I’ll Never Marry A Cricket Lover

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(This appears in the march issue of Sports Illustrated)

There are two kinds of people in India—those who love cricket and those who don’t. Love being the operative word. Of course, there are other things that are going on in this country besides cricket. But you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. We clearly don’t project the fact that we are a country that plays other sports, or one that does anything productive at all during this time. Yes, when in the throes of cricket fever, we are willing to forget pretty much everything else.

You walk into a bar, a café or even a pet salon and there is a cricket match on TV. You drive by a store with a TV on during match-time and there’ll be a crowd of passers-by tuned in to the action. It’s as if the whole world comes to a standstill.

Every news channel has its own analysis, its own “wish India luck” campaign. Other channels are doing cricket-centric programming.

Sponsors are tripping over each other trying to get a piece of this high TRP pie. And where is all this sentiment when our teams play other sports? Basketball, football, hockey, volleyball, shooting, badminton, tennis— everything takes a backseat for cricket. All the money in the business is consumed by cricket, leaving precious little for other sports. And that is a function of the game’s popularity. So what is it about cricket that attracts so many people and, therefore, all the sponsors and so much airtime?

Is it because the game is played in a dozen countries? Or is it because it involves two people from a team facing 11 from the other at any given point? Or is it a hangover from the days of the Raj? It certainly can’t be the ultra-fit cricket players. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw an Indian cricketer who would look good without his shirt on. Footballers, on the other hand . . . Is it because our cricket team does relatively well (I probably shouldn’t mention the number of cricket-playing countries again)? There is a saying . . . In the land of the blind . . . Is cricket all it takes to make us feel good about ourselves? What about football? Do we not have any higher ambition? There is a reason why it is the most popular sport in the world. But no, not here. We will not support any sport that we can’t do well in. The poor lone rangers who make it big in other sports despite and in spite of the preoccupation with cricket do so only on their own mettle and in most cases without sponsorship, because we know where all the money goes.

It’s all about the money. And all about viewership. The game itself has taken a backseat due to the business of it. Even ardent cricket fans I know lament this commercialisation of a game they consider on a par with religion even as they shake their heads disapprovingly at my “disrespect” (in other words, not bowing at the altar of cricket).

The poor souls who don’t share their enthusiasm are often harangued by the hardcore fans. In fact, some even go to the extent of saying that we should follow the “will” of the majority. Hah, democracy! Someone I locked horns with on Twitter justified his stand on cricket by comparing the sport to movies and the entertainment they provide. Entertainment. Right. Q.E.D.

Cricket in India is perhaps the best marketed product around. The fact that it plays on every sentiment—from patriotism to machismo— is constantly on display. Like you’re not Indian enough if you don’t love cricket! What the hell! Who decides for me?

I have to plan my visits home very carefully to make sure they don’t coincide with a match. If for some reason I can’t, I can only talk to my dad during commercial breaks. (Poor Mom has joined him in resignation. Also, by the way I sure as hell ain’t marrying the cricket obsessed kinda guy. No way.) This isn’t an isolated scenario I am describing, but pretty much the scene in every home where one of the inhabitants doesn’t share the (extreme) passion. As for me, I would happily watch tennis, football or hockey any day! Quick bursts of excitement that leave me with enough time to do other things.

I remember there was a time I enjoyed watching the odd match when it was about the game, not overs squeezed in between commercial breaks. When the hype was not bigger than the sport. When it was a match and not an event. Sadly, I have now been shoved into the minority that is a victim of the overdose. And for that small minority that doesn’t eat, breathe and dream cricket, this can be a trying time. Especially since the cricket epidemic will carry on through the World Cup and on to the IPL. The flip side may be less traffic on the roads during matches!

India hosting the World Cup is of course a matter of great pride and honour. And, like any Indian, I want our team to win. Not just the World Cup, but everywhere, all the time. Like the way I want our hockey team to win. Or our tennis players, shooters, wrestlers and boxers to win. Or, for that matter, our kabaddi team. In fact, I probably might even go for a match or two, since I am going to be in and around Mumbai and Mohali. I am sure it will be fun to watch the madness! My patriotism might get the better of me and I might even join the madness. But will it become an obsession? Nah, I have a life.

