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August 11, 2009

Samir Chopra

Watching alone isn't always fun

Samir Chopra



There are plenty of ways to watch a cricket match: up close and personal in the middle of a general admission stand in one of India's concrete behemoths; sprawled out, esky, sunscreen, and maybe children, close at hand, on one of New Zealand's grassy slopes; natty and prim in a members stand; or perhaps, dressed in a manner not fit to be seen by man or beast, in front of one's television set at home.

To this list, one must add, "alone, slumped in a work chair, in front of a nineteen-inch flat screen monitor." Well, at least, that is how I watch a lot of cricket these days. On broadband video, at home (the work connection is a little slow, unfortunately). And in general, these pleasures of cricket watching are experienced in splendid isolation.

When the hours are right, I can turn on the speakers and enjoy the sensation of the crackle of crowd sounds and commentators permeating the ambience of my apartment, otherwise, when the timezones are not favorable, I have to slip on a pair of headphones and enter further the illusion of being confined to a tiny sphere, my activities incomprehensible to most around me. Nothing confirms my sense of isolation as an immigrant, an exile in the world of cricket, quite like that feeling which steals over me when India play their home games, when my hours of vigil commence just as my wife turns out the lights and goes to bed, and I stay up in the living room, headphones strapped on, struggling to stay awake, as a cricket game goes on, thousands of miles away.

But watching cricket like this is a frustrating business. Because those that watch cricket games like to talk about it, to offer an opinion, to do both in real time, and sometimes, to even listen to what other folks might have to say. In the old days, even if I watched part of a game alone at home, I was guaranteed conversation about it if I stepped out on the street, or on the university bus the next morning.

This role, obviously, has now been taken up by the internet, with all its attendant mixed blessings. Like legions of graduate students in the 90s, I whiled away many hours on rec.sport.cricket, delaying a dissertation and a healthier bank balance for the love of cricket. I finally left in 1995, exhausted by the flaming and the inevitable recycling of discussions. A few years later, living in Australia meant a return to the pleasures of off-line conversations about cricket, to the day-after office conversation, the discussions of scores throughout the day.

But that relief was temporary and soon I found myself back in the world of the polite New York Times references to cricket, the late-night telecasts of World Cups, and the social query of "You're really into cricket, aren't you? How come you guys wear so much body armor?"

Under these circumstances, starting blogging was a non-brainer. I began in 2004, got nowhere, tried again in 2005, and only made some headway in 2006. But blogging has not removed all of the isolation; I still detect in the writing of bloggers, writing from cricket playing lands, a level of connection with the game that I do not always experience. Sometimes the disconnection is mundane: I'm not always as familiar with all of the world's players that folks exposed to more telecasts are. Sometimes it is about failing to catch a mood: I've been assured by many friends that I would not be able to resist the IPL fever if I was back in India. There is a distancing from the game that is not always physical.

But like many other aspects of my stranded position, I've come to appreciate this place, set slightly apart from the cricketing world. It lets me offer a slightly different perspective, an alternative take, if you will, on cricketing affairs. The value of that perspective, admittedly, is sometimes only visible to me (as the comments section assures me). Still, it offers one more viewing panel, and in our more generous moments, I'm reasonably sure we could acknowledge that wasn't such a bad thing.

But at most times, the isolation is a chilling one. Hooping and hollering at a computer monitor is a strange business at best; dashing off a few words on a keyboard for an instant display of one's emotions on a blog takes some of the edge off that jonesing for an audience, but not all. When it comes down to it, there is still nothing quite like having a fellow fan at hand to receive, amplify, and enhance, one's immediate, unvarnished take on a game of cricket.

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

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Posted by Viagra on (February 25, 2010, 14:44 GMT)

my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

Posted by Rohit Iyer on (August 18, 2009, 8:29 GMT)

Excellent article, which has shed light onto a feeling that is deep within one's soul while watching cricket matches all alone.......

Posted by Mina Anand on (August 13, 2009, 18:38 GMT)

It's the other way round, in my home, in India. When India visits Australia and New Zealand, I get up at the crack of dawn, to catch the pre-match live shows; and when we play in the Caribbean, I am the night-watchman - not my husband! Though a keen cricket follower, his keenness does not amount to staying up, or getting up at unearthly hours. He puts off the lights, and goes to sleep, while I ‘watch the night away’. My teenage son keeps me company. And, when I excitedly ‘offer my opinion’, which is during every change of over, my husband calls out for the score !

Posted by LGD on (August 12, 2009, 22:15 GMT)

This is what twitter is for. I live in New Zealand where there are some fans hiding under rocks and things, but they tend to be far too nationalistic for my liking, so I watch my cricket alone. But if I have a comment to make, I find I'm satisfied by typing it into my twitter account @LGD_Cricket. Perhaps nobody reads it, but I may read the thoughts of others - the Ashes in particular has many tweeters.

Posted by Mat on (August 12, 2009, 19:24 GMT)

I grew up in South Africa during the days of Fanie and Allan and Daryl. I now live in France, and I fully agree with your assessment, Samir. Sigh.

Posted by Dunga on (August 12, 2009, 9:34 GMT)

I know what you're saying. I love watching cricket, but I'll never forget the feelings of watching with my dad, hollering when something goes our way, listening to my mum telling us to 'be quiet, your sister's sleeping', and learning everything I know about the game from him

Posted by Arvind on (August 12, 2009, 8:58 GMT)

Is there any website where you can just listen to the spectators and turn off the commentators? I find it too "uncomfortable" to watch a match with the TV on mute, but the moment I turn on the volume, Ravi Shastri starts his "just get the feeling" and Tony Greig goes "oh in the air", and Harsha and Gavaskar start their gossip, or sometimes Sidhu starts his English classes.

Posted by Prakash2007 on (August 12, 2009, 6:41 GMT)

Yep, Watching alone is no fun.. We had this incident of CHennai vs Deccan at CHepauk.. where the Banters where so high between me and my Hyd Friend, that we almost fought over it.. Its Pure Magic to see matches with lots of people coz in this Sport everybody has an Opinion.. ;-)

Posted by Karthik Ranganathan on (August 11, 2009, 20:42 GMT)

As a fellow cricket-loving Indian currently residing in the U.S, I couldn't agree more. Watching Hilfenhaus bending the ball away, while being alone at home, "oohing and aahing" all the time, the suppressed exclamations... did a lot of it during the last test match, all the time wishing there were more people around to appreciate and debate the cricket on offer.

Posted by faisal on (August 11, 2009, 14:41 GMT)

You no ,what is more disappointing than eating alone,watching a beautiful match between two competitive teams with no one to chat,no one to be vitupirative with when things don't go in your way.But watching an ashes in front of a tv(a good one) is not that disappointing,at least when ponting is on song and score some runs.Thats why this blog of cricinfo is turning out to be a real blessing for us,the sports lovers.Here we can get the expertise from you guy's along with fellow blogers,can express our own opinions,dispute(my favourite one)and most importantly staving off this unwanted feelings of "being alone".

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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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