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Crazy love

Indian cricket fans do things in extremes. Get used to it

Indian supporters out in full force, England v India, ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights, Lord's, June 14, 2009
Loud enough for you, chaps? © Getty Images

We Indians, or at least a sizeable number of us Indian cricket fans, do things in extremes. We turn up in hordes to every game: we flocked to The Oval pumped up to out-shout thousands of Pakistan fans, we made it a point to turn Lord's into a home venue by outnumbering the English. We weren't stingy with our cheers either. We went berserk at every boundary our batsmen hit and every wicket our bowlers took. We even went overboard for dot balls and fielding efforts. And haven't you heard us go wild when the names of the playing XI are flashed on the massive screens at the grounds? Or even when someone hits the ball into the stands during practice? We go to all sorts of lengths and take a lot of effort and trouble to support our team, and people who don't understand why look at us with bemusement.

But our fanatical love has its dark side too. We expect the Indian team to live up to our high expectations. We expect them to fuel our insatiable passion by giving us performances we can exalt. We expect it every time. And when we are disappointed, when all hope is lost, we don't think twice about showing it. We booed Ravindra Jadeja when his headshot appeared on the screen at Trent Bridge while the XI against South Africa was being announced. His 25 off 35 balls against England lost India the game at Lord's. So what if he's only a 20-year-old facing an in-form bowling attack targeting his throat in a high-pressure situation? He's had two Twenty20 internationals worth of experience and should have been able to do the job.

We didn't care that India were out of the tournament by the time they played their last game. We turned up for the dead rubber as well, outnumbering the New Zealand, Sri Lankan and South African fans put together at Trent Bridge. We always come to watch our team play, giving them every chance to make us proud. And yet we were disappointed again and watched in horror as our batsmen succumbed not to pace, but to spin. We were supposed to be good players of spin on any surface. So what if the ball is gripping and turning sharply? We saw our captain MS Dhoni get run out off a wide, needlessly. Even though we appreciated his gesture when he came out to run for Harbhajan Singh, when he could have sent in someone else, we booed him at the post-match presentation ceremony. In our anger and disappointment, we called him a rotten captain.

Dhoni understands our relationship, though. We've been through it all together: the despair of our 2007 World Cup campaign, the delirious celebrations after the World Twenty20 that year - did you see us jam the roads of Mumbai when they returned from South Africa? Dhoni understands us and remembers. "It's not the first time it has happened to me or the Indian team," he said. "When expectations are so high, these are the reactions you get. If they didn't boo, that would have been unusual from the crowd today."

We'll be watching them in the West Indies too. Waiting for an opportunity to cheer madly again.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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