By Saksham Mishra Mar. 30, 2019
Delhi’s IPL team is like a sweet but nagging girlfriend — regardless of what she says or how bad a fight you get into, you always know, even in those moments of frustration, that this is only fleeting and you cannot ever afford to lose her.
This comes from a true Delhi Daredevils… er… Delhi Capitals fan, if such a rare creature apart from me even exists. So if you feel that I am being too harsh on Delhi, do understand that it is coming from a place of deep affection and concern. What I’m trying to say is, it’s all about loving your… IPL team.
I caught the T20 fever, much like the rest of India, after Misbah-ul-Haq played the most miscalculated shot of his life against a dibbly-dobbly Joginder Sharma and was caught by Sreesanth, and India triumphed in the 2007 T20 World Cup. Post the win, the popularity of the then-fresh T20 format soared, and Indian cricket also explored uncharted territory with the inception of the Indian Premier League.
The tournament had just begun, so loyalties were not yet finalised. The slate was blank and I could have my pick as to which team I had to side with. With Virender Sehwag leading Delhi Daredevils, there was not much scope left for a seventh-grader like me for whom explosive shot-making meant #LifeGoals.
The caravan picked up pace and Delhi did well, eventually making it to the semi-finals in the inaugural edition, only to be impeded by Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals. The franchise topped the league stage in 2009 under the leadership of Gautam Gambhir, but succumbed yet again to the heroics of an Australian, Adam Gilchrist. These Aussies were still after us!
Soon, it was more than just the Australians who were getting the better of Delhi. At that point, the team was less like the Daredevils and more like the Matt Murdochs. The franchise could have easily lost me at that point, but after sharing in their hardships season after season, it was in those lowest of times that the team actually grew on me.
During the second season of the IPL, I got myself a Delhi Daredevils jersey after saving up on my pocket money. I was in school back then, and it was my first investment. Often, in the evenings, I’d exuberantly don the Delhi jersey and step out of my imaginary pavilion – the building lobby. However, my love for Delhi came at a cost. Every time I failed to hold on to a catch or got out cheaply, Delhi Daredevils was an easy target for the jibes of my friends in the colony. “Aise hote hain Daredevils,” they’d taunt.
But by this point, even if Delhi were losers, they were my losers
On one such low day, I was sitting dejectedly on a bench in the community park when I felt a tap on my right shoulder. I turned around to the smiling face of the prettiest girl in the neighbourhood.
Avantika. I knew her. I had often noticed her watching our evening cricket game from her balcony. “You know, Saksham,” she said, “I love Delhi too, but don’t tell anyone or they’ll mock me as well,” letting me in on her little secret. Call it puppy love but I felt a little like Sehwag – a true Daredevil. That two-minute conversation which began due to Delhi steered us to a relationship that has joyously sustained itself to date.
The parallels between my fandom and relationship run deeper. Delhi, to my mind, always seemed like a sweet but nagging girlfriend — regardless of what she says or how bad a fight you get into with her, you always know, even in those moments of anger or frustration, that this is only fleeting and you cannot ever afford to lose her.
There came a time when most people would snicker when they asked me which team I supported. But by this point, even if Delhi were losers, they were my losers. A sports feature in The New York Times titled “Why Fans Stand By Perennial Losers” refers to this phenomenon as BIRFing, or Basking In Reflected Failure, where supporters of a team see loyalty to a flagging outfit as a signifier of in-group status. “In some cases, the camaraderie of losing actually supersedes the sanctity of winning,” writes the author.
Perhaps this masochistic urge to stick with Delhi through thick and thin is why I still hurry through all my work to be stationed before the television set whenever my team has a fixture. So, let the disappointment begin, let the taunts roll, I will stand tall beside my Shreyas Iyer and the boys even if they fail.
“Yeh delhi hai mere yaar,
Bass ishq mohabbat pyaar…”
Justifying hours of content consumption by scribbling down a few logical lines that might just about hold your interest. Sleep, sports, books and movies are lifelines, in the same order.