May 25, 2010

Hooked on torment

What are you if you switch the TV on at three in the morning knowing full well your team will probably get a pasting?
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Cricket gives me - has given me for as long as I can remember - a sense of time: a certain feeling or event in my life is referenced with the memory of a particular game. It also gives me a sense of place. This may be an extraordinarily blinkered way to look at the world (and you have to be extraordinarily blinkered to have Queen's Park Oval flash across your mind the moment someone says Trinidad), but I think of cities in terms of their cricket grounds. It is the most enduring geography lesson I have ever had, and it brings closer and makes familiar places with which I have little acquaintance. It is, I have found, something that gives my life a coordinate, a kind of centre amid the changing clutter of daily life with which it is tough to keep up.

But most of all, perhaps, cricket gives me a sense of myself. They say you only get a sense of yourself when you see yourself in relation to another. Cricket is that great other.

It's like a relationship, this thing between the fan and his sport, some say. Well, only those who are not fans say that. Because it is not like any relationship that I've ever known.

On the average day, it is a relationship that is too full of shame and humiliation, too unrequited and too committed at the same time, too like a one-way street. If my wife had let me down half as many times as India have on the pitch, I would have walked out on her. But when it comes to the game, I can never, however great the disappointment in the last match and however certain I am of impending doom in this one, bring myself to turn away.

Can you?

If my wife had let me down half as many times as India have on the pitch, I would have walked out on her. But when it comes to the game, I can never, however great the disappointment in the last match, bring myself to turn away

If you can, you are not one of us. Which, come to think of it, is not such a bad thing. Because you are spared the painful pleasure of being a masochist. All fans - the ones like me who need sport to give a sort of shape to life - are masochists. What else can you be when you switch on the TV at three o'clock in the morning knowing that your team is going to get a pasting - again?

For those of us who are too far gone, gone far enough in fact to embrace torment (We lost 0-3 against Zimbabwe? No matter, throw us a defeat against Bangladesh. We'll still watch), it's not a choice. It's a compulsion. Addiction does not have rationality at its heart.

The pact between a fan and his team is sacrosanct. It cannot be broken. It is not like the colas or the cars or the credit cards or the car tyres the players endorse. Don't like it? Flush it down the toilet. Sell it off. Exchange it for something better. Buy a new one.

When things go wrong on the pitch, some of us go on mock funeral processions. Some of us threaten players' families. (The first gesture is banal, the second despicable. But morality or ethics is not the issue here; it seldom is when you are talking about addiction.) Still few of us can stay away when our players walk out on to the field. Were we able to do that, TV ratings would slip and channels would not pay millions for satellite rights, companies would hesitate before pumping in billions to sponsor the team, and soft-drink majors would worry about putting their money where the nation's heart isn't. The fact that they have not suggests that there are millions out there like me. Sometimes it feels like a brotherhood of misery.

Every fan realises this: feeling miserable is part of the deal. But riding the misery and sticking with it is the deal. You can't support another team (Namibia?), or suddenly be passionate about another sport (ice hockey?). It's this or nothing. And nothing is so much worse.

Soumya Bhattacharya, editor of Hindustan Times in Mumbai, is the author of the memoir, You Must Like Cricket?. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine in 2007

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on May 28, 2010, 0:00 GMT

    all of you are forgetting one point .... why sehwag gets injured just before the worldcup .... he played all the ipl 3 matches ..... i think rift between dhoni and sehwag is still there ... our main down fall in last two icc events is the opening position .... murali vijay and rohit sharma become bakra's ... they are not regular openers for the international team ... gambhir, sehwag and sachin are the openers... i think we are losing matches because of politics inside the team ......

  • tmartis on May 27, 2010, 19:46 GMT

    I hate that I love to watch you India. I only hope at some point we can have a team that will make us proud each time they play.

  • Rake1 on May 27, 2010, 12:39 GMT

    This would be the Excruciatingly Agonizing/ Unbearable India XI in the 1980s: Lalchand Rajput, Arun Lal, Sanjay Manjrekar, Raman Lamba, Ravi Shastri, Kirti Azad, Manoj Prabhakar, Sadanand Viswanath, Madan Lal, Atul Wassan & Gopal Sharma. (Shastri, Manjrekar & Prabhakar were ok players but so very boring to watch.)

  • on May 27, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    A brilliant article. Cricinfo should post more articles focusing on the cricket fans themselves rather than the cricket on the field. It is an addiction. It is sport. It is life.

