Testing the traveller
Following a cricket game while travelling is always guaranteed to induce in me the frisson of the explorer: where can I find the precious resource of the newspaper, the fellow fan with the radio or television, and now, the internet café, or the cellular network hotspot so that I may check in, or call for help?
Last year, while travelling through Kerala during the South Africa-India Boxing Day Test in Durban, checking on scores had been easy. Despite the mysterious absence of radio commentary, a television set was never very far away (once we had stopped driving and touring, that is). Most hotels had Ten Sports on their room televisions, and I even managed to catch an extended bit of live viewing in a restaurant just outside the Periyar Wildlife Reserve. But I did not know the result till much later, when, while waiting for our return flight to Delhi from Kochi Airport, I picked up a copy of a newspaper that had India's win sprawled over its front pages.
This year, feeling the strain of trying to follow a Test match to be slightly oppressive on a vacation, I resolved to not check on scores till the game was over. Would I be able to resist? We'd soon find out. The first day of the Australia-India Boxing Day Test was not a problem. The game began late in the evening on Christmas Day; I was ensconced deep in the middle of the Puerto Rican rainforest, and cricket felt very far away. The next day was similarly easy: I travelled to a small Caribbean island and, surrounded by beaches, sand and cool ocean breezes, forgot about the cricket again.
But after another salubrious day of ignoring the cricket, my resolve cracked, and I began to panic. What exactly had been going on in Melbourne over the past three days? Was history passing me by? How could I possibly wait for another two days? (It would take that long to return to Puerto Rico, and track down an internet café).
So I sought help. There was no internet connection, but if I walked around aimlessly for a bit, my mobile phone would occasionally tap into a signal. So out went the text messages, seeking scores and succor: to an Indian blogger in Connecticut, an English blogger in Brooklyn, an Indian historian (and former blogger) in Delhi, a City University colleague in Brooklyn, an ESPNcricinfo editor in Bangalore. The messages went out staggered as the mobile-phone signals were caught and lost again; their replies returned in similarly staggered fashion. They assured me I was missing a keenly-poised Test match.
A day later, that illusion was terminated. And, of course, today, the conclusion of the SCG Test, as I have ruefully noted, convinces me that I would have done best to stay on vacation and ignore this brace of India-Australia Tests.
But those three days of enforced abstinence from Test cricket scores, which resulted in the knowledge that attempts at abstinence from cricket scores is more likely to succeed if facilitated by material circumstances, my desperate attempts to hold out, my final breakdown, and the prompt relief provided by my multinational cast of fellow cricket aficionados assures me that crushing defeats can only temporarily interrupt the faithful's following.
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here