23 Comments on “I’ll Never Marry A Cricket Lover”

  1. harsh pareek

    is that the women hate cricket… most of them do.. so you have a generic ability inside you to reject cricket.. inspired from chak de instead.. quite true.. .but that does beat the excitement of a cricket match

  2. Mahi

    OMG…. Gul jee aap ne to cricket ki keya Tarif ki hai Maza agaya… apne to cricket ka sahi Dissertation kar deya jeeeeeeee.. Hume kuch bolne ko bachne nahi deya hai ki hum kuch bole aap ke es Dissertation bad.. 🙂 Thanks MAHI

  3. Rajat Arora

    Hey good one.. I wonder why are people so crazy about cricket.. If there’s an unexpected win or if the match draws; you’ll see everyone cribbing about match being fixed.. Still they won’t stop loving cricket.. The next time they’ll be more enthusiastic about the match, still spend loads of money on betting hoping to win… They’re just fooling themselves.. Human nature!! Can’t help…. 🙂

  4. Anand Menon

    Is there a sense of superiority in not being caught by the madness? else is it me being touche or is it there for effect and to provoke…
    Well written, though the last line in effect says every other person who is cricket mad has no life.. hmmm.
    As for cricket eating into other sports, a rant oft heard… there was a time not very far back when cricket was not a sport as rich as is today…it has been marketed and grown well (not at the expense of other sports as many will like to argue) is that so bad? (Tennis isn’t doing too bad, to some extent squash too)

  5. Nishank Joshi

    I was 8 when we brought home the world cup. Didnt matter how many countries played. It was the world cup! Period. at 12 learned Tennis.. Loved the sport still do. Sadly, no hero. Nopes, winning doubles and Davis cup matches not good enuf. At around the same time, @ Matunga Gymkhana ground, heard the sweetest sound ever.. Ball meeting Bat.. Its a “tok” thats unmatched n pure! Since then played badminton ( still do) heck knew abt Saina when she just won the nationals, the only other person who knew her then was an autowallah in Hyd , squash( still do).. Never missed a grand slam match.. even saw ur jehangir khan /jansher khan matches as a kidFollow sports most because I truly believe it fosters great spirit..
    Not one sporting moment came close to that pride of winning the World cup. Then came Sachin, and then the 20/20 win. Unfortunately, no other sport has provided Indians wid that euphoric moment. First to admit that Gen next follows all the European Football Cups like a religion. Most have dumped Cricket even. ManU bars n farnchises r a huge retail biz here. But what fuels passion for a game is national pride n sporting heroes. If its kapil then, its sachin now , it was schumacher in F1,, Prakash padukine then, saina now, Jehangir then.. none now… but sporting glory for the nation .. not there yet! Britain is crazy abt football. Heck u have riots within the stadia there.. but their sporting history has earned it.. Just like the way, Cricket has earned its sporting history. Yes, there is a lot of money in cricket today.. but there was none till 83. Till 92 even. success begets success. Show me an Indian winning a grand slam, show me an Indian team even make it to the football world cup.. and u will see the same passion for those sport.Till that happens, Cricket will still be the game where we won the ultimate sporting glory, and there will be no sound as sweet as the ‘tok’. doesnt matter that 8 teams lay the world cup and 4 just fill in teh numbers!

  6. Aditya Garg

    Being a hockey player, I know how it feels when you see how others sports are being treated by the common man! We just dont want to know about other sports when we have a cricket match.. Pathetic.. These days, people are not even leaving the mighty matches of kenya vs canada!! 😀
    God knows what they are upto! And right after the WC, “the great Indian tamasha” begins!! Hate IPL to the core!

  7. Manu Rana

    Gul you are right ! Cricket is not only a sports ..i think now it’s like a Reality show where …We can enjoy all the moments except the spirit of game.I personally admire that i have lost my spirit to watch Cricket match. Cricket match for me like a regular show …any time u can watch it. IPL ICL 20-20 etc…. too much cricket. We can say that tasteless cricket. Stop Cricket….stop it plse. 🙁

  8. Clarke Thomas

    well….I do love to play cricket, but I don’t care to watch it for extended periods of time. For that matter, I don’t really care to watch many sports, I prefer to partake or do something else.

    What cricket does have over football(soccer) is a larger international (population) presence. Thus it’s the national pastime of may countries, Of similar, you wouldn’t want to visit Europe during a world cup or the US during a football/baseball championship. Even as a non-sports watcher, I do watch the important/final matches; among other things it’s what everyone will talk about the day after. It’s worthwhile to be knowledgeable on the previous evenings events than to be lone sole.