  • soccerbeast on May 27, 2010, 0:39 GMT

    Totally agree with this article, try being a fan of NZ Cricket and being like this, it sure can be torment at different times! especially away tests or even at home, but hopefully if we can get a reasonable core group the next few years will be pretty decent! But no matter what, i will still be watching you!

  • Krishveena on May 26, 2010, 12:20 GMT

    Dear Soumya,

    I remember reading your book "You must like cricket" and feeling very depressed - I should have written that book! Like others have mentioned in these columns, you have spoken for every silly one of us! I vividly recall your paragraph about Tendulkar - my eyes were streaming with tears of joy as I read that part. Your book was pure joy, and so is this article.

  • nikhildevdesai on May 26, 2010, 11:31 GMT

    And this is the REASON why the BCCI doesn't care about fans needs at the game, be it food, water, toilet facilities because they know that people are going to come anyways, its a shame that there are people who are not standing up to the nonsense of BCCI, after watching a game at Ahemedabad i will never go to see another game at a stadium.

  • Pajny on May 26, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    Well this is an excellent piece from Soumya!! Nice work.I could relate to myself all through the lines.We all the Super Cricket Fans have exactly the same feelings (thinking of the cricket venue when told about a city!!!!).You got it dead right Mr Bhattacharya,reflecting the mindset of a true cricket fan.I always watch INDIA's matches, no matter if they lose,i'm impatiently waiting for the next one!

  • sweetspot on May 26, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    For many of us, it's the drama itself that is addicting. The play of characters and the test of their character - it's all worth it. I just wish they would keep the pom pom stuff out like the needless rubbish called cheerleading, throwing so much confetti that you cannot even see the celebrating team, and asking actors how they think the game is poised! The true cricket lover needs none of that - and s/he is being shortchanged to accommodate the monkeys.

  • sweetspot on May 26, 2010, 7:34 GMT

    Ah, there is, however, the hope for a miracle - that is cricket itself! There is always that chance for the improbable to become probable, then possible and then it's upon us! Before we realize it, history has been made and we're a part of that. Even in the worst defeats, in the deepest pain, there are silver linings we walk away with. Cricket can throw us these crumbs of comfort from any situation. To say something cold blooded - with a little luck and pluck, any team can beat any other team on its given day. That's what keeps me glued to the hopeless matches.

  • on May 28, 2010, 0:00 GMT

    all of you are forgetting one point .... why sehwag gets injured just before the worldcup .... he played all the ipl 3 matches ..... i think rift between dhoni and sehwag is still there ... our main down fall in last two icc events is the opening position .... murali vijay and rohit sharma become bakra's ... they are not regular openers for the international team ... gambhir, sehwag and sachin are the openers... i think we are losing matches because of politics inside the team ......

  • tmartis on May 27, 2010, 19:46 GMT

    I hate that I love to watch you India. I only hope at some point we can have a team that will make us proud each time they play.

  • Rake1 on May 27, 2010, 12:39 GMT

    This would be the Excruciatingly Agonizing/ Unbearable India XI in the 1980s: Lalchand Rajput, Arun Lal, Sanjay Manjrekar, Raman Lamba, Ravi Shastri, Kirti Azad, Manoj Prabhakar, Sadanand Viswanath, Madan Lal, Atul Wassan & Gopal Sharma. (Shastri, Manjrekar & Prabhakar were ok players but so very boring to watch.)

  • on May 27, 2010, 8:46 GMT

    A brilliant article. Cricinfo should post more articles focusing on the cricket fans themselves rather than the cricket on the field. It is an addiction. It is sport. It is life.

  • soccerbeast on May 27, 2010, 0:39 GMT

    Totally agree with this article, try being a fan of NZ Cricket and being like this, it sure can be torment at different times! especially away tests or even at home, but hopefully if we can get a reasonable core group the next few years will be pretty decent! But no matter what, i will still be watching you!

  • Krishveena on May 26, 2010, 12:20 GMT

    Dear Soumya,

    I remember reading your book "You must like cricket" and feeling very depressed - I should have written that book! Like others have mentioned in these columns, you have spoken for every silly one of us! I vividly recall your paragraph about Tendulkar - my eyes were streaming with tears of joy as I read that part. Your book was pure joy, and so is this article.

