“I will be out of Chennai the whole of June because I’m watching the ICC Cricket World Cup in the UK,” Anusha Ramachandran casually told me as we picked our kids up from school. I was instantly intrigued. A month away from home and work to watch cricket? That is some dedication! But Anusha is not your garden variety cricket fan. She bleeds Blue, as part of the Bharat Army, an almost 10,000 strong group of Indian cricket fans from across the globe.
She explains, “I heard of the Bharat Army in 2016 during the T20 World Cup in India. I did some research and started chatting with Rakesh Patel (founder) on Facebook messenger and the rest is history!”
Anusha, assistant vice president at a global professional services firm that delivers digital transformation, follows the boys in blue religiously no matter where she lives (she has moved homes a number of times — from Mumbai to Bengaluru, Gurugram and Chennai).
She usually flies solo but in 2018, took her husband Abhilash Rao and daughter Akansha to South Africa. Did they share her passion? Well, not so much. Abhilash says, “Akansha initially enjoyed dancing to the drumbeats and also helped Anusha tie Bharat Army flags across the ground. But, the enthusiasm wore off since Akansha and I can get very cranky when we don’t eat on time. After South Africa, we decided that we will not accompany Anusha.” Anusha chips in, “I get into a different zone and I need to watch every delivery. I do not care about weather, food, water, restrooms; so my daughter hated it. But she understands that I need to live my life and adjusts.”
Her little one and husband are not the only people who have learned to plan around the Indian team’s cricket schedules. “During the World Cup, I informed my team, that on days that India plays, I will be on leave. When I toured Australia in 2018, I had to travel on business to the US but cancelled the trip since I wouldn’t be present for the complete Aussie tour. They respected that,” she continues.
- Four British-Indian supporters mobilised fans during the India vs Pakistan match at the 1999 World cup in UK, to form The Bharat Army. Rakesh Patel, one of the brains behind Bharat Army says, it’s much more than just a fan group now — “In 2015, we set up Bharat Army Travel to create organised tours for Indian cricket fans, who follow the team. We are also an official ICC Travel & Tours Partner and for the Cricket World Cup 2019. We will have over 8,000 Indian cricket fans travelling with us from over 22 countries around the world!”
Diligently following the Indian cricket team can be an expensive affair. Anusha adds, “I spend approximately ₹3,00,000 per year — last, I travelled to South Africa (with family), England and Australia, so then the numbers added up substantially. But it’s completely worth it.”
A Mumbaikar at heart, Anusha remembers the exact match when cricket became more than just a game — a way of life. “The turning point was the 1993 Hero cup, India-South Africa semi-finals when Sachin [Tendulkar] bowled the last over and defended six runs. Like most people of our generation, I started watching cricket because of Sachin.” He is still her all-time favourite, and the 2011 India World cup triumph at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, is her best-loved moment. In fact, cricket was a household passion and Anusha played cricket in school, college and during her time at XIME, Bengaluru, where she met her husband when they were captains of their respective college teams.
“I play cricket on weekends and she likes touring with the team. As a family we have got used to the madness,” sums up Abhilash, as he gets ready to head to the cricket field for his weekend match.