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December 18, 2013

Staying up to watch

Samir Chopra
Cricket watching can be a nocturnal adventure  © AFP
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On December 16, Monday night, I lived dangerously. I brewed, and drank, a strong cup of tea "late" at night: 9:45pm, to be precise. I was reckless and irresponsible; I knew the caffeine would keep me awake well past midnight. (Such, such are the adventures of the formerly youthful.)

I committed this foolhardy act knowing my bedside alarm clock would not budge in sympathetic response to my late hour of sleep; its persistent tones would go off, as they always do, given the rhythms of our household, at the usual 6am. And then, I would experience that most dreaded of sensations, one I've become all too familiar with over the past year, ever since my daughter made her appearance on this planet: a discombobulated under-slept state of being, body and mind split asunder, cortisol levels spiked, a dense fog settled over my brain cells, making it impossible to think, read, or write clearly. My usual stint at the university library would be marked by naps and a nodding head, not by pages read or words written. Put another day down in the "unproductive" column for my sabbatical.

I had, as might be guessed, decided to stay up late to witness the conclusion of a Test match, the third of the current Ashes. Australia stood to regain the urn, and I supposed there would be some drama on display. So I took the plunge. (And made a cup of tea.)

Normally, of course, Tests in Australia do not extract such a heavy toll. Cricket exiles on the US east coast welcome their usual 7pm start; it lets us watch three hours of play in relative comfort. But the third Test of the current Ashes series was staged in Perth; the staggering expanses of the Australian land mass bring Perth Tests' starting times closer to the dreaded 11pm start for games played in India. Perth makes you think, just a little harder, about the sacrifices you are willing to make to watch a Test.

An all-nighter for cricket is not unknown to most serious fans of the game. We might have done it for the fifth day of a Test - or all five days! - or a World Cup final, or sometimes just because our favourite batsman is batting and we can't bear to go to bed, knowing that he'll be batting away as we turn in. We recount tales of these nocturnal adventures with some pride, in a display of accumulated badges of fandom. The price paid - the discomfort described above - is felt to be small too; the cost-benefit analysis is all too easily skewed in favour of watching the game. Highlights would not be enough, and sometimes, in a particularly self-absorbed sporting fallacy, we dare imagine our watching the game might actually help "our team".

Adult life, its increased responsibilities, and sadly, the weakening of the proverbial flesh, bring out some diminishment of this enthusiasm. Sleep emerges as that most precious of commodities; our bedtimes recede just a little bit. We turn off the television set, the computer monitor, with some regret and retreat to the wrong kind of cover. We resign ourselves to the score update with the morning cuppa, the recapitulation via highlights; we resign ourselves to a vignette, a fragment, rather than the whole thing, every contour of its temporal development made visible.

But every once in a while the old madness asserts itself. Prudence seems overrated; live action regains its former lustre. We seek to become witnesses of events as they happened, not scholars poring over archival stores. We pay for this indulgence. And perhaps the toll so exacted warns us off too rapid a repeat of this adventure.

For some of us moth-like creatures, not for ever. The flame will, in all probability, beckon again.

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

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Posted by J751 on (December 19, 2013, 14:26 GMT)

I recall the Pakistan Australia Sydney Test of 1976-77.It was very early in the morning in Pakistan and PTV arranged a live transmission,a rarity in those days as Pakistan were on the brink of victory.Sacrificing sleep on that occasion was well worth it as it was one of Pakistan's most famous victories.

Posted by abhinavpraneet on (December 19, 2013, 4:53 GMT)

Samir, what an appropriate post! With the midnight PST start of Ind-SA test matches, I put in 2 and half hours into the match, hoping for some famed Indian batting display. Alas VK got into action much later, by which time my love for cricket waned and the necessity of sleep took over.

Thinking of the lengths I and my friends would go to in our younger days to catch Ind vs WI in WI or Ind vs NZ in NZ makes me wonder - how weak have I become??!

Posted by   on (December 19, 2013, 3:13 GMT)

Days back in India comes to mind. Whereas matches in Australian east coast used to begin at 5:30 am the one in NZ were 3 am start. And being a fan I am I used to gather like minded friends at my home for sleepover, wake them up for the match (I have never needed an alarm for any time in the night) prepare some cold coffee and enjoy the proceedings on television. The article struck a real chord with me. Only a wonderful game of cricket can do such things.

Posted by Longmemory on (December 18, 2013, 19:25 GMT)

The only time I pulled an all-nighter was during the India-Australia World Cup final in South Africa nearly a decade ago. Talk about a miserable night and a worse day-after! By midnight it was obvious we were on a hiding to nothing as the Aussie openers raced away from Zak's very first over. Yet, hope springs eternal and all that - so I sat there and watched Ponting plunder our bowling and then Sachin and company fold like a house of cards. I hope Samir is wrong and that the flame does not lure me again - or at least if it does, the morning comes with victory and not a resounding defeat for India.

Posted by   on (December 18, 2013, 16:40 GMT)

Samir, very topical for me. just pulled an all nighter on cst. a long day of work stretches ahead.

Posted by dinosaurus on (December 18, 2013, 9:32 GMT)

It's the same for Aussies keeping track of the Ashes played in England. Play also starts around 8pm. As a young man, I'd never miss a ball. I used to keep score as well - a proper score book. Day-night 50 over matches are impossible (midnight start). I think it was fitting that the first "fake" broadcasts from England (cables and pencil taps) were made in the year of my birth. I like the live TV of course, but I'm still nostalgic about the radio years.

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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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