  • nikhildevdesai on May 26, 2010, 11:31 GMT

    And this is the REASON why the BCCI doesn't care about fans needs at the game, be it food, water, toilet facilities because they know that people are going to come anyways, its a shame that there are people who are not standing up to the nonsense of BCCI, after watching a game at Ahemedabad i will never go to see another game at a stadium.

  • Pajny on May 26, 2010, 8:18 GMT

    Well this is an excellent piece from Soumya!! Nice work.I could relate to myself all through the lines.We all the Super Cricket Fans have exactly the same feelings (thinking of the cricket venue when told about a city!!!!).You got it dead right Mr Bhattacharya,reflecting the mindset of a true cricket fan.I always watch INDIA's matches, no matter if they lose,i'm impatiently waiting for the next one!

  • sweetspot on May 26, 2010, 7:37 GMT

    For many of us, it's the drama itself that is addicting. The play of characters and the test of their character - it's all worth it. I just wish they would keep the pom pom stuff out like the needless rubbish called cheerleading, throwing so much confetti that you cannot even see the celebrating team, and asking actors how they think the game is poised! The true cricket lover needs none of that - and s/he is being shortchanged to accommodate the monkeys.

  • sweetspot on May 26, 2010, 7:34 GMT

    Ah, there is, however, the hope for a miracle - that is cricket itself! There is always that chance for the improbable to become probable, then possible and then it's upon us! Before we realize it, history has been made and we're a part of that. Even in the worst defeats, in the deepest pain, there are silver linings we walk away with. Cricket can throw us these crumbs of comfort from any situation. To say something cold blooded - with a little luck and pluck, any team can beat any other team on its given day. That's what keeps me glued to the hopeless matches.

  • apache31 on May 26, 2010, 1:29 GMT

    This is what it is to be a West Indian cricket fan for the last 10 to 15 years.

  • VoltaireC on May 26, 2010, 0:10 GMT

    Soumya-Brilliant piece! I could relate to it 100%...yes cricket for the addicted fan provides a sense of time and space. My phase started in 82-83 and subsequently everything else was associated to some series or some innings! So Sabina Park was more critical than Jamaica and Kensington Oval to Barbados. I used to in fact build probabilities, looking at city bus #s, about who would score what in next test/innings....worked well for me;-) The peak of this association is India's victory at Adelaide, the small matter of my Honeymoon is Diu is relegated. I reached Ahmd from Diu overnight and the first thing at 4 am i switched the telly and my Edmund Hillary moment to see Aussies bowled out! Say that again...Aussies bowled out! Many Indian teams of the past have severely tested our masochism but the T20/fastfood variety is able to do the unthinkable....make fans care a jot! I felt happy that India was plastered given how bloated players...in Yuvi's case literally!

  • CMIS on May 25, 2010, 21:42 GMT

    Am a Bangladeshi, and a Bangladesh fan. Beautiful article. If my mother let me down as many times as BD have done, would have changed my name and left home. I guess above all, even above being a fan of a particular country or (yuk) franchise, us tragics are fans of cricket. Just the pleasure if seeing a ball hitting bat (or beating it) keeps me coming back

  • maniacrai on May 25, 2010, 21:28 GMT

    huh! Imagine being a Bangladeshi cricket fan! I hear what you are saying but I have been following BD cricket team since its first ICC trophy victory 1997 and ICC trophy failure even before that in 1993... just imagine what we go through every time someone tells us we don't belong... lol.. nice article though!

    I think you will find die hard supporters in all parts if the world. Pakistan, SriLanka, WI even the brits and aussies.... at the end of the day we are all cricket fan and irrespective of what team you root for... we all root for the game! Let's keep it that way!:D

  • Aila on May 25, 2010, 20:16 GMT

    I love this article...it describes my feelings in a way I never thought could be spoken/written but this is just eloquence. Perfectly sums up what it means to be a West Indian supporter...sad as that may sound. And you are so right, if my boyfriend had let me down as much times as the Windies have and continue to do, lets just say I would have been very unfaithful ;)

  • addiemanav on May 25, 2010, 17:51 GMT

    the article seems it has popped out of my own head!!i was in 5th grade in 1998,when i 1st woke up for a testmatch in NZ at 3 with my cousin.the 1st test was washed out,the 2nd game started disastrously.india were 16-4,but i waited,there was some comeback,azhar got a century.although india lost a tight game,but it was the start of my relationship with the game.my greatest achievment has been watching eng play in nz,then pak in aus,sl in india,bangladesh in zim,& sa in west indies,all in one day.and yes,after the end of day's play in WI,saw the game in NZ. we are a breed of our own,no one can beat us..many "IPL" fans might come,but they will never be able to match the might of ours!!also those games helped you to extend your study hours.u can never do that with t20!!

