No Country for Cricket: Umang Kumar

Guest post by UMANG KUMAR
I have to confess that there are many times that I too have wanted to stop supporting the Indian cricket team and root for some other team. And this is not just with the current lineup and their losses in South Africa and New Zealand. Why, even when Gundappa Viswanath failed in inning after inning, when, in the pre-Kapil days, Indian pacers (“fast medium”) like Karsan Ghavri and Mohinder Amarnath huffed and puffed, there were times I just wanted to say good riddance. Thank you India, I think I’ll switch allegiance – I’ll go support Clive Lloyds’ West Indies or Asif Iqbal’s Pakistan. Much better teams, so much more exciting to watch!

The Indian cricketers could neither bowl well nor defend modest totals with the bat. And they were lackluster on the field save that one saving grace, Eknath Solkar.

They flourished on dead-slow Indian pitches, piling up runs but were left clueless on faster wickets. We were supposed to sympathize with our players who often cited the cold weather abroad, the “nip in the air” that caused the ball to swing as they all edged it abjectly for easy catches behind the wicket [the Bengali word for such irresponsible, tentative shots outside the wicket that ended in simple catches at first-slip was  appropriately “khoncha” – an undignified jab.] I was fed up. But I guess mine was only a thought-crime, not punishable in those days…

Of course, there was always something about India-Pakistan matches, what with the Pakistani penchant for snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – and always in the last over.

Before there was Afridi’s last-over sixers this time in the Asia cup, there is another  incident that is etched in the Indian collective memory, at par in its trauma with the arrival of Babur and the sack of Somnath, surely. It is none other than the classic last-ball sixer by Jawed Miandad off Chetan Sharma at Sharjah in the Austral-Asia cup of 1986. That spectacle of dhajjiyan udaoing of India’s dream by smashing a sixer off the very last ball – and off a “pace bowler” like Chetan Sharma – that hurt us all a lot. We never recovered from that blow. Cheering for Pakistan was always a sin – but that day was surely momentous in our memories. Things could never really be the same between India and Pakistan cricket after that…

Of course, Jawed Miandad or no, Cheering-for-Pakistan-in-India-while-Muslim was definitely a category you did not want to belong to because then you were waving not just Pakistani flags, you were waiving your Indian citizenship away too. Not that you got much for that in the first place anyways, especially if you were “illegal Bangladeshis” but from that point on you were absolutely, totally condemned.

But, really, Cheering-for-Pakistan-in-India-while-Kashmiri-and-Muslim is at another level of irresponsibility altogether. Which part of this long string of associations do you not get, dear Kashmiri students? It does not matter that Pakistan played better or that you really believe in “may the best team win” – your carelessness just caused daggers of hurt into countless patriotic Indians who believe in undying Manoj-Kumar-style loyalty to their cricket team no matter how poorly it performs. We just might barge into Dhoni’s home in Jharkhand and smash a few windows if we are really upset, but that is ok. We just don’t go about cheering for our arch-enemy – that is a no-no. Because, as you probably only know too well, it is war between us (you must’ve seen all the military in your state, right?).

And to think of it, you were on a Prime Minister’s scholarship and therefore honor-bound to respect the state that gave you that largesse. What you probably did not realize was that allegiance to the nation also implies unquestioning allegiance to all else that is bound up with the nation – like the national flower, the national bird, the national animal, and of course the national sport, which happens not to be cricket, incidentally, but which is made out to be one, such is our fealty to a colonial legacy. No latitude, no jokes, no tolerance at all in matters of India and Pakistan cricket. It is quite another matter altogether that some misguided artists on the other side of the border like the late Moin Akhtar chose to spare no one in his light-hearted takes on Indo-Pak cricketing series, including, gasp, their own Jawed Miandad! But for us, cricket is serious business – it is a matter of National Pride and you might even call it a National Religion, complete with its own gods and legions of the faithful. So no messing with that…you will be slapped with charges of sedition, no less.

Of course, you can always laugh it off and tell us about the Most Revered Father of the Nation who said some nice things about sedition and how it was everybody’s duty to be seditious. But those were different times and these are different times, tho’ we are not sure if you can tell the difference…

On our part, we patriotic Indians sing praises to our country in our schools and not to the victories of our neighbors who just happen to be better cricketers…we gently tip our heads and with deep fervor recite the National Anthem, Jana Gana Mana, and we know you Kashmiris are part of the “Vindhya Himachal Yamuna Ganga” line so you are squarely and undeniably part of our Bharat Mata. It is of course quite another thing that the poet who penned the lines of our National Anthem also wrote elsewhere about a world not broken up into fragments/ by narrow domestic walls…but that is a more serious tale for another day…

 

Umang Kumar is a communty-activist based in Boston, Massachusetts. Once an avid cricketer, he now enjoys a game of soccer whenever possible, though he unconsciously finds himself executing fashionable square-cuts in his imagination…”

6 thoughts on “No Country for Cricket: Umang Kumar”

  1. Yes, narrow domestic walls should be dismantled to enjoy the spirit of ‘Jana gana mana “

  2. Like people societies too need self-esteem. That is why the fascination with Olympic gold medals. It is one of the reasons that Indian media go over the top when some person of Indian origin achieves something great overseas. Also why Sachin is treated like god.Unfortunately there is very little in the present day to contribute to India’s self-esteem. So actions of the Kashmiri student kind can be seen as a blow to what little self-esteem we have.
    The way the students were treated was wrong. But it is easy to point out something that is wrong. It is much harder to understand why it exists and how to fix it. One cannot legislate against stupidity. Unfortunately most Indian intellectuals fail at this – one root of many evils plaguing the country.

  3. Thank you for this very humorous piece. Time and again, I have come across this judgement of disloyalty to the Indian nation and have given up on trying to convince people!

  4. Lovely piece! I thoroughly enjoyed it…but it’s still stuck in an Indo-Pak continuum and that wretched game of cricket, and it’s not quite tweaking the boundaries of nationalism and whatever…

    I say this of course as an uncompromising football player, coach and fan…

    So let’s put it like this, sport always comes first for me.

    When it comes to cricket I will cheer and support with my whole heart any team that plays against India, including Papua New Guinea, Gabon, Yemen and the Seychelles.

    If india or anyone else play Pakistan in hockey, I always cheer Pakistan because from 1960, they have always produced more dazzling hockey players than we have.

    In football, I always root for Brazil except if they play an African country. I will only break this pattern if India qualifies for the Fifa World Cup.

    But then you know what they say in the continent of Africa about India never qualifying for the World Cup? Because every time they got a corner, they built a shop…

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