“An Indian game accidentally discovered by the English,” was how the sociologist Ashis Nandy described cricket 20 years ago as the game took root after the 1983 World Cup win. Writing in the business daily Mint, the columnist Aakar Patel overturns the aphorism to suggest that a pristine sport has been destroyed by Indians.
A tamasha in tricolour.
On the eve of a World Cup final that might yet go India’s way, Patel finds fault with the fans, their behaviour, their placards, their awareness of the game, their prejudices, and the godawful cricketers who now strut around as “commentators”, piling cliche upon tracer-bullet cliche.
“One of the disappointing things about the World Cup was that it was played on the subcontinent. It is thought that India loves cricket. This is incorrect. India loves India. Cricket gives us the opportunity to express this affection.
“The local cricket match in India is unattended. Even World Cup matches featuring two other sides will be played without spectators, no matter what the calibre of the players….
“Indian spectators express themselves physically, through dancing, screaming and jumping about. This is done communally, in groups often including middle-aged men. It is done emotionally, with strong facial expression….
“In India, signs are held up which are either obvious or embarrassingly banal. A decade ago, they were also poorly spelled. These days they’re not because advertisers hand out printed ones….
“One unique thing is how Indian spectators are silent when the other team scores. On television it’s as if the screen has gone mute. It’s not about enjoying a sport and appreciating the ability of professionals to play it. It’s about nationalism, which in India is narrow and zero-sum….
“The Indian team is overrated because our fierce nationalism inflates its capacity. This has been amplified recently because of our economic power. Usually, Indians are happy if their team wins the skirmish and loses the battle. This is because national honour is often safeguarded by the hero….
“Between its spectators and commentators, Indians have ruined cricket for everybody. With the growth of our economy, this has got worse.”
Photograph: courtesy Agence France Presse
Read the full article: The banality of the Indian cricket fan
Also read: Who killed (good) cricket writing in India?