April 11, 2010

Mike Holmans

Not a natural neutral

Mike Holmans


The county championship is underway © PA photos
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This is the first year that the IPL has been available on a channel in my satellite package, and it has been fun to watch it. It has also been enlightening: I have learned that for me, watching cricket is essentially partisan.

If England, Yorkshire or Middlesex are playing, then I am already hooked and know which side I want to win (Yorks to beat Middx when they meet). If Surrey or Australia are playing, then I know which side I want to lose. If anyone else is playing I generally want the result which will be of most benefit to one of the sides I actually support - although if it's international cricket, I'm usually in favour of West Indies or Pakistan with the proviso that I don't want the result which will put England out of the tournament.

But none of those considerations apply when I watch an IPL game. It makes no difference to any of my teams whether Delhi beat Chennai or Bangalore lose to Kolkata - except perhaps in some roundabout way involving the availability of players when the Champions League is on.

This is not a criticism of the IPL, just a recognition that in my psyche Mumbai v Rajasthan is of less emotional significance then even Derbyshire v Northants, two counties to which I am basically indifferent. When watching the counties play, I can at least do some scouting for potential England players among the supporting cast of players I know little about, but in the IPL, the support cast are up-and-coming Indians and I simply don't have enough time or interest to maintain a mental log of potential Indian internationals as well as English ones.

Of course I can get caught up in the drama of a close finish, and I can easily appreciate a virtuoso display by a master of the game, but a lot of cricket involves neither a maestro nor much in the way of tension, so I need to find something else to hang my hopes on.

I need to hope for something from the next ball. To put it crudely, if my side is batting I want a boundary (or simple survival in the latter stages of a Test which needs saving), and if we're bowling, I want a wicket. And if I couldn't care less which happens, then my attention can quite easily wander; if there is something more interesting to watch on another channel or something more interesting to do, I don't feel any regret about turning the cricket off.

Sport is at one level simply a display of athleticism and in a yonks-ago post, Michael Jeh effectively said that display is why he watches cricket – so he can watch neutral games with just as much enjoyment as any. But for me, sport is about conflict and competition, and watching it is about taking sides, about being elated or depressed as fortunes swing.

With the IPL, I find that all I want to do is watch certain players. If an English player is on show, I want him to succeed personally; I always enjoy seeing Dwayne Bravo, Anil Kumble or Ross Taylor doing well and Yuvraj Singh or Jacques Kallis doing badly (not that I've been much rewarded for that latter hope). But cricket is a team game, and if you're only watching a few individuals, you are not appreciating the whole event.

There may be less immediate action and it isn't on the telly, but now the county championship has started I've got cricket to get my teeth into – and, next week, to go and watch. So it's thanks very much to the IPL for filling in some dead time, but now the real thing is underway....

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Posted by Bob Dubery on (April 22, 2010, 5:33 GMT)

It's an interesting matter. Cricket, any sport, is more compelling when you have a dog in the fight. Laying a bet or taking part in some tipping competition can make a neutral match less neutral and thus more interesting. But for me there is nothing like seeing South Africa win - and also nothing like seeing them lose. Which is odd because I usually shy away from patriotism and even more so nationalism and I think that whole business is a bit silly. Maybe sport is the acceptable or safe face of patriotism.

Posted by waterbuffalo on (April 18, 2010, 19:49 GMT)

I subscribed to the IPL on TV because my american wife wanted to watch it. She gradually lost interest in it, because she had no team to support and I being a pakistani supporter, think it is an absolute disgrace that the world champs in that format do not have a single player in that entire league. But we will be watching Pakistan vs India in the World Cup, you can be sure of that.

Posted by Martin on (April 15, 2010, 12:53 GMT)

I had the same attitude as you since it is hard to get excited about a new league, when you're not familiar with the teams or players.

But having watched most of IPL 3 I am now well and truly hooked.

Now when I think of county cricket I have only one reaction: Yawn!

Posted by Rajesh Chatrathy on (April 13, 2010, 21:50 GMT)

While I can understand and appreciate your psyche, I am glad I am not in your shoes and I don't have to look for English County cricket to fill in my dead time. I pick Deccan Chargers as thats my city, or Mumbai Indians for the obvious reason, Sachin. Well, I don't even know if English County Cricket is on air here, and I don't know of anyone who cares......

Posted by Anonymous on (April 13, 2010, 17:47 GMT)

It's a shame that Cricinfo, which used to be a good site, has gone to the dogs. I understand the IPL--a DOMESTIC league--has its fanbase but really, they're not even covering the WestIndies-Canada match! Come on it's an international!

Posted by Jake on (April 12, 2010, 20:28 GMT)

I'm from Middlesex & I watch all cricket except the English counties and yes that includes the IPL. In your face that.

Posted by Krishnamachar Sreenivasan on (April 12, 2010, 13:48 GMT)

Hey Mike: It was fun reading what you wrote. Looks like you perform better at your hobby than at work. Glad to note that you abandoned JCL (,,,,&&===\**) finally. We almost met at Lords in the summer of 2000. No Oklohams jokes this time, I hope you noticed. cheers sReeni

Posted by Sandy)bangalore on (April 12, 2010, 13:38 GMT)

Youa re right man. I am a hard core bengalurean, but not really worried about RCBS performances. All those guys who wear those shirts as a so called support are doing it just to look cool. IPL boring!

Posted by Mick on (April 12, 2010, 1:35 GMT)

The easy solution is to pick a team to support! I decided Rajasthan would be my team because of a certaion SK Warne, and now their matches have become quite engrosing for me when I actually care if warney's mob wins.

Posted by Dimuthu R on (April 11, 2010, 20:40 GMT)

maybe now u know why most cricket fans think english county cricket is overrated :) am sure the indian public watch all IPL matches with the same intent you do your county season!

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