Indian fans don’t want to see a tight contest; they want a bloody revenge!

Hardly anyone masquerading as a lover of the game wants to see a good, well-contested cricket series in India. They want blood. They want revenge. And if the superstars they have backed cannot deliver it to them, they want their heads. They want destruction in some form or the other © Getty Images

When the Indians were being routed last summer, the cricket loving crowds in England had been disappointed by the one-sided outcomes. However, now when England has come back on the verge of squaring the series, the Indian fans and media are up in arms, baying for the blood of their team. Arunabha Sengupta writes about the contrasting attitudes and wonders if the Indian cricket ‘fans’ really care for the game.

In 2002, on a green pitch at Headingley, prepared specifically for the English seamers, India took first strike. Rahul Dravid batted out of his skin to play the best innings of his life. Sachin Tendulkar hit 193 of the finest and Sourav Ganguly followed up with a century. India turned the tables on the English tactics and triumphed to square the series. The English crowd applauded every act of brilliance that the Indians pulled off.

At the end of the third day of the second Test at Wankhede, the situation is remarkably similar. It was a turner made for the Ravichandran Ashwins and the Pragyan Ojhas to skittle the English batsmen out for ridiculously low totals. But, first Monty Panesar performed his magic with his left-arm spinners, and then Kevin Pietersen essayed a superb, once in a lifetime knock. And the Indian batsmen have faltered again, their stumble more disastrous in the second innings, and the match is all but surrendered.

Half a year earlier, when India had travelled to England, I had come across cricket lovers from London to Leeds eagerly anticipating a thrilling contest between the top two teams of the world. And as the series unfolded, I had witnessed disappointment written all over the faces of the English cricket fans. They were happy with the result, but dismayed at the one-sided demolition, the absence of the electrifying battles that had been predicted. They wanted to see good cricket, and all they had been treated to was a series of meek surrenders.

And now, as England promises to make this series an enthralling contest by coming back with a fantastic display in the second Test, Indian fans are disappointed. Nay – the media and the fanatics are downright brutal in their castigation. Hardly anyone masquerading as a lover of the game wants to see a good, well-contested cricket series in this country. They want blood. They want revenge. And if the superstars they have backed cannot deliver it to them, they want their heads. They want destruction in some form or the other.

Cricket in India is not the refined sport one witnesses from the stands of Old Trafford or Headingley or The Oval. In this country, it takes on the proportions of blood-sport where spectators demand gory killings. It is like the Colloseums of the ancient times – where thousands gathered to witness the gladiators battle each other to death, and if one surrendered, the public often demanded his death by signalling downward with their thumbs.

So is the fandom that surrounds Indian cricket, and the media that scavenge on the palpating remains of the defeated. Here too, thumbs otherwise overused for purposeless twiddling have been turned downwards with callous violence.

Hardly any column space or sound bytes worth mentioning has been reserved for Kevin Pietersen’s phenomenal innings, but there are millions snapping at the heels of every member of the Indian team, the bigger the carcass the greater the perverse delight as blood-thirsty lips are licked.

Contrast this with the English media who strongly pushed Nasser Hussain for knighthood after his team had managed to lose the 2002-03 series in India by just a 0-1 margin. Backing the home team is alien to our home-grown scribes. Such ideals do not sell papers or increase Television Rating Points (TRPs). Nor does it obtain those intoxicating red notifications of ‘likes’ on the Social Media.

That a series tied one-all will be a fascinating encounter as it moves to Eden Gardens is a thought that seldom crosses the cricket-fanatic’s mind. The thirst for revenge remains unquenched. Cricket is said to run through the veins of the Indian public – but it hardly does so as throbbing life-blood. It is more like a psychosis stimulant drug that lulls the sensibilities and induces addict into unbridled aggression. One can often delude oneself into believing that this state of inebriation is passion.

Loving a good hard-fought game, a close enthralling contest, is not really the cup of tea for the Indian cricket fan.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)