Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quit sitting on your hands

So I went and checked out the highlights for the Akhtar-return game in the IPL. And I was reminded of why I find the Calcutta crowd problematic. Leave aside the silly, asinine, deeply embarrassing riots that terminated the 1996 World Cup semi-final and held up the 1999 Asia Cup test. What I find truly bothersome is the utter failure of the Calcutta crowd to generate even token appreciation for the visiting team. I've always found the deafening silence when an opposition batsman hits a boundary weird. One of the worst things about Aravinda De Silva's masterpiece in the 1996 WC semi-final was the funereal silence that greeted every one of his brilliant shots. This is a general trend all over India (and one I dislike), but in Calcutta its taken to ridiculous extremes. I've heard lots of hype about how great the Calcutta crowd is, how knowledgeable, how sports-loving and on and on. This hype would have a great deal more impact on me if they could show that they do more than just barrack for the home-team. And before I'm accused of anti-Bengali chauvinism, I should say that I'd like this appreciation to be manifest at other Indian grounds as well. It sounds silly to say that the home, the heart, or the temple or mosque, or whatever the heck it is, of cricket is in India if our fans can't show some appreciation for international visitors. And once again, before I get lectures about the IPL, and all the great inter-city rivalry its supposed to generate, let me just say that I'm speaking about international cricket; watching this game just reminded me of an old grouse of mine. The canvas of cricket is marred if one of the participants in its painting, the spectator, simply refuses to participate. Would SRT's or Laxman's tons this past summer have had quite the dramatic impact - on television for instance - if the only applause that had greeted their brilliant shots had been that generated by the Indian contingents on the ground?


Blogger Ottayan said...

I have found the Chennai crowds less chauvinistic.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Homer said...

Cant say the same about the Mumbai crowd ( although the entire North stand did give Andre Nel a huge round of applause when he finished his spell in the ODI in 2005).


10:34 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Ottayan: I've heard about the Chennai crowd's reputation, thats true. Mind you, I wouldn't have gone so far as to give the Pakistani team a standing ovation! (in 1999) :)

Homer: Mumbai does seem more receptive to visitors than Cal. I didn't know about the round of applause for Nel!

11:37 PM  
Blogger Ottayan said...

I agree. They got too carried away.:)

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Raja said...


No hard feelings. But I feel you were a bit carried away by anti-Eden Gardens sentiments, unknowingly. The unfortunate incidents of 1996 World Cup semi final notwithstanding, the Eden Gardens crowd is known to be more-or-less appreciative of the opponents' performance, like giving a big hand to sixers, century, etc. However, it is quite natural if the crowd fails to appreciate any opponent player's performance at the climax of the match, when that performance is evidently playing a big role in making the opponents win. It is a psychological matter, and nothing to do with lack of sportsman spirit.

Btw, the "knowledgeble" tag enjoyed by the Eden gardens crowd came from the foreign cricketing legends like Imran Khan and Lara. So you must accept that the tag is not completely without merit.

Last but not the least, thanks a lot for allocating some space in your message for the Eden gardens crowd.

5:37 AM  
Blogger Q said...

Oh come on guys, Pakistan deserved that standing ovation. Kudos to Chennai.

In Pakistan all the crowds from Lahore to Khi to Isb to Peshawar have cheered the Indian team on over the last 3 years.

In Lahore, we went the whole 9 yards with our hospitality and support.

Kolkata have had the tendency of not appreciating good cricket from the opposition but I for one have never heard a quieter silence than the one at Bangalore during the 1996 WC Quater Final when Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail were smashing the Indian bowling all over the park.

That crowd was so quiet, u could drop a pin in the middle of the pitch and u wud hear it on the streets outside!

6:46 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Ottayan: I think the standing ovation came about because the Pakistani team started jogging around the ground! :)

Raja: Thanks for the comments. To be honest, I enjoy watching a game at Eden Gardens a great deal. Part of it is the expanse of the crowd, and part of it is the buzz that EG generates when India is doing well (its quite similar to Mumbai in this regard). I think ODIs have had this unfortunate effect in general in that the situation you speak of occurs all too often! I'll keep a closer eye on them during the next test match (when, oh, when?) :)

Q: I'll take your word for it. I haven't watched too many ODIs in Pakistan recently. In test matches there was hardly anyone at the ground so the applause levels seemed to be minimal in most cases.

7:27 AM  
Blogger Q said...

Ottayan: I think the standing ovation came about because the Pakistani team started jogging around the ground! :)

Correction: Pakistan team started on the victory lap because the crowd had stood up and applauded them when the match ended and during the presentation.

Q: I'll take your word for it. I haven't watched too many ODIs in Pakistan recently. In test matches there was hardly anyone at the ground so the applause levels seemed to be minimal in most cases.

What about Bangalore? your taking my word for that too? :-)

7:40 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Q: Were we in disagreement about Bangalore? I'd have thought Bangalore was a data point for my post. As for Chennai, I say, lets go to the videotape!

10:13 AM  
Blogger John said...

But for the notable exception of Chennai, Indian crowds are really chauvinistic. But one should ask whether chauvinism is an ill in itself. When it results in unruly behaviour, of course it is bad, but other than that, why is a "sportsmanlike" crowd placed on a higher pedestal? The examples of Sachin and Laxman being clapped all the way, or Samir's example of Andre Nel being feted, or the Chennai crowd's reception of the Pakistan team, are not sufficient to defend that proposition.

On the other hand, West Indian crowds baying for opposition blood on the pitch are part of folklore and have equally added to the cricket watching experience. Similarly, the stories of Luis Figo being greeted with a pig's head being thrown at him by Barca fans are part of the club's history as well.

Secondly, your criticism may have been better had it looked at the reasons that lie behind. The inability to countenace defeat, the exaggerated celebration after a cricket victory are the siblings of partisan crowd behaviour. Maybe the hype culture that pervades cricket in India has something to do with it?

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Sanath said...

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9:26 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

John: For me, a "sportsmanlike" crowd just makes for a better watching experience. Its an almost exclusively aesthetic point. Not exclusively, because in some old-fashioned way, it seems like a generous thing to do. Partisan crowds do add to the atmosphere, no doubt. But thats not the same thing as refusing to applaud the opponent, is it? Indian spinners on the fifth day, 80,000 going up for every bat-bad, sure thats great stuff. But not applauding beautiful shots? Thats lame.

The hype culture that prevades Indian cricket has plenty to do with it, yes. And also the fact that lots of people at the ground don't actually play cricket.

11:13 PM  
Blogger John said...

Samir, it is the nature of appreciation of beauty to reflect different tastes. A hundred being greeted by a shocked crowd and stunned silence is may be equally aesthetic to another.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous scorpicity said...

Thinks are far better in chennai... alas if they can only improve their pitch for results.

On crowds, thats where I feel that the Aussie public enjoy cricket in the true sense much more than any proclaimed Indian fan.

3:42 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Scorp: Agree on both counts. On the second, when most of the folks on the ground have played some cricket, it makes a difference to your understanding of what happens out there.

11:08 AM  
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