By Hardik Rajgor Jun. 10, 2019
In India, everyone is a cricket fan. But it takes something special to be a cricket fanatic. A die-hard fan does not eat an apple but practises bowling with it. He grows up to be the only uncle in the building who does not get mad when a ball hits his window.
Nike’s slogan for the 2011 Cricket World Cup in India was “Bleed Blue” — an apt choice, for cricket is in our blood. Even the most casual watcher knows who the captain of India is and that Duckworth-Lewis is not a rare breed of poultry. But there is a niche breed, even inside of this cricket-crazy culture, of the die-hard cricket fan.
The cricket fanatic is the kind who wants to play cricket for India from the moment he is born. Every birthday, he asks for a bat as a gift and wants his cake to look like a cricket stadium with a pitch in the middle. He comes home from school, throws his bag in a corner and runs downstairs to play cricket until the sun goes down. If it is raining and he has to spend time at home, he takes out his cricket trump cards and forces his uninterested parents to play with him. If there are siblings around, it’s time to bring out the big guns from the cupboard and play the “International Cricket Board Game” where the ground cloth must be ironed and ball bearings stand in for the leather cherry.
The cricket fanatic eats, lives, and breathes cricket. When he goes to school, he plays book cricket during a free period instead of hanging out with the cool kids or honing his pen fight skills. During summer vacations, when everyone else joins drawing or dance classes, he joins cricket coaching. He hates getting up in the morning during school but will wake up at 6 am and warm up for an hour for his cricket lessons. If game is banned in the building because someone broke the khadoos uncle’s window pane, his next suggestion is to play “box cricket”. When the guy with the bat also leaves, his next suggestion is to play “hand cricket”.
You can take him away from cricket but you can never take cricket away from him. If you give him an apple to eat, he’ll start spinning it in his hand and practice his variations. If you give him a stick or a plank of wood, he’ll practice his straight drive and square cut. Where others see an empty parking lot, he sees a potential cricket ground. To him, a chair is not a chair, it is a stump on which you can also sit. When he enters a building compound, his brain automatically starts marking off boundaries and setting fielding positions.
You can take him away from cricket but you can never take cricket away from him.
The cricket fanatic knows his stats and numbers. By that, I don’t mean beginner level nonsense like “Sachin Tendulkar has 100 hundreds”. That’s just basic trivia. The die-hard knows the name of the third cousin of the umpire’s son who scored a hundred on the fifth day of a game between Sussex and Cardiff in 1982. He is the genius on Bournvita Quiz Contest who has the sports section covered for his school team. In India, there is a Harsha Bhogle in every household, if only we are willing to look.
The die-hard fan grows up to own the Indian jersey from every World Cup that he won’t sell even at a 1000 per cent premium, ever in his life. Heading to the stadium for the game is normie culture. The cricket fanatic travels with his “North Stand Gang” for every game and has chants memorised for every player and team. His merchandise game is always on point, as are his travel plans. People plan for Manali and Switzerland; the cricket fanatic dreams of visiting Lords and the Gabba, for a game of cricket. He logs on to cricket forums and has long debates about who should bat at number four and how the Big Three cricket boards have ruined the future of Test cricket, the purist’s version of the game.
The cricket fanatic only gets old to pass on the fandom to his children and beyond. At 70, he will struggle to walk around the society, but he will never become that khadoos uncle who asks kids to stop playing when the ball hits his window.