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Sports and Culture

I'm an Indian sports fan...and I'm never happy

Exploring the love-hate relationship of being an Indian sports fan, we take you through the many trials and tribulations of being a participant in this affair.

Indian fans displaying all their fanfare at a cricket match

Indian fans displaying all their fanfare at a cricket match 


Sohinee Basu

Updated: 15 Nov 2021 2:31 PM GMT

This is originally, a call for justice. To everyone who held out the television remote to us and pointed to the screen saying - "There, see, look at the concentration in the eyes, look at that stance, wait for it, he is definitely going for a sixer...wait, with bated breath.." as we let that second-by-second tense commentary lead us on - fully, completely and into a mad love affair with Indian sports, our expectations surging bigger than tsunami waves.

Only the sixer that was expected turned out to be catch-out and the batter who was supposed to do a fist-pump in the next minute bit his tongue and put his head down as he walked away from the pitch. Our wave of expectations fell flat on its face and crashed - hard against the rock of expectations itself.

And therein lies an evergreen tragedy and we are its helpless victims. Is there justice around the corner though? Unfortunately, we think not.

There is a Coldplay song playing in my background as I stand fixated in front of the gas oven, my eyes, deadpan, looking down at the liquor brewing from the tea, the lemongrass floating on the top, the aroma of it doing nothing to my senses on this fine morning where India has woken up to its front pages splashed with the pictures, jubilant Australian team with the 2021 T20 Cricket World Cup trophy nestled in between them.

Virat Kohli walks off the pitch (Source: Reuters)

It bothers me somewhere. Where are our Men in Blue? Weren't they supposed to be here? Wasn't MS Dhoni supposed to be the talisman and make it work for them? Weren't they...obviously supposed to defeat Pakistan (I mean...come on, it hurts so much), and if that went well...weren't we supposed to wake up to a different picture today of Virat Kohli and his men? No? No.

The crests and troughs of emotions

Neeraj Chopra and Avani Lekhara

Nobody said it was easy, nobody said it would be this hard, Coldplay croons and tells me, voicing my emotions way too better than I can. It's difficult being in my shoes - to pick myself up every other alternate week, lift myself up from the misery called disappointment and get ready to brave another day.

For the Indian sports fan, it was cloud nine seasons in July-August-September (bless our lucks, we got 3 months of good days at a stretch!) when the Tokyo Olympics and Tokyo Paralympics fever had gripped us well. Mornings (and oh, they started super early) would mean rising and shining to seeing PV Sindhu drop her killer smashes and the Indian women's hockey team play a goosebumps-filled match against the Australian side in the quarterfinals and script a surreal victory and let the Ravi Dahiya's, the Lovlina Borgohain's make our day before Neeraj Chopra arrived to give the icing on the cake, place the golden cherry on top of our expectations.

PV Sindhu at the Tokyo Olympics (Source: Getty)

If the 7-starry medals outing at the Tokyo Olympics kept us happy, our mind couldn't help going back to the fact that Deepika Kumari-Atanu Das did not get that predicted medal, boxer Amit Panghal really flopped, and as for, Vinesh Phogat on the haunts us still.

So, there we sat for two weeks, basking in the glory of Neeraj Chopra, impatient to move on to the Tokyo Paralympics to get our next fill - and were we blessed and rewarded bountifully - 19 whole medals - the Avani Lekhara's, Sumit Antil's, Pramod Bhagat's and Krishna Nagar's and Sharad Kumar's and Bhavina Patel's made up for any, whatsoever, complaints we had against the Olympics outing.

And then came the Archery World Cup...the Sudirman Cup...and of course, the T20 World Cup and the buoy called hope that is ever-afloat in our hearts sank….the waves of disappointment coming crashing as we stood on the shore helplessly, a pile of dominoes tumbling and falling, face-flat on that sand.

Who do we blame though - who is the culprit here?

Dejected Indian fans at a cricket match (Source: Reuters)

Don't worry - it's us, it's myself. I will take the blame here, for having been led on as a kid into this territory of no escape. All this misery, therefore, is mine and mine alone and in it, I must wallow, all day, every day, and keep my fingers crossed hoping for the next miracle and make best friends with Denial, and together, we will ride these waves of emotions.

The ritual of match-watching

For me, watching a match isn't a singular task involving the interaction of my eyes with the screen, oh no, it's a whole different ball game. My hands, my jumpy legs, and my oh-so-loud-and-explosive mouth play a key role in this ritual of match-watching. Hours before a match, I must have given my two cents on the many Whatsapp groups dedicated to dissing and discussing in varied proportions the antics of our Indian athletes to whom I have dedicated my time in looking up their story, a space of caring already in my heart.

Once I have had had my fill of engaging in a heated debate or two (should I blame my Bengali genes for this? Ah well), I move my campaign to social media. I might have been a shy kid in school, afraid to raise up that hand in class to speak my mind, but god bless the Twitter's and Facebook's where I feel heard - so, there I go next, typing in full-speed, animatedly, infectiously, energetically, letting all my emotions pour out in the comment threads and elaborate pre-match and post-match heartbreak (they are more in number) and joyous posts.

A grieving Indian fan after a hard loss (Source: Reuters)

They do say it's difficult to suffer the loss of a relationship but they don't tell you the utter gloom of misery that spreads over us after India's match against China in table tennis - where no matter what quality of table tennis a Sharath Kamal or Manika Batra is bringing to the table, they stay only an inch away from making that heartbreak turn into a love-all affair.

As an Indian sports fans, we are our own therapists as well (although we aren't really foolproof about our self-made skills) but we have our steady stock of theories and philosophies to take care of us, to pull us out of the gloom and brave another day, risk another match and keep that buoy of hope afloat again. We don't reserve our therapy services to our own selves only though - at various points of the match we turn coach, therapist, physio, and everything under the sun, having full-fledged conversations with the athletes pacing on our screens.

The Indian men's hockey team after winning the bronze at the Tokyo Olympics (Source: Reuters)

But the therapy boomerangs back and more often than not, we are left to watch as the helpless bystander, with not much to do about our emotions. It isn't like this every day though, a spring in the steps do come about every now and then, the stars align themselves and shower medals, trophies and titles and World Cup's - on that day, we are the King's and Queen's of the world - the happiest soul on Planet Earth and in a minute, we are ready to overlook everything - forget all the hurt, all the misery and let that momentous joy envelop us whole.

Ultimately, in this relationship of a fan with Indian sports - I'll readily be the victim over and over again, ride through all the imperfectness, the sadness, and hurt, bear it all, with a steady heart because at the end of the day, when our Indian athletes shine - the sun does shine more brightly, the clouds do part and the infectiousness of that one day is enough to call this relationship a permanent and (un)happily inescapable one.

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