Opinion: Why do we love cricket?
While football may be the most popular sport on this planet, cricket has its own set of loyal followers. If you are someone who loves cricket it may be absurd to even question the reason for your love. Belonging to that category, I attempt to break down some of the reasons why you and I may have fallen in love with this incredible sport.
Simple yet complicated
Cricket has the beauty of being simple yet complicated. If you were to summarize the game in a line, it would be to try to score more runs than your opponent. Of course if you were looking for more detail I would tell you about the different formats, bowlers, batsmen and so on. The more you dig in, the more there is to tell. We may end up talking about no balls, power plays, and what happens if there is a tie in a Super Over (Sorry New Zealand). Its simplicity along with its depth is something which appeals to most people. If you are a casual watcher you will enjoy the Twenty20 format due to its sheer unpredictably. If you are extremely detail oriented you will enjoy watching a Test series. You may enjoy watching a bowler slog a few sixes in the end of an ODI or you may spend hours trying to fathom the technique of someone like Steve Smith. There is something for everybody in the game.
Freedom of expression
Despite all its rules and regulations, cricket allows freedom of expression, especially for the batsmen. There is no right way to deal with a ball. There is no right way to bat. There are better ways and worse ways but batting is like painting on a blank canvas. Rahul Dravid and Chris Gayle may be two completely different batsmen but both are legends in their own right. A bowler may get a wicket on a full toss and may be hit for four on a yorker. Like most sports cricket is not a science which adds to its beauty.
Larger than life
Our life is filled with emotions and cricket in many ways brings out the best and worst of those emotions. If our favourite player scores a century, we are happy. If our favourite player goes out on a duck we are sad. If the umpire makes a poor decision we are angry. If our team loses we are disappointed. If we are watching a super over we are excited. If our team is defending ten runs in the last over we are nervous. Simply put, cricket helps us get in touch with almost all our emotions, and it comes in attractive packages of varying durations.
Furthermore it is not restricted to the pitch. Imagine that you meet someone, who you have never met before. After you are done with the formalities you may often look for a topic you both share in common. It may be politics, films, or sports. In a country like Afghanistan, cricket in many ways acted as an escape. In a country like India it helped to unite people. When Sachin Tendulkar went out to bat, a nation of billion people stood still. Trinidadian scholar C.L.R. James wrote in his path-breaking book, Beyond a Boundary, West Indian players began to use their aggressive style of play — with powerful cuts that were entirely different from the timid strokes of the English — as a counterpoint to prevailing British attitudes, fostering a shared identity. Cricket has always meant more to people than a simple game of bat and ball.
On some level the game makes us dream. As a child, we may watch our parents watch cricket and accordingly take a liking towards it. We try to replicate our idols and that may involve buying a bat with a Sanspareils Greenlands (SG) sticker or trying to master Brett Lee's action. As we grow older it may dawn on us that we may not fulfill our dream of becoming cricketers. That is when we in many ways live our dreams through others. After all not every Indian can be Virat Kohli but almost every Indian can dream about batting like Virat Kohli.
Lastly, like every sport, cricket too has the power to allow us to be part of something greater than their individual selves. Each of us have our own stories filled with joy and heartbreak. The beauty in cricket (and sports largely) is that despite having different stories, millions of us will find something in common with other stories which together creates one big story.
Modified 06 Jan 2020, 15:47 IST