Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire and the Indian cricket fan

The reaction to my post (below; over at CI's Different Strokes) on the cricket question in Slumdog Millionaire, is informative in a couple of ways. Besides the obvious one that blog posts will always be misunderstood by a certain fraction of your readership, it also tells me my age is showing.

For I genuinely believed the cricket question in Slumdog Millionaire was an easy one, and infuriatingly so. But in doing so, I think didn't recognize that I was thinking of a kind of fan that I used to be very familiar with a long time ago: one that got a lot of his cricket information from magazines and books, that spent a fair amount of time perusing statistics columns, and read a decent amount of cricketing history. That fan didn't have that much information to cricket on television, and so to get his cricketing fix, he turned to textual sources and in so doing developed a set of interests related to cricket that almost invariably involved cricket statistics (and a lot of fantasizing about games he couldn't possibly be exposed to). Back then too, there wasn't that much cricket played, so keeping up with statistics was a little easier.

Now the modern Indian fan gets most of his cricket from the net or from television (if you live in India, you can pretty much watch cricket 24 hours a day from Neo, ESPN, Star Cricket). While interest in cricketing history hasn't gone away, its perhaps not as intense as it was, and it can't be, when there is so much cricket going on. Our cognitive apparatus simply isn't geared to let us keep glorying in the past when we have so much in the present to process. And the relationship to the game has to change when one's primary sources are not textual any more. Sure, the net is a rich source of information, but people use it to check scores, watch video clips, live streams and the like. I doubt the modern Indian fan uses the net to read about the history of the game. If the history is present, its incidental, like the little specials that show up on CI every once in a while. And if you have a interest in statistics, it tends not to be historical, but rather the kind that is interested in some sort of quantification of the qualitative i.e., can we come up with an all-rounder's coefficient that will settle the Kapil vs. Botham vs. Hadlee vs. Imran question once and for all? (Witness the debates on CI's statistics blog for instance).

And perhaps the modern Indian fan doesn' t give a rat's arse about all those Dead White Cricket Players that were such a source of fascination for me when I was a kid. They have tons of heroes now; they were born after India had become World Champions in cricket; the Indian player is ever more a hero at home; the relationship with the rest of the cricketing world has changed. More power to them.

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Blogger Suhas said...

Samir, this post makes me smile and feel a wee bit sad at the same time. I had grown up reading countless issues of the sportstar and my dad's collection of cricket books, so I carry forth a fairly romanticised notion of cricket-following (I'm 25, currently working in the Bay area).
As a result, I'm often out of my element when I discuss cricket with friends, and my dad remains my no.1 cricket buddy!

I've often wondered why I come across as anachronistic (a 'cricket geek', to be more blunt), given that everyone in my parents' generation appeared to be attached to cricket in a holistic way. Your article seems to have touched upon the possible reasons, especially the way sport is consumed in the urban Indian home. After all, it's perfectly possible that tomorrow's Manchester United or McLaren fan from Bangalore could go through a lifetime without having heard of George Best or Alain Prost. History is uncomfortably tied to trivia, and trivia is plain uncool.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Suhas: You're definitely a rarity!:) And you're right, getting into the history of a game requires a different kind of mind-set (not necessarily better). It would be nice if more archival footage was made available on some of the sports channels; that might help.

9:22 PM  

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