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The daily grind

Can analysing cricket all the time ruin one's love for it?

Abhishek Raut punctuates a tense win for Rajasthan, Deccan Chargers v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, 25th match, Port Elizabeth, May 2, 2009
Sure the games are fun, but taking them seriously all the time may not be © AFP

I've been thinking about something all weekend, and perhaps a little longer than that: Does excessive analysis about something you love, a) suffocate passion, b) kill a sense of humour?

The reason I ask is because after two weeks of writing this column, I'm feeling the pressure of having something to say every day. I'm still enjoying the cricket, mind. Even on my day off, I found myself, Pavlovian-style, in front of the telly, notebook and pen in hand, waiting for something to spark a funny/ irreverent column idea. My column, as anyone who's been following it thus far, isn't meant to be any kind of expert match analysis. You must have cottoned on to this by now. I'm no cricket expert, and my addition is purely to throw a non-cricketing gaze upon the game. Don't get me wrong. There's passion, sure, but it's flighty, and after May 24, there will be a few days of intense IPL withdrawal before I move heartlessly and resolutely on to Roland Garros.

Essentially, I do think when you're in the business of analysis, taking things too seriously can be hazardous to your passion and your sense of humour. Consider literature students. They go and spend five years getting a doctorate, and they can never again pick up a book and read it just for the joy of it. They have to read so much just to amass all this knowledge, that by the end of it they've successfully squashed the very thing they loved, which naturally makes them a bit gloomy. I wonder if cricket commentators feel the same way. Of course, they don't need to go off to grad school to kill their passion, but after so many hours and hours of expounding, is it possible for them to just kick back and watch a match without adding their expert opinion on a dodgy umpiring decision or the state of the pitch? I doubt it.

Some years ago, at a literary festival in Galle, I was on a cricket panel with the Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie and a young Indian author, Rahul Bhattacharya (author of Pundits from Pakistan). Kumar Sangakkara was supposed to be on the panel too, but pulled out at the last minute, which was a bit of a shame because it was the only reason why Kamila and I were there in the first place. I can't speak for Rahul, but Sangakkara was definitely the reason, in fact, why most of the people in the audience turned up. Instead, they got two subcontinental chicks and Rahul. Our moderator, a lovely man, but perhaps too ardent in his cricket analysis, asked me a question that positively stumped me (bad pun, sorry). He asked how I thought the game of cricket was reminiscent of a miniature Rajasthani painting.

Hmm, I said, mumbling on stage. I'm afraid I don't see, er, well, let's see, if you look at it one way, no really, I'm sorry, whichever way you look at it, it's just not, is it? I think I'll pass the question on, thanks. Kamila and Rahul made a good recovery. They talked about how it was the little details that added to the big picture. They likened delicate brush strokes to batting techniques. I just blanked out because really, no matter which way I looked at it, the game of cricket didn't evoke no miniature Rajasthani painting.

The point of this anecdote, of course, is to come back to the IPL. I've been enjoying the games so much, especially the ones that go, as Ravi Shastri puts it, "down to the wire". The Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals match in Port Elizabeth had me jumping up and down on the bed with excitement, and the Kings Punjab and Knight Riders match - one run off one ball - I had to leave the room for that one. What I'm hoping in all of this is that my love of cricket remains intact. I don't want to become a grumpy pontificator by the end of my tenure, and I certainly don't want to lose my rekindled passion. There's going to be days when there's nothing much to say, but I'll have to say something anyway, and other days when there are too many things to discuss. That's the business of analysis, I guess. But please, if I start talking about miniature Rajasthani paintings, someone pass me a muzzle.

Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai

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