What kind of fan are you?
India’s cricket fans don’t know it, but they’re facing a test of sorts. For long now some of us have argued that a majority of Indians who watch cricket don’t really care about cricket, but rather, are obsessed with the few celebrities in the Indian cricket team. Now, before you are outraged, please hear me out.
Not long ago I was at a promotional event at a mall in South Delhi that featured Yuvraj Singh as the star attraction. When the event ended Yuvraj was so badly mobbed that he had to be escorted out via a private exit by four very tough looking security personnel. Fans – boys, girls, men, women – desperately wanted to reach out and touch Yuvraj.
Not a month later, the same Yuvraj is playing a tournament in Bangalore. It’s being played under lights, in coloured clothing, is limited overs and on television – supposedly the precise formula that the Indian public love. The Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore is one of the more peaceful venues to watch cricket from the stands and tickets have been priced as low as anything in recent memory. You can watch Yuvraj and Suresh Raina and Rahul Dravid and many others for as low as Rs 50 per game and even the most expensive tickets can be yours for Rs 200.
And yet, the Indian fan is completely uninterested. There’s barely a crowd at any of the games. Just how does one reconcile this?
If you put the players in trendy clothes and have them mouth inane thoughts at a mall, they’re mobbed. They’re displaying the very skills that made them famous in the first place, in a convenient setting, at low cost, and there are no takers?
As disappointing as it is to see how the fans have voted – and it will be even more revealing to find out the Neo Cricket channel’s TRP ratings at the end of the tournament – it has been a fascinating exercise watching the Corporate Trophy.
For too long, one of Indian cricket’s most important stakeholders – the professional who toils in domestic cricket for no recognition – has been ignored. The Joginder Singhs of the BSNL team and the Avik Choudhurys of India Revenue showcase their skills in domestic cricket day-in and day-out, with no-one but their team-mates, opposition and a handful of journalists in attendance. Now, these men are on television, and perhaps finally the Indian fan will cast a glance in their direction.
To watch these players in action, as opposed to reading their names as a brief footnote in a scorecard, is a pleasure we don’t usually get. Sure, they’re not in the same league as the Sachin Tendulkar or Mahendra Singh Dhoni, but the enthusiasm they display, the commitment with which they play the game, is often no less. Just imagine how heartening it must be for the families of these players to finally watch their loved ones in action, live on television.
Better still, if you’re an Indian fan who cares about cricket, don’t just imagine. Turn on your TV sets and watch these matches. For, in the long run, that could be the one thing that decides whether tournaments like this are sustained or not. Oh, and you might also learn something about the kind of fan you are.