Why canít India bear to lose?
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We persist in viewing international cricket as a contest between 11 Indians and a wall
Test conditions impose questions different from cricket's abbreviated forms, and it is good that at least these questions are being posed. But the reason that their articulation carries such a grumpy tone, to the point of rendering them pointless, is that they are so insistently anchored in the present, as if the Indian Test side's jadedness has just been revealed and as if they display their cluelessness in a vacuum, as if they have been playing against a wall these past weeks and England's heroics are of no consequence.
Put another way, it is as if we continue to watch and appraise international cricket as a game played by 11 Indian men against any old folks. It is not an exaggeration and organisers of tournaments already pay heed. India's shock defeat to Bangladesh in the West Indies in March 2007, which set off their early exit from the World Cup, has been called "the most influential cricket match of the last exit". With India gone, countless television sets in the country switched off, taking away much advertising. Now, to guarantee returns of broadcast rights, tournaments are so configured that India's presence is secure against the odd surprise defeat. What a cheerless tribute to cricket's most powerful viewership. What a certificate for our grumpiness in defeat.
Perhaps the IPL's success was born in that moment of broadcast crisis too. With each team pledging allegiance to an Indian city, no matter who wins, no matter what the nationality of the cricketer who may swing a certain match, at the end of the day it is technically an "Indian" in the Indian Premier League that has won. So, we cheerfully see out the post-match analysis without any anger at the expectations that a vanquished team may have dashed. In our neat analytical frame for the privatised league of game versus commerce, the villains are anyway beyond the boundary. Also, the action on the field moves so quickly on to the next game, there is no pause for us to strike our old favourite stance of the betrayed fan.