One eyed Desiji on February 28, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    Indian fans have had chips on their shoulders about the Aussies for years now. And even when they're beating them, the fans can't seem to give up this resentment. Now that the Kiwis are beating India (again), the tone has gone in one week from patronising faux friendliness, to the same vitriolic resentment expressed for Australians.

    Can't help but think these negative feelings hark back to the way the English brutalised you for centuries. But wake up mamas boys, it wasn't Aussies and Kiwis who whipped you! Different men

    Ironically whenever the English come to town their treated as gentleman.

    The pervasive sentiment of Indian fans regarding how wonderful Sachin, Dravid, Laxman etc. are is all blown out of proportion with reality. A country like New Zealand, which has a population of 4 million (that means that a country that India is 300 times bigger than!) can beat you twice in a row and all you can give us is wonderful, stupendous Sachin, Dravid and Laxman.

    One eyed & pathetic!

  • kiwi on February 28, 2009, 4:44 GMT

    I think Fanon's got it all wrong. Doubtless there is some degree of resentment among the NZ public towards the BCCI for the way they ostracised NZ's ICL players, but the media here has been massaging the egos of the Indian players non-stop since their arrival, describing them as rockstars etc. In fact, I've felt that the media worship has perhaps been a little too much. Dfunk is right - this is a series that NZers have looked forward to for a long time, and I doubt you'd find any more-respected cricketers among the NZ public than Tendulkar, Dravid & co. Harbhajan maybe not so much... That even non-cricket fans in NZ know these names speaks of the esteem in which they are held. On the other hand, we as NZ fans constantly put up with our players being put down in the global cricket (especially English) media - frequently described as "dour" and "boring" instead of flashy and exciting - baselessly really, considering strokemakers the calibre of mccullum, ryder, guptill, taylor and oram.

  • dfunk on February 28, 2009, 3:13 GMT

    hey fanon is the glass half empty mate? we love having the indians here. i'm more excited by this tour than any i've seen. who is gloating? perhaps it is you who are graceless. rude guest.

  • Avi Singh on February 28, 2009, 2:50 GMT

    Couldn't agree more, living in New Zealand I feel the same way. It's a friendly rivalry, but I must say that I enjoyed the Twenty20 World Cup and the bragging rights that followed! Here's hoping for a similar story in the Test series in NZ so that people in NZ can see how truly special Dravid, Sachin and Laxman are.

  • Fanon on February 27, 2009, 20:27 GMT

    A little put out that they lost again, especially as the locals cant help but react by gloating. They are such bad winners, and as bad hosts as the Aussies. Must be be something to do with the 'pioneering' spirit that led them to colonise the Antipodes. Have barely heard anything positive from the local media since their arrival, just a lot of displaced resentment and reactive hostility re Indian cricekt wealth, financially and talent wise. Bleating on about IPL this ICL that, but careful to neglect mentioning that this is the greatest windfall for NZ crickete ever, set to earn them more money than their beloved rugby will this whole year. Hope this trend of losing doesnt continue, its insufferable already. Been living here for years but still cant get over how graceless poeple are generally. Dont know about play for the rest of the tour, the weather here has been monsoonal. Just desserts perhaps, maybe India wont tour for another 7 years. With the fab 4 or 5 gone , who cares

  • JAhmad on February 27, 2009, 19:20 GMT

    A very good post, and very relevant. Kudos. I think this is something the Pakistani and Indian fans share. I have family in Australia that takes each loss to Australia as a personal insult mainly because they have to go to work the next day and its not pretty then. India has had a lot more to cheer about that us Pakistanis in recent past though. Your team make-up is great and I don't think people will remember the T-20s after the one dayers and Tests are over...unless India really does fail on the tour, which seems unlikely considering their strength.

  • Neha J on February 27, 2009, 18:35 GMT

    Sigh, the sentiments of an Indian cricket fan..! Victories abroad really make you visit the Indian in the NRI you, don't they?! The defeats to NZ were pretty dissappointing..but the boys can't be blamed completely, eh?..new conditions & tracks, lack of T20 games, inexperienced players..let's give 'em some time..!

    Great article..!

  • Iyerwazh on February 27, 2009, 17:01 GMT

    Such is the perception created by the Western media on India. It is unfair of an Indian cricket fan to be proud of his cultural heritage with the media blowing off India every chance they get! Like they say "This too shall pass", us Indian are patiently waiting for the dark clouds to pass so the world would look at for who we really are! A peace-loving, spiritual civilization! Overseas Indian fans should stop blaming their cricketers for their problems. They are professional sportsmen with their own problems to worry about! If they (fans) are too ashamed of their country and culture, then perhaps they should be the change they wish to see.

  • saurabh on February 27, 2009, 16:07 GMT

    Samir, I dearly agree with you on this count. BTW did you eventually end up watching the match till 5 AM Eastern. I was half asleep during the game and have been feeling drowsy since morning. Yes, Indians outside India follow the game with more passion. I can vouch for myself, I end up watching all the games of India wherever they are played in the world sitting here in US. I was in India during the Ind-Aus Test Series and other than Bangalore Test which I watched from the stadia, the rest of the games I barely followed or watched highlights of. But the moment I was back in States I was following the ODI series b/w Ind-Eng from Ball 1.

