April 23, 2012

Fandom

Are you a cricket fan or a cricket lover?

Andrew Hughes
John Arlott in a post-war posed BBC shot
Arlott: unlikely to be seen carrying a Mumbai Indians lunchbox  © BBC
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Last week, Andy Zaltzman confessed he didn’t care about the IPL and asked if he should seek psychiatric help. I don’t think he’d get it on the NHS. Maybe there are shady cricket psychotherapists in the back streets of Kolkata, who for a small fee will strap their patients to an easy chair, force them to watch highlights of Pune Warriors versus the Royal Challengers and zap them with a dose of raw volts if they grab for the remote.

But Andy’s marbles are all present and correct. “Englishman Not All That Bothered About The IPL Shock” is not a scoop to stir Rupert Murdoch from his post-cocoa afternoon nap, nor is it a confession that would have the Spanish Inquisition high-fiving each other and heading down to the Rack and Thumbscrew for a few celebratory jars.

It’s a big universe out there and there’s room in it for all sorts. No Englishman, Dutchman, Somalian pirate or aquatic lifeform from a distant galaxy is compelled to find the IPL appetising, just as I am not forced to relish tinned sardines, although the presence of such a putrid comestible on our supermarket shelves is frankly a blight on humankind’s reputation.

Andy says that English cricket fans don’t watch the IPL because they don’t care about any of the teams. And he’s right. If a cricket fan is what you are, if you need to care who wins the thing before you feel like applying your bottom to the sofa cushion, then why should you give two hoots about the exploits of KKR or Chennai or the Double RRs, unless you, your granny or your granny’s parakeet were born or raised there?

But I have a theory. Stay with me. I think there are cricket fans or cricket lovers: those who care who wins and those who don’t. I admit my theory has some Jesse Ryder-sized holes in it. It doesn’t include people who start neutral but take against Kolkata because those gold helmets really don’t go with those purple slacks. It doesn’t account for gamblers who’ll lose their apartment, their pet goldfish and their kneecaps if Mumbai don’t chase down 175 in 18 overs, people waiting for The Professionals to start, infants who lack the fine motor skills to change the channel, in-patients confined to their beds, and cats.

But still, it’s my theory and I like it. You can be a cricket fan or a cricket lover, but you can’t be both at the same time. A cricket lover appreciates the game on its own terms. Neville Cardus was a cricket lover. So was John Arlott. CLR James wrote that cricket is a dramatic art, related to the theatre, the ballet and the opera. It’s not Shakespeare, but it’s more than just another squabble over which city, county or country is best.

If we watch cricket just to cheer for a badge or a flag, we sell it short and we give ammunition to those who say that no mere sport watched by common people can be art. West Side Story isn’t just for former members of 1950s New York street gangs (although I think we can agree that the Jets were lucky to get away with a draw.) And the IPL is not just for those who care which franchise wins it. It’s cricket, so the cricket lover watches it.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Fans

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Posted by MOHAN DOSHI on (May 15, 2012, 6:12 GMT)

Its OK if a few mad Englishmen don't watch the #IPL. And we don't care about the #EPL, the over hyped league. I'll take d Liga anyday.

Posted by Aho on (April 30, 2012, 10:48 GMT)

No matter what anyone thinks... IPL is here to stay because it is a format in which India cant lose...

Posted by Huraish Abdul on (April 30, 2012, 6:34 GMT)

What IPL has done the best is I have seen the Delhi crowd go crazy shouting when Sachin was ou caught by KP bowled by Morkel.... Well We Indians never thought We can ever be happy when Sachin is out.. But the IPL has done this...And perhaps thats for good....

Posted by Shadab Raza on (April 24, 2012, 4:44 GMT)

I appreciate your article & I m kind of a cricket lover, who used to watch cricket even if it was played in ground near to my home. But I m sorry to say, IPL has not attraction (for ckt lover like me), its more like a gilli danda game which we played on street at front of our houses in childhood. No mind require to play 20-20. Sorry.

Posted by Charlie Joe on (April 24, 2012, 4:31 GMT)

Double Trouble ! It is Double Rs & not Double RRs !!

Posted by tonyp on (April 24, 2012, 3:51 GMT)

The main problem with the IPL is that it is T20. 20 overs just isn't enough to generate the tactical and strategic nuances I like. See ball thrash ball is what it seems like. If you enjoy that sort of thing good luck to you. I don't so I don't care about the IPL, nor do I like the Big Bash or brethren. The EPL generates foreign fans because they play the game in a recognisable form. T20 intrinsically polarises the viewing public.

Posted by TD_160 on (April 24, 2012, 0:39 GMT)

Harsha raises an interesting point. How is it that EPL teams manage to have a fan following in every part of the world? Most fans of Manchester United live outside Britain, have no connection to Manchester and have never been there. So why is it that non-Indians don't care about IPL teams? Are the IPL franchises doing something wrong in their marketing?

Posted by Cricpatron on (April 23, 2012, 20:43 GMT)

Cricket is no doubt an English game. But this nativity has not so far yielded a World Cup Championship. For more than a century, the English engaged in cricket as a summer pastime. Literally, for many English people they knew no better cricketers than their respective county cricket fellows - this was true even when the British Empire was at its zenith. Test cricket for the English was only a once-in-a-blue-moon affair between their own crown colonies especially a prestige issue between England and Australia or South Africa. Any other country playing cricket was considered a minnow and was considered not even good for county cricket standards. Regardless of status of English cricket in the last five decades, other than the Test matches between the three aforementioned countries, county cricket, which the rest of the world know nothing about, is still the Englishman's cricket staple, and they choose to be blissfully ignorant about any other form of cricket played elsewhere.

Posted by abhijith on (April 23, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

good article . . . almost all matches in ipl have close finish , n players like gayle , kp, pollard , dale steyn make it worth watching . . .

Posted by mydearoldthing on (April 23, 2012, 18:08 GMT)

I have to agree with both Matt D and harsha. I am a test cricket lover and a T20 fan but being English my opinion on the IPL is irrelevant to the quality of the tournament.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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