Samir Chopra October 6, 2010

Mixed feelings: A fan's lament

So near and yet so far

So near and yet so far. What a crushing disappointment to flirt with a long-held dream, only to have it cruelly denied. I speak not of Australia's failure to win the Mohali test, nor of Ricky Ponting's inability to win a test in India as captain. I speak, rather of my failure to watch India win a test by one wicket. I've dreamed and dreamed of a day when I would be watching a finish like this go down to the wire (don't ask why I would want to condemn myself to such painful suspense), and last night, I was cruelly denied by a combination of factors. Yes, I know this is a self-indulgent post, but please, indulge me, for I have hopes that my story will resonate with some.

So, as Monday night drew close to midnight on the east coast of the US, I faced a crucial decision. In terms of fandom and the competing calls made on one's time, this was about as critical as it gets. Should I stay up late and watch the match through to the end, or should I just wait for the highlights? Tuesday is a bad day at work for me. My first class meets at 9:30 in the morning, and my third at 6:30 in the evening. The time in-between involves meetings and an hour-long subway commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The telecast was scheduled to begin precisely at midnight, and there was little chance I would be able to pull off my usual "rise-at-5AM-to-watch-the-post-tea session" trick for games played in India. The game would be over, one way or the other, by then.

But I'm not a spring chicken any more, and all-nighters don't come easily - not that they ever did. And the thought of teaching Buddhism on only two hours of sleep filled me with something akin to the unease the young Siddartha might have felt on first being confronted by the sight of infirmity. On the other hand, I did know of an office on campus that I could sneak into for a quick nap during the afternoon. Should I risk it? Stay up till 5, grab two hours of sleep, fuel up on a couple of Americanos and then after powering through the Four Noble Truths, and then Kepler's Laws of Planetary Motion at 11, hit the couch for a power nap?

Yes, why not? Tendulkar was still there, Laxman would bat for sure, hope sprang eternal and all that. Perhaps an Indian test win would sustain body and soul through a sleepless day.

So, I bit the bullet, grabbed my laptop, and moved to the kitchen to try and find a bootleg video stream. And that's where my troubles began. For one little detail that I have left out thus far, one considerably complicating detail, was that my live cricket provider had inexplicably failed to secure the rights for this series, and had thus relegated me to feeding off the scraps of illicit video streams, pockmarked with commercials, and marred by poor video quality. I had dealt with these irritations with some equanimity in my early morning sessions, fuelled as I was by six hours of sleep, and some coffee.

But the midnight hours are very different; the body doesn't hold up so well late at night. To make things worse, the network gremlins decided to come to roost in my home. For the nerdy amongst us, my wireless router has persistent DNS problems. Thus, not only was I dealing with a low quality feed, I was dealing with one that was intermittent at best. For two hours, as India moved from 55-4 to 156-8 at lunch, I dealt with it as best as I could, reloading pages, restarting browsers, and restraining myself from slitting my wrists with a butter knife.

But at two in the morning, I gave up. I was tired, I was sleepy, I was worn out. I would not be able to make it through the lunch interval. And the thought of dealing with a full day's teaching on very little sleep, even if supplemented with a short nap, suddenly took on a terrifying hue. Reluctantly, like a boxer agreeing to let his seconds throw in the white towel, I put the machine to sleep and slunk away to bed. My dreams tormented me: I saw green-capped men hugging each other, roaring triumphantly at empty stands, and handing out quick handshakes to crestfallen men with blue caps.

In the morning, I awoke, staggered into the kitchen, and gingerly touched the space bar on the sleeping machine, dreading the result, whatever it was. If Australia had won, a test was a lost. If India had won, I had missed out on watching a close win.

As the result sprang into view, my disappointment that a golden opportunity had been lost, possibly never to be repeated, was tinged with sweet relief. A sportsman that has always commanded my admiration had come through yet again, and in the grander scheme of things, if I had to make a choice, I would always have picked the second option above. So, thank you, Test cricket, for reminding me all over again, why you are the supreme game, bar none.

Please could we have another game like this? But in a better time-zone for me?

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

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