Indian PUBG League: How Cricketers Play Our Favourite Video Game


Indian PUBG League: How Cricketers Play Our Favourite Video Game

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

When Prime Minister Modi asked a parent at the Pariksha Pe Charcha event “Ye PUBG wala hai kya?”, the video became an overnight sensation on social media. It was like watching your desi uncle refer to you as “dude” in order to fit in. But like his Star Wars reference at the Global Citizen Festival, the Prime Minister’s timely pop-culture reference had everyone in splits for all the right reasons. Much like boys crying on TikTok, the game of PUBG has the country hooked, with everyone from college teens to office goers, and now, even the Indian cricket team spending hours sitting on top of buildings in Pochinki with a sniper and a level-3 helmet.

A couple of months ago, the BCCI shared an image of the Indian team which showed the players immersed in a game of PUBG. Jasprit Bumrah was the only one not playing, looking around with the expression of a kid denied a second ride on the ferris wheel. The Indian team is on top of the ICC rankings across formats, and so it’s safe to assume they must have devised their own way of playing PUBG as well.

A few regulars are missing from the game. Ishant Sharma, who has a knack of parachuting straight down at the Hospital, vanishes when IPL is around the corner. R. Ashwin is missing from the mix. He’s playing Counter-Strike in Chennai, wondering why nobody’s adding him to the game.

KL Rahul isn’t a regular anymore either. When he had first installed the game, he had shown great promise, rising to Crown level within a week. Even Coach Ravi had said of him, “What a player! Just what the accountant ordered for India!” However, Rahul’s game turned out to be disappointing when the maps were changed. He dives right into the shooting range and dies in within the first two minutes, holding the flashiest guns. A shotgun won’t do for KL, he will bow out with an AWM in his hands. However, there’s hope, as he is spending a lot of time on the bench, practising his game.

Hardik Pandya is wanted in every team and excels in every map of the game. However, his mic is permanently turned off, thanks to recent developments. He loves stealing the ghillie suit while playing, because “he’s on the darker side”. He puts his phone on airplane mode while playing the game, just in case someone calls him and asks, “Aaj kya karke aaya?”

Chahal and other members saw him immersed in a game and assumed he must be playing Ludo King.

Rishabh Pant is the kid who keeps chattering on the mic throughout the game. He keeps the mic settings to “all” so he can rile up the opposition too. He is also the guy who runs amok during the warm up, flings tomatoes at everybody around him, and just when the game is about to begin, runs and jumps into the sea.

Rohit Sharma is a dream to have on your team, but there’s a caveat. If you land in the right zone, he’s Shaktimaan. He will end up with 14 kills, the MVP tag, and collect every airdrop. However, land in a tricky spot, or choose a map that is unfamiliar, and Rohit Sharma begins to fumble. He prefers Arcade Mode as he doesn’t have the patience to pull of the longer, classical format. Runs and starts punching people right after landing, without bothering to grab a gun.

Cheteshwar Pujara only joins in when the team is having an all-nighter. A connoisseur of the longer format of the game, Pujara lands in Pochinki, grabs a sniper and waits on a terrace for five days.

At 37, MS Dhoni was considered too old to play PUBG. Chahal and other members saw him immersed in a game and assumed he must be playing Ludo King. However, the man is quite a surprise. He is the one everybody follows in the plane before jumping. As someone who has completed a parachute jump with the Territorial Army in real life, he is on the mic constantly guiding the youngsters. He switches to Hindi, Bhojpuri, and Marathi so the opposition doesn’t understand his words, and knows the map inside out. His gameplay is effective, but has its fair share of critics.

With age, he has developed a technique of his own. He ambles about in the bushes, peeking and sniping till the Circle starts closing in on him. Then, he makes a mad dash for the playzone in the last few moments of the game. Dinesh Karthik and Rishabh Pant wait for Dhoni to fall asleep so that they can join the team in his place. Wriddhiman Saha meanwhile, is enjoying a good game of chess at home!

Virat Kohli is a brilliant player, but a nightmare to be on the same team with. His teammates usually play from the adjoining room so that they can avoid the bottles that are flung at them. His mic is permanently on, and his teammates mute him for peace of mind. He is the kind who waits patiently before a match begins, peeks before he jumps, and lands right on top of the tallest building at Pochinki. He has been the MVP for four years now, and is comfortable playing a match in a Manyavar sherwani too. While he’s a brilliant player, he is known not to take criticism too well. “If you like Pewdiepie, leave India,” he was once quoted as saying to Chahal.

Behind it all, is the man himself – Ravi Shastri. Even though his favourite game is MindGames, he backs his boys during PUBG. He is the friend who sits beside you and mouths out instructions. When a player fires, he quips, “That went like a tracer bullet”. When a player uses a MediKit, he says “That’s just what the doctor ordered”. And when the players begin a match, “He has taken the aerial route”.

The Indian team has been traveling non-stop for the last six months. But you know what they say – The team that plays together, stays together. And hopefully, at this year’s World Cup, the Boy in Blue are going to get a taste of that precious Chicken Dinner!