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October 9, 2010

Samir Chopra

Commentary on Internet Relay Chat

Samir Chopra
Sachin Tendulkar flicks Greg Blewett, India v Australia, 1st Test, Chennai, 4th day, March 9, 1998
Sachin Tendulkar's masterpiece in Chennai  © Getty Images
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Okay, time for a little honesty: how many of you have talked in glowing terms about an innings that you haven't seen a ball of? Everyone, right? Good. That lets me start on a story about my favorite Sachin Tendulkar innings. Why am I bringing this up now? For several reasons: an India-Australia series is on; we have been talking about the acknowledged Indian master of the second innings, VVS Laxman; and lastly, in my last post, I talked about the trials and travails of the expat fan, condemned to unfriendly time-zones. To top things off, this story wouldn't have been possible without the generosity of an Australian cricket fan.

So here we are, back in 1998. I'm desperately struggling to finish my Ph.D. Funds and motivation are low; my landlord has been happy to extend the rent deadline a few times but I'm living on borrowed time (in a room in a third-floor walkup in Alphabet City in New York). But there is a silver lining on the horizon: Australia are touring India and there is hype aplenty in the air. As a significant part of my night-life consists of gazing enviously at those fortunate enough to spare greenbacks for grog, I can look forward to readymade entertainment to while away the midnight hours: Test match commentary.

But not your grandfather's Test match commentary. This is the line-by-line output of Dougie (and his human operators), the Magic Cricket Scorer on #cricket, the Internet Relay Chat's cricket channel (the commentary was on #cricket, the chat on #crickettalk). I have already significantly slowed down my doctoral pursuits by spending too many hours in this virtual lounge, and now, face the prospect of spending many more.

The hype builds; Tendulkar takes a double-ton off the Australians in the tour game against Mumbai; the Chennai test rolls around. And I do diligent duty on IRC. But, again, with a slight twist. For one, I am not on #crickettalk any more, but on #crickind, a private channel set up by fellow Indian fans who, like me, have become tired of the bickering and flame-wars on the main channel (yes, blog comment sections are not the first place to witness bad online behaviour). Secondly, my Australian friend, David, who lived two floors below me, has kindly loaned me his precious work machine, an Apple laptop, to aid me in my midnight toils. (I would dial in to the university network to set up a PPP connection and then run an IRC client).

The fourth day's play is on. India start 29 runs ahead, and will have to get a move on if they are to force a result. When the second wicket falls at 115, India aren't exactly getting a move on; they have already consumed 43 overs. Tendulkar walks in, the weight of a first-innings failure for 4, dismissed by Warne, hanging over him.

52 overs later, as Azharuddin declares at 418-4, India have gotten a move on. Tendulkar is not out on 155 off 191 balls with 14 fours and 4 sixes. And each and every single delivery faced by him seems to be clearly etched in my mind, though I didn't see a single one. As each line of Dougie's output flashed up on the screen, the virtual hooping and hollering on the IRC channel grew more and more unrestrained, the chat increasingly giddy, as we realized that India was doing what many of us did not think was possible: forcing the pace in a Test match with aggressive batting to put themselves in a winning position. Outside my window, the denizens of the East Village drank, made merry, and indulged in whatever pleasures they deemed fit; I stayed glued to the small glowing screen.

Twelve years on, it is worth remembering that Azhar declared on the fourth day, setting Australia a target of 348 runs in a little over 100 overs. With all due respect to Ganguly, Kumble, Dravid, and Dhoni, they would not dare make such a move. And the man who put India in this position in the first place was Tendulkar, playing the innings of a lifetime (yes, against a weakened Aussie attack, but a good one nevertheless).

I stayed up all night, as Australia stumbled to 31-3 by the close. Then, later in the morning, I walked down to David's apartment to return his machine so that he could get back to work on his thesis. He sleepily opened the door and asked how it went. "Great day's cricket, absolutely smashing", said I, as I handed back my connection to Chennai, to a day whose description in staccato bursts of text seemed as vivid as a crystal clear telecast. And no, I still haven't seen this innings on video (fellow #crickind'ers, if you remember this night, do drop me a line sometime).

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

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Posted by ziafelpos on (December 31, 2010, 20:06 GMT)

@dallasemmitwayne Yep that s? me:) dallasemmitwayne

Posted by ziafelpos on (December 31, 2010, 1:07 GMT)

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Posted by Tim on (October 12, 2010, 0:30 GMT)

Yes, IRC was great. You could have the commentary channel open in one window and the chat channel in another.

I am a similarly stranded (in Richmond, VA) test cricket tragic but I was privileged enough to watch this innings live. I was in India visiting my grandparents and went to watch the test with my grandfather. At one point it seemed as though every Aussie fielder was on the boundary. Sachin responded by smashing it over their heads.

It remains one of my fondest memories.

Posted by Imran on (October 11, 2010, 11:00 GMT)

Hello David, I think he spent too much time in your room for some reason that he forgot about his own room. Imran

Posted by ShAh00 on (October 11, 2010, 7:14 GMT)

Aaaaaah....... Nice Article, since 2001 from IRC Channel #cricket till today, I am somehow glued to Circket Commentary, although, no more IRC, but still, till today, I always have a DESKTOP SCORECARD Open on my Office System. My Boss/Colleagues who doesn't know about it, always have a Suspicious question "WHAT IS THIS??" and those who knows, my fellow SUB-CONTINENTAL GUYS... the simply pass by not before whispering "CRICKET FREAK :P"

Posted by David Coady on (October 10, 2010, 8:21 GMT)

Hi Samir ... Your memory misleads you slightly. I lived upstairs on the third floor. You lived on the ground floor. cheers David

Posted by M Zohaib Iqbal on (October 10, 2010, 2:34 GMT)

cricinfo is a best website around the whole world.It makes awareness about cricket.I like cricifo.

Posted by MS on (October 10, 2010, 2:31 GMT)

Wow! IRC days, and cricinfo's text commentary which took while to scroll. I was doing my Master's those days from a Uni where Cricinfo was born. Those were the days, compared to the online video streams of these days.

Posted by Sujee on (October 9, 2010, 7:34 GMT)

Hey Samir.. I completely agree with you and let me tell u, you have a found a kindred soul.. I am a Sri Lankan pursuing my research Masters in Thailand of all countries.. And I love Test cricket.. When back in Sri Lanka I would get prepared one hour prior to the start of play so that I can watch the match.. But here in the Land of Smiles, the government has censored all live streams of cricket, or any sport for that matter. Believe me, the just concluded test, the VVS Special was the best match I have read cum watched. Trying to finish your research proposal while watching that Test Match was a bad idea!!! :-)and add to this my colleagues could not understand why I was edgy, and making unconnected exclamations!!! But yeah.. the match was worth it..

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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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