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The Fan Fatale

As with most countries, there are different types of cricket fan. But there is one area where India is well ahead of all other cricket playing countries outside the sub-continent – the female fan. Ian Chappell writes...

entertainment Updated: Apr 23, 2011 19:39 IST
Ian Chappell

I’ve always felt there’s one major difference between the average Indian and Australian cricket fan. The former is deliriously satisfied if Sachin Tendulkar makes a hundred even if the team loses, while the latter is in a similar state of euphoria if Ricky Ponting fails but the side wins. As with most countries, there are different types of cricket fan. The hardcore type, who loves the game and can recall incidents and statistics as easily as family birthdays; and then there’s the fan who just follows his own team.

In India there’s also another, more recently acquired fan: the one that follows the star players and more than likely he or she has a healthy interest in the latest gossip on the Bollywood headliners. This is one area where India is well ahead of all other cricket playing countries outside the sub-continent: the female fan. As with all cricket fans, the females’ interests also vary greatly but I’ve often been surprised by the depth of knowledge some Indian women have acquired.

Ian ChappelIn my early days of visiting India one woman bounced up to me, introduced herself and stated very confidently, "I know a lot about cricket." I replied simply: "How come?" She responded with an equally simple answer: "I’ve watched a lot of games."

"So has my mother," I shot back quickly. A slightly bewildered lady replied, "What do you mean?" "Well," I explained, "Jeanne [my mother] had a father and three sons who all played cricket for Australia so she watched a lot of matches. However, that doesn’t mean she really understands the game."

The fervour of Indian cricket fans is often compared to that of religious people. However, I tend to think this is a common trait among avid cricket fans. I once remarked to a Barbados cabbie that there seemed to be a lot of churches on the island. "Man," he replied, "There are 143 different religions in Barbados and cricket makes it a gross."

I’ve always felt that for depth of knowledge – beyond the statistics and the recall of games – the average Caribbean fan understands the game better than those from any other region. And there is one area where they are peerless: humour, whether it be the male or female supporter. One female fan caused an uproar at Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad, when after witnessing three perfect outswingers beat the bat in the first over, she cried out: "(Merv) Dillon. Enough of the foreplay, let’s have some penetration."

Mind you, what with the deafening noise and all the different languages and dialects, it would be difficult for a simple Australian who struggles with English to understand any humour emanating from the Indian stands.

Nevertheless, there is one aspect in which the Indian fan is miles ahead of his or her counterpart in other countries – patience and perseverance. No fans have been as ill-treated as the Indian hardcore supporters of the game.

Until recently, they’ve been made to sit on concrete out in the hot sun and made to queue for hours for that "privilege". With the advent of IPL and the World Cup, the Indian stadiums have been upgraded and the fans better catered for, but still more needs to be done. The hardcore fan is the one who misses out when all the big events come along; he or she is the one who is bumped when the politicians or the powerful suddenly decide they want to be seen at a big cricket match. The hardcore supporters shouldn’t be taken for granted; after all, other cricket playing countries would love to have such a loyal fan base.

Ian Chappell is a former Australian captain and is currently a cricket commentator.

- From HT Brunch, April 24

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