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  • saurabh on February 27, 2009, 16:07 GMT

    Samir, I dearly agree with you on this count. BTW did you eventually end up watching the match till 5 AM Eastern. I was half asleep during the game and have been feeling drowsy since morning. Yes, Indians outside India follow the game with more passion. I can vouch for myself, I end up watching all the games of India wherever they are played in the world sitting here in US. I was in India during the Ind-Aus Test Series and other than Bangalore Test which I watched from the stadia, the rest of the games I barely followed or watched highlights of. But the moment I was back in States I was following the ODI series b/w Ind-Eng from Ball 1.

  • Iyerwazh on February 27, 2009, 17:01 GMT

    Such is the perception created by the Western media on India. It is unfair of an Indian cricket fan to be proud of his cultural heritage with the media blowing off India every chance they get! Like they say "This too shall pass", us Indian are patiently waiting for the dark clouds to pass so the world would look at for who we really are! A peace-loving, spiritual civilization! Overseas Indian fans should stop blaming their cricketers for their problems. They are professional sportsmen with their own problems to worry about! If they (fans) are too ashamed of their country and culture, then perhaps they should be the change they wish to see.

  • Neha J on February 27, 2009, 18:35 GMT

    Sigh, the sentiments of an Indian cricket fan..! Victories abroad really make you visit the Indian in the NRI you, don't they?! The defeats to NZ were pretty dissappointing..but the boys can't be blamed completely, eh?..new conditions & tracks, lack of T20 games, inexperienced players..let's give 'em some time..!

    Great article..!

  • JAhmad on February 27, 2009, 19:20 GMT

    A very good post, and very relevant. Kudos. I think this is something the Pakistani and Indian fans share. I have family in Australia that takes each loss to Australia as a personal insult mainly because they have to go to work the next day and its not pretty then. India has had a lot more to cheer about that us Pakistanis in recent past though. Your team make-up is great and I don't think people will remember the T-20s after the one dayers and Tests are over...unless India really does fail on the tour, which seems unlikely considering their strength.

  • Fanon on February 27, 2009, 20:27 GMT

    A little put out that they lost again, especially as the locals cant help but react by gloating. They are such bad winners, and as bad hosts as the Aussies. Must be be something to do with the 'pioneering' spirit that led them to colonise the Antipodes. Have barely heard anything positive from the local media since their arrival, just a lot of displaced resentment and reactive hostility re Indian cricekt wealth, financially and talent wise. Bleating on about IPL this ICL that, but careful to neglect mentioning that this is the greatest windfall for NZ crickete ever, set to earn them more money than their beloved rugby will this whole year. Hope this trend of losing doesnt continue, its insufferable already. Been living here for years but still cant get over how graceless poeple are generally. Dont know about play for the rest of the tour, the weather here has been monsoonal. Just desserts perhaps, maybe India wont tour for another 7 years. With the fab 4 or 5 gone , who cares

  • Avi Singh on February 28, 2009, 2:50 GMT

    Couldn't agree more, living in New Zealand I feel the same way. It's a friendly rivalry, but I must say that I enjoyed the Twenty20 World Cup and the bragging rights that followed! Here's hoping for a similar story in the Test series in NZ so that people in NZ can see how truly special Dravid, Sachin and Laxman are.

  • dfunk on February 28, 2009, 3:13 GMT

    hey fanon is the glass half empty mate? we love having the indians here. i'm more excited by this tour than any i've seen. who is gloating? perhaps it is you who are graceless. rude guest.

  • kiwi on February 28, 2009, 4:44 GMT

    I think Fanon's got it all wrong. Doubtless there is some degree of resentment among the NZ public towards the BCCI for the way they ostracised NZ's ICL players, but the media here has been massaging the egos of the Indian players non-stop since their arrival, describing them as rockstars etc. In fact, I've felt that the media worship has perhaps been a little too much. Dfunk is right - this is a series that NZers have looked forward to for a long time, and I doubt you'd find any more-respected cricketers among the NZ public than Tendulkar, Dravid & co. Harbhajan maybe not so much... That even non-cricket fans in NZ know these names speaks of the esteem in which they are held. On the other hand, we as NZ fans constantly put up with our players being put down in the global cricket (especially English) media - frequently described as "dour" and "boring" instead of flashy and exciting - baselessly really, considering strokemakers the calibre of mccullum, ryder, guptill, taylor and oram.

  • One eyed Desiji on February 28, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    Indian fans have had chips on their shoulders about the Aussies for years now. And even when they're beating them, the fans can't seem to give up this resentment. Now that the Kiwis are beating India (again), the tone has gone in one week from patronising faux friendliness, to the same vitriolic resentment expressed for Australians.

    Can't help but think these negative feelings hark back to the way the English brutalised you for centuries. But wake up mamas boys, it wasn't Aussies and Kiwis who whipped you! Different men

    Ironically whenever the English come to town their treated as gentleman.

    The pervasive sentiment of Indian fans regarding how wonderful Sachin, Dravid, Laxman etc. are is all blown out of proportion with reality. A country like New Zealand, which has a population of 4 million (that means that a country that India is 300 times bigger than!) can beat you twice in a row and all you can give us is wonderful, stupendous Sachin, Dravid and Laxman.

    One eyed & pathetic!

  • Raza on February 28, 2009, 6:39 GMT

    I think its time the indians came back to earth and faced reality. No matter how many stars (rockstars) they have, they have never been able to win consistently away from home. Their super stardom exists only till home series. If an average but well knit team from a nation of 4 million can beat you repeatedly then it would be a saner approach to get rid of the stars and focus on a team combination which works. Having a rich board does not guarantee a good team. Team India is all hype and bravado.