11th July 2013
It is the final of the West Indies tri-series between Sri Lanka and India. India needs 15 runs off the last over. MS Dhoni is on strike. Supporting him from the non striker’s end is Ishant Sharma who has just played 6 balls of Angelo Mathews’ over and nearly involved himself in two suicidal run outs. But non strikers become inconsequential when it is MS Dhoni and the last over. He clinches the title for India with a 6. India wins the match with 1 wicket and 2 balls to spare. History has been made.
Suddenly everything was forgotten. The conflict of interest charges were forgiven, the ongoing Justice Mudgal IPL Probe was forgotten. Dhoni was the best finisher in the world and Indian fans were glad to have him as their captain. Cool as a cucumber and with a great deal of “self-confidence” in him, they were glad he was on our side.
Hero turns villain
Now, cut to 7th September 2014, England vs India T20I, India needs 17 runs off the last over. Ambati Rayadu, a proper batsman, who has let the final two balls of the penultimate over go for dots is the non striker. This time also it is MS Dhoni and the last over. He later said in the press conference: “he had made up his mind to do it all by himself”.
With 5 needed off 2 he refuses a single because the chances of him hitting a boundary on that final ball was more than Rayadu’s who was playing his first T20 international. But he can’t do it. India lose to England by 3 runs and the disastrous tour comes to an end. All of a sudden that “self-confidence” has got a new name; it is his ‘selfishness’. Dhoni did this because he wanted the glory for himself, he doesn’t trust a non-CSK player. This coming for a man who has probably given more chances to Ishant Sharma and Rohit Sharma than parents would give to their incorrigible children.
This is the story of a normal Indian fan that lives in two extremes. For them it is either Do or Die. If you win, you are the God and if you don’t, it’s an all out attack against you. Everything you have ever done for the game becomes immaterial. The Indian skipper has been under the radar for too long. This loss after his horrific Test captaincy was the final nail in the coffin. He was targeted left, right and centre.
Dhoni, who has always been applauded for fading away in the background after winning every major tournament in the world, was called a glory hunter. And this is not the first time this has happened and given how passionate Indian cricket fans are, this will not be the last time too.
The bad side of Indian cricket fans
‘Indian fans’ pelted stones at Yuvraj Singh’s house after the loss in the World T20 final earlier this year. This blatant disregard was for the man who had virtually gifted us the ODI World Cup while battling cancer, the man who was one of the integral parts of that run chase in the NatWest Final in 2002, and the man who missed out on the Man of the Tournament in the 2007 World T20 by just one point. One bad match and everyone forgets who you are.
And it is just not the young brigade to whom this happens. Sachin Tendulkar, the legend, was booed by his home crowd in 2006 in a Test match against England when he got out for 1 after 34 difficult minutes at crease. This is the same home crowd which turned up in huge numbers to support him when he decided to bid farewell to the game. The same crowd which cried helplessly when he revisited those “24 years between the 22 yards”.
Virat Kohli was once called a cheater for having ran out Rayudu in an IPL game. Ravindra Jadeja was hurled abuses when India got out of the World T20 in 2010 and Indian team’s players’ effigies were burned when India made an early exit from the 50 over World Cup in 2007.
The good side
On the other hand, they could be found praying for Yuvraj’s good health when he was undergoing cancer treatment in USA, make hashtags like #WeBelieveInViratKohli when he was going through the leanest patch of his international career. They call Tendulkar as God and have even made a name for ourselves in slagging off famous players for their ignorance in not knowing him because seriously how could they? It is one thing for them to blame him for losing us matches and another for a tennis player to not recognize him. Because when Roger Federer can, why can’t you?
They supported the team when the Fab Five played and even supported them after the English and Australian summer of 0-8. They believe in supporting the team so much that there is never a lack of supporters when they play overseas. Every game is virtually a home game for them. They call the players by their nickname. Dada, Viru, Gauti, Bhuvi are household names in the country. There is even a guy who left his full time job to cycle to different parts of the country whenever and wherever the Indian team plays.
Yes, Indian fans can get a bit excessive in their hate reactions but they also don’t leave any stone unturned to show their love for the team and individual players. The bottom line is, Indians love their cricket. As long as their fervent love for the game is alive they will always give these antipode reactions. Expecting them to behave in any other would be like attempting to square a circle. They are simultaneously the best and the worst fans around the globe and there is nothing anyone can do about it.