Have you found your IPL team?
A couple of weeks ago, I announced my intention to give this year's IPL a go, i.e., to try and see if I could get myself to support a team in cricket that was not a national representative side. I picked two teams: the Delhi Daredevils, because, I'm from Delhi (I still say that even though I left 'home in 1987), and Kings XI Punjab, because, well, my last name says so. I went for hometown and ethnic affiliation. I bought myself a broadband video package that gives me live telecasts,replays and highlights of all the games. I even baited Mumbai fans, just to get myself pumped up.
I'm not sure that all of this has worked for me. The first indication of this came in the Delhi vs. Chennai game on May 2nd. Delhi were chasing Chennai's 163, and to be honest, I was getting into the swing of things. After Dilshan fell with the score at 53, Dinesh Karthik and David Warner came together, and seemed to be taking Delhi toward Chennai's total. Both were batting well, and victory looked within sight. And since both players are not Delhi locals, my support for them could be seen to be a reasonably good indicator of the IPL's ability to overcome my desire to have just homegrown folks playing for my hometowns team. Of course, I've admired Karthik as a player for the Indian team (and even had high hopes he would find a permanent place in the side) so I'm sure that played some part in my perceptions of the situation.
But something interesting happened in the 16th over. Shadab Jakati, a young Goan spinner, who had already impressed me by bowling Dilshan with a beauty, was in action, and after being hit for two fours by Karthik, came on to bowl to Warner. At that moment, rather than wishing that Delhi continue their charge, I found myself cheering for the Indian youngster against the Australian newbie. Suddenly, my desire to see Delhi, supposedly my team, beat Chennai, was eclipsed my desire to see an Indian spinner put one over the Aussie bludgeoner. When Jakati had Warner stumped, I was delighted. Guile had done in power, always a good result to see in Twenty20, and an Indian lad had done in an Aussie one. National pride had poked its head up.
Delhi lost the game, and I went back to being disappointed when locals Manhas, Sangwan and Bhatia all failed to support Karthik adequately. Somehow, in the midst of a Delhi-Chennai game, Id managed to let an India-Australia matchup distract me.
And then of course, there was the Delhi-Mumbai game; if there was a game I should have been able to get excited about, it was this one. But somehow, at the end, when Delhi had won, it was hard to convince myself that we had put one over the old enemy. Indeed, I couldn't even bring myself to send a gloat or two to my Mumbai friends (the ones who cared about the result, that is). I'm really not sure why this was the case, and to date, I'm no closer to understanding why a Delhi-Mumbai game didn't get me riled up. Was it because I don't think these are 'real' Delhi and Mumbai outfits? I've heard some Mumbai fans disown this unit as just "Ambani's lot", and yet others say "A Mumbai team is a Mumbai team". But I do know that my reactions on beating Mumbai in a Ranji game would not have been as muted as they were in beating them in their IPL matchup.
So the IPL's charms haven't worked on me as yet. Perhaps if I was matching the games with friends in tow, my reactions would have been different. It's hard to get really excited about an IPL game when you are watching it alone at home on a 19-inch monitor. The lack of such company (noted in the comments section in my last post on the IPL by reader Anabayan) is crucial, and it will be the subject of my next post.
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here