Samir Chopra June 28, 2011

Stepping away from the keyboard: Talking about cricket

I am a net cricket fan; that is, almost all the cricket I consume and discuss is internet-centered

I am a net cricket fan; that is, almost all the cricket I consume and discuss is internet-centered. I watch cricket on the 'net, I talk about it on the 'net. Thus, most of my 'talking' about cricket is reading and writing about it (I am excluding the half-duplex communication with television commentators). This has also meant, willy-nilly, that I have developed a style of thinking about it that is peculiar and distinct, reliant upon only partly self-conscious attempts to persuade or be persuaded by the written word.

This mode of thinking about cricket is so much a part of my makeup as a fan that I do not pay explicit attention to it. But I am reminded of its existence and its disjuncture from other ways of relating to cricket whenever I am forced to talk about cricket: when I, that is, meet another fan in the flesh and cricket, magically, enters the conversation. Perhaps I travel (earlier this month, I spent three weeks in India); perhaps other fans come traveling (this week, a good Australian friend is in town for a conference); however it works out, fans meet, pleasantries are exchanged and talk turns to the game.

At that point, I notice that my very own cricketing opinions sound strange to me; their aural form is not what I'm used to; I'm used to writing down thoughts about cricket, organising them a little, perhaps, hopefully, making them more coherent. But in their spoken form, they acquire a texture, perhaps a depth or superficiality that I might not have known they possessed. And sometimes it forces me to revise them, quickly, sometimes right there and then, and sometimes in the future, when, you guessed it, I get back to discussing cricket by writing about it.

But it is not just I that sound different; other fans sound different too. The rhetorical force of the spoken word sometimes surprises me: by far the most effective polemic I have heard made against the DRS came from my brother, who during a conversation over drinks during my trip to India, expressed himself pungently, sharply and succinctly with the spoken word and added a marvelously evocative, contemptuous, and dismissive shake of the head. I felt myself persuaded; I felt compelled to adopt a point of view I had only dimly perceived as worthy of my support.

Talking about cricket makes me eloquent too. On the same trip to India, I noticed my conversations about the game moving quickly between registers of response, sometimes between languages as I switched from English to Hindi and back, sometimes between levity and seriousness. This bilingual relationship to cricket is only possible in conversation and by being exposed and made explicit it changes my understanding of the game and its claims on me.

My status as cricketing exile means that reading and writing about cricket will continue to be my predominant mode of interaction with the game; other fans will infuriate and edify me by 'talking' to me via text. But, hopefully, travel and conversation will continue to inform me of another world where this game, which takes up so much of my time and attention, acquires shapes and contours distinct from those I am accustomed to.

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

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