If the headline of this post irked you, welcome to many more logical Indians who feel the same and if you did not feel offended by the absurdity of the headline, then this post is for you only! Read On:
As we wait for India to clash with Australia in the semi finals, Outlook magazine runs a poll ‘Should India win the World Cup?’ There are hundreds of such polls on the internet, but what makes this poll disturbing is the Ashis Nandy quote they use. “Winning the World Cup might just make India’s macho and hyper masculine nationalism more intense…the fear is that majoritarian nationalism will become more aggressive” opines the sociologist. When I first read it, I wondered if it was hoax. But Outlook wouldn’t run a hoax. The theory is difficult to believe at all levels.
As a woman I have known no other sport. I was in school, class 10, when the first Sahara Cup was played in Toronto. I would watch matches till 3. AM, wake up at 6.30 AM for school and then after the first couple of periods fake illness and sleep in the infirmary. Cricket never occurred to me as a ‘masculine’ thing. Painting faces, knowing facts and figures right, cheering and grieving has been a part of life almost as long as I remember.
How often have we heard, ‘nothing unifies India, like cricket’? And there sure is some truth to it. People differ on a host of topics, but when it comes to cricket, they stick to each other and cheer for the team. Nandy’s theory not only belittles the spirit of cricket in the country, it also mocks the lives of all those who have loved the game. Fans, cricketers, commentators included. We all know of the great Sachinist Sudhir Gautam and how he has left it all for the game. There are many nameless fans who have sacrificed one thing or the other to just watch the game; fans who have died of heart attacks!
Cricket in India was never about ‘majoritarian’ preferences. Talk about Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and every true blooded cricket fan will venerate him. Or Vijay Hazare? Wouldn’t we all stop for a moment and thank him for all he has done for our country? How proud we have been about Mohammad Azharuddin – the wristy magician. Or when Zaheer Khan (and Gambhir, Yuvraj and Shewag) didn’t find a place in the Indian World Cup squad, the fans were shocked. Did majority/ minority have anything to play? I remember how we had squealed in joy as we watched Irfan Pathan sign autographs in Eden Gardens. Seeing him in such close proximity made the test match just feel better.
I am sorry Mr. Nandy. Your idea has no basis. The coach of the current team, Duncan Fletcher is not limited to a certain vote bank. Or my personal favourite Gary Kirsten is not part of any ‘majoritarian’ conspiracy! I hope you remember him as India’s coach in 2011!
I have often wondered why India is so obsessed with cricket. Is it because the Indian team is a representation of what we Indians are? We are emotional people and so are our cricketers. The team captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn’t met his baby girl yet. The new father says he is on ‘national duty’. Cricket didn’t come to Dhoni on a platter, and the man has not only made it big from a small town, but also from a modest background.
Maybe all our cricketers have such stories. A sister supports her 13 year old brother and since the cricket coaching centre is 7 to 8 kms away from home, she escorts him till he knows the route. Today we know that man as Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. His mother, a housewife had little knowledge of the game, and his sub inspector father couldn’t find enough time for his son’s cricket. The struggle wasn’t easy.
Or let us take the case of the toast of Indian cricket, Virat Kohli, who played for his state team Delhi and then went to his father’s funeral. Or Unmesh Yadav. When he had got his first call form the Vidharba Cricket association the man had no bowling shoes or even a mobile phone.
Shouldn’t India’s progress in the 2015 world cup be seen as a celebration of the never dying spirit of the country? Isn’t wishing the team’s loss to Bangladesh (the theory being it would deflate some egos), outright funny? Or a little provocative for the now angry social media! What is the new era of ‘liberals’ playing at? Indian cricket is so full of stories of winning against odds that one could write an epic on it. Why did Sachin Tendulkar’s brother work so hard for him? Why did Rahul Dravid play with the extremely painful ear surgery? Why did Shewag travel 84 kilometers to train? Why did Irfan and Yusuf Pathan’s father not succumb to taunts? Or why did Sunil Joshi leave his Hubli home at crack of dawn and travel 60 kms? What ‘majoritarian machismo’ could be associated with the history of cricket in India?
And I believe no one told Mr. Nandy about our current hero Mohammad Shami. When the cricket ball is in his hand, we Indians feel safe. We celebrate every wicket he takes and appeal every time he does. Or Stuart Binny! And we will do the same if Parvez Rasool gets similar kind of success. Cricket for us is not just about the glamour. It is about the daily struggles and human stories associated with the game.
Cricket is a beautiful game. Please stop politicizing and communalizing it. Let us get together and Celebrate India.
P.S The space constraint forces me to leave out more stories of fans and cricketers. There is a struggle in each capped player’s life. I hope we stop playing filthy games with the sport.