  • rphanikanth on May 25, 2010, 17:41 GMT

    Nice article. Can't agree more.

  • on May 25, 2010, 16:49 GMT

    nice to have company in terms of sum1 who thinks of the cricketing venue when told about a city!

  • pakspin on May 25, 2010, 16:04 GMT

    Don't worry. Unless Indian managment changes their mindset, there will be plenty of opportunities available to be disappointed. They need to start recruiting new talent and drop the century making dead pitches bullies. Get the team ready for real ICC events and forget about making personal records vs weak teams on flat tracks. India has to make a choice. Do you want to be proud of dead pitch kings, or do you want to win ICC events? They both don't go togather.

  • straightcut on May 25, 2010, 15:45 GMT

    I use to be a cricket fanatic all of my life, starting when most kids will still jump with joy at the sound of ice-cream truck. Not me. For me, the sound of cricket commentary proved to be the most enduring lesson in language. bUT off late the passion is waning. And the biggest reason I could think of is - I don't get to miss cricket. Its always there, always on, in some form or other. It's same as your significant other. You get bored with them if they are always there, always on you. CRICKET - FOR GOD's SAKE - GIVE US THE GIFT OF MISSING YOU!

  • on May 25, 2010, 15:38 GMT

    It's like you were describing me in this article. Like many others said - just brilliant!

  • AdityaMookerjee on May 25, 2010, 14:04 GMT

    If India was doing not very well in, say, England, or Australia, then I would still not miss the opportunity of watching India play in those nations. Attitudes like mine, made it so difficult for the Indian cricket team, when they toured, previously. If no one was watching, India would not get so much of criticism, because the news channels would find something else to report. Of course, I would be bitterly disappointed in the end, if we lost.

  • Hiteshdevilliers on May 25, 2010, 13:54 GMT

    Wow, this is one of the best articles I have ever read on this site! It's so true in so many ways. I definitely agree that Cricket has improved my geography too. Whenever I think of any city, the first thing that comes to mind is the cricket ground, if that city happens to have one. I really liked when you said and I quote "Addiction does not have rationality at its heart". This article reminds me of my addiction for the South African cricket team and how I constantly support them, despite crashing hopelessly out of every ICC tournament, only to know they will be playing at their best again in a non ICC event, be called a favorite and crash out again. Despite the same cycle repeating over and over again, I still stick to team South Africa through it all.

  • vin77 on May 25, 2010, 12:05 GMT

    Brilliant! article. Story of my life as well.It is millions like us who still support Team India inspite of everything.

  • on May 25, 2010, 11:48 GMT

    Yes, I cannot be as passionate about Namibia or Ice hockey!

  • PrakashES on May 25, 2010, 11:46 GMT

    Good article. However I have to say that my passion for the game has dulled after the advent of T20 and especially IPL. Even the upcoming 50 over world cup doesn't generate the excitement like in the past. I still follow all the scores on a daily basis but the intensity is not the same as it used to be. I think it has changed for the players also. They are more like tennis players now - super rich and playing year-round. Even if they get dropped from the national team it is no big deal as they have many chances to come back into the team as there is so much cricket all year round. Add to it the increase in injuries to players, there are always vacancies in the national team. And even if they don't manage to make it back to the national team there is always the IPL or t20 leagues in other countries.

  • nitrixx on May 25, 2010, 11:34 GMT

    Quote: "If my wife had let me down half as many times.. " Hey I thought you were a female!

  • Sidhanta-Patnaik on May 25, 2010, 11:25 GMT

    Life story of anyone who knows what it means

  • on May 25, 2010, 10:50 GMT

    this really explains me i surpport west indies and we all know the failures with them but still i cant bring myself to stop watching them.

  • Mina_Anand on May 25, 2010, 10:07 GMT

    As one who has never 'turned away' ,watched match after match, for the last 25 years - non-stop - not missing a minute - i can proudly say that i have got up even earlier than 3 - to catch the pre-shows -been a 'night-watchman' for the caribbean games, and never questioned the 'attitude' of the players.

