Between Wickets | Columns

The new Indian fan and why he was angry after the final

England's cricket team. File   | Photo Credit: AFP

The World Cup is done and dusted, the caravan has moved on, the pundits have spoken, the analyses are over. Yet a couple of questions continue to nag. Why, for instance, would umpire Kumar Dharmasena admit to making an error while granting England the extra run in the tied final, and then follow that up with “I will never regret that decision”? The decision was taken in consultation with the other umpire, he tells us, it was a difficult one to make, he assures us, and then ruins that with what comes across as either arrogance or stupidity.

The second question is the more interesting. Why were Indian fans so angry with the final result? Not merely disappointed or upset, but angry? Can you imagine television debates in England or Australia had India missed out in the manner that New Zealand did?

England skipper Eoin Morgan has spoken to his New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson “on numerous occasions” since the final, he has said, and neither has been able to get his head around everything that happened. He was quoted as saying, “I’m not sure winning it makes it any easier,” adding later, “It would be more difficult to lose, of course.”


In New Zealand, Kane Williamson told a radio station, “It will take a little bit of time…you get waves. You just forget about it for 10 minutes then it hits you again … ” And importantly, “The rules were there from the start, we have to swallow that and accept it.”

One Indian fan told me, “I didn’t mind that India lost in the semifinal. It gave us a chance to watch the greatest one-day international ever.” He was the exception, as the majority wanted to do something about that final — from a signature campaign asking the International Cricket Council to alter its playing conditions and letting the teams share the trophy to sacking various officials.

Everybody had an opinion, expressed more forcefully and with greater concern than anything articulated on issues such as the country’s water shortage, or fudging in the national budget, which should affect us deeply. An umpiring decision made under pressure in a far away land got even the silent majority raising fists in anger.

Love for the underdog

It would have been hilarious if it didn’t say something interesting about us. Age and gender were no barrier to dissatisfaction; my uncle in his 80s was as cheesed off as nieces in their teens and twenties. Social media, the arbiter of a country’s innermost thoughts, could not tear itself away from the subject. Is everybody angry because New Zealand didn’t make it or because England did?

Perhaps it is more of the former, which rules out any colonial hangover. Perhaps it is a genuine love for the underdog, although Indian cricket fans are not renowned for this.

Perhaps Williamson came as a breath of fresh air and we wanted to show our appreciation by fighting his team’s battles.

New Zealanders weren’t nearly as angry, and Williamson didn’t once say anything about luck going against them — an easy enough line to take, particularly since it’s true — and handled it all with dignity.

Perhaps once India lost in the semifinals, their fans transferred their considerable energies to New Zealand, and thus found a reason to retain their interest in the World Cup. Traditionally, teams in South Asia, from the schools level to the international, have tended to support the opponents of the team that beat them. Not so this time.

Springs of sorrow

The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins has said that the springs of sorrow are the same. Perhaps it is the same with the springs of anger too. For the course of one match, New Zealand were the India that made it to the final, didn’t lose the match but lost the Cup. Blaming the players was out of the question. Burning effigies didn’t make sense. Part of the anger might have risen from the frustration of not being able to do these things. And part from a feeling of ‘We wuz robbed’.

The normally demanding Indian fan didn’t explode when India lost; didn’t question the money the players make outside the field, didn’t blame the IPL or the quality of Indian wickets or the standard of domestic matches.

The ones who wanted a change in captaincy were few, and no one called for major changes in the team or asked questions of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. If any players’ houses were stoned or effigies burnt, these didn’t get any publicity.

All this is new. And welcome. And a sign — let us hope — that the aggressive Indian fan is beginning to learn to take defeat.

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Printable version | Sep 13, 2021 11:55:18 AM |

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