    But, I beg to differ with Soumya, when he talks about 'misery'. Given the ups and downs of cricket, there is no team (apart from the Australians) which has consistently won. The Indian Team's record - both at home and away(over the last two decades) is far better than that of other teams, and far better than what we think we must think ! (Check the stats, if you must)

    Where is the misery when we have players like the Fab Five (earlier Sunny, Kapil,and others) who give us so much joy and pride. I've always felt privileged to be an Indian Cricket Fan. Haven't you ?

  • on May 25, 2010, 10:03 GMT

    Absolutely brilliant. I live in Nairobi, Kenya and whenever India are playing in Australia I get up at two and three in he morning to follow the Test Matches. I am a firm believer that one day India will be needing 17 off the last ball of which 8 will come from "no balls" eight from "wides" and the last one from a legal delivery!!!

  • maverick_ind on May 25, 2010, 9:58 GMT

    mock funeral processions and mock wedding celebrations (although the latter evaded us indian fans recently), bring them on... great article.

  • Shri82 on May 25, 2010, 9:55 GMT

    :) :) :) Am the same..... Always think positive for Our Cricket Team..... Always hope to bounce back..... I believe i will make similar commets down the lane in my life (after getting married and ......)

  • AnandNandakumar on May 25, 2010, 9:27 GMT

    great article!! Reminds me of my feelings when we were booted out of the 2007 world cup. Here's what i wrote on my blog then

    http://3piecesuitwithterrycot.blogspot.com/2007/04/twenty-minutes-in-long-time.html

    echoes a lot with what you say in this article...

  • on May 25, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    Isn't this from the book "you must like cricket?" ?

  • on May 25, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    superb.cant agree more.even i get sense of time due to cricket.99-d year wen india lost wc.2004-india won in aus,pak...watever nybdy may say bout lack of passion in our players,lack of intensity..i m gonna support dem thru thick n thin

  • Vivek.Bhandari on May 25, 2010, 7:09 GMT

    Well said Soumya...every time India loses a match I swear that I won't follow them anymore...but i'm there supporting our cricketers the next moment...and it's been more than 20 years like this...:))

  • CricIndian9 on May 25, 2010, 6:23 GMT

    This article is the story of my life! I dont Love The Indian Cricket Team... I LIVE THEM!

  • judedcouto on May 25, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    wonderful article -- I am one of the brothers in misery -- thanks for the nice writing

  • on May 25, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    you are a genius, this somes up the pure passian for cricket Bravo!

  • IPLFan on May 25, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Absolutely. Go Bangalore!

  • on May 25, 2010, 5:10 GMT

    amaaaazing article...sums up evrything...the term"brotherhood of misery" was awesomeeeee....

  • on May 25, 2010, 3:55 GMT

    great article!! truely shows the passion of a cricket fan where cricket is religion.

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  • on May 25, 2010, 3:55 GMT

    great article!! truely shows the passion of a cricket fan where cricket is religion.

  • on May 25, 2010, 5:10 GMT

    amaaaazing article...sums up evrything...the term"brotherhood of misery" was awesomeeeee....

  • IPLFan on May 25, 2010, 5:48 GMT

    Absolutely. Go Bangalore!

  • on May 25, 2010, 5:59 GMT

    you are a genius, this somes up the pure passian for cricket Bravo!

  • judedcouto on May 25, 2010, 6:09 GMT

    wonderful article -- I am one of the brothers in misery -- thanks for the nice writing

  • CricIndian9 on May 25, 2010, 6:23 GMT

    This article is the story of my life! I dont Love The Indian Cricket Team... I LIVE THEM!

  • Vivek.Bhandari on May 25, 2010, 7:09 GMT

    Well said Soumya...every time India loses a match I swear that I won't follow them anymore...but i'm there supporting our cricketers the next moment...and it's been more than 20 years like this...:))

  • on May 25, 2010, 7:45 GMT

    superb.cant agree more.even i get sense of time due to cricket.99-d year wen india lost wc.2004-india won in aus,pak...watever nybdy may say bout lack of passion in our players,lack of intensity..i m gonna support dem thru thick n thin

  • on May 25, 2010, 9:02 GMT

    Isn't this from the book "you must like cricket?" ?

  • AnandNandakumar on May 25, 2010, 9:27 GMT

    great article!! Reminds me of my feelings when we were booted out of the 2007 world cup. Here's what i wrote on my blog then

    http://3piecesuitwithterrycot.blogspot.com/2007/04/twenty-minutes-in-long-time.html

    echoes a lot with what you say in this article...