  9. Abhijit

    Cricket has got brought pride for this nation very consistently compared to other sports…. there was a time when hockey was very popular.. imagine the time of Dhyan Chand… India winning olympic Golds.. but this game lost its pride due to very consistent failure… but in contrast to that.. India kept its consistency with cricket bat&ball.. think of the Legend of cricket.. Sachin Tendulkar.. he belongs to our country..still playing…. this is Cricket what puts our country to the top of world with all the honor..It’s neither the faults of cricket fans nor the game .. it’s all the SUCCESS that cricket brings to our country made us mad .. suppper mad for this game…

  10. Vivek

    Obsession with anything is unhealthy. I watch sports once in a while on TV, Everything from MotoGP, WRC, Tour de france, F1, even WWE and the World poker tournament, but there’s not a single time when I’d feel I’d missed something if the TV was turned off.

    Cricket is just one of the mania that plagues hoi polloi – It’s the human condition to look for identity, The easiest way to find an identity is by being a member of a clique. Cricket is an easy one in India.

    Indians as a race are easily drawn into “cultism” – it’s no wonder we have umpteen dozen gurus each claiming to be a reincarnation of some God or other.
    Cricket is just another cult.

    Me? I’d much rather work out, or write a story or build something. Sure, if Yusuf Pathan is clobbering the opposition, it is fun to watch, but I will keep no sportsman on a pedestal (or even an actor/actress).

    OK I take that back, maybe Bruce Lee!


  11. Ahsan

    Gul even if cricket lover is cute like afridi ? 🙂

  12. Bharath Gandhi

    Nicely said! and I’m glad to know that I might have a chance if I propose to you!!!


  13. ramu

    Gul……have 2 leave cricket now????

  14. MN

    “My patriotism might get the better of me and I might even join the madness. But will it become an obsession? Nah, I have a life. ”
    Gul, it might be too presumptious of you to assume that all these people do not have a life (& that only you do)! I think that’s just too narrow-minded thinking on your part.
    In Brazil, Argentina & several European countries soccer or football is a strong passion. In the USA, (American) football is a strong passion.
    You mean to say that all these people donot have lives?? Nah!! Many of them do but they are willing to put things aside for that game’s season. I wouldn’t do that but I wouldn’t be too hasty to judge others when they do.
    On the flip-side I do agree with Vivek that “Obsession with anything is unhealthy”. So, to that effect, point of your article is well taken. 🙂

  15. Arvind

    humm good ……….I am not cricket lover…., but sorry gul already married….

  16. ktbridges

    Lovely, nd you Love!

  17. midhun

    Good to see that there are people in India who are not obsessed by cricket. It was great to see India win 2011 CWC, but the Govt. and other biggies don’t give a dime to other sports at all. See the crores showered on cricketers. Today an Indian won the Gold in Shooting WC. It is a WC too. How many channels gave any prominent coverage? How many of us even know his name?

  18. Gurjinder Singh Cheema

    Wow after i come to know about a famous personality who don’t say high about this time pass game. I simply hate cricket, it has eaten all other game in India. Well someone mentioned that it brought pride to the nation, my ass. How many countries play cricket, 10 may be 12 now. Out of those 12 nations how many countries have status of being very advance nation? England, Australia and New Zealand……… that’s all. That’s all we are targeting. Grow up guys.
    I am a Hockey player, due to the Shit system of Indian sports never able to represent India. I am a Citizen of New Zealand and resident of Australia, Hong Kong, England & Canada. I am currently living in Canada. I have mentioned all this places coz i want to prove that i have seen the world very closely. In these countries the sports ministries are concerned about the overall growth of sports, not to make money of it rather to build healthy society. But all of these countries have giving enough attention to their national game, where in India people don’t even know what the country’s nation game is.
    One of my friend mentioned that there was time when Hockey was famous and now ………. blah blah blah. Well, i want to ask him what he knows about Hockey. I want to share 2009 Indian Hockey Tour to New Zealand. Dulip Turky told me that it’s their 52nd day out of country playing at different location and they haven’t got a single $$$. When he told the manager that he is not well rather than taking it seriously he was given 10gms x 2 pouch of honey. The manager of the team said, he text the result of the game and next day news channels display the news below the reader. Then how can you expect this game/other sports to gain popularity.
    Now tell me CRICKET lovers who is more patriotic Hockey player/other games or cricketer who i can bet will resign if told to play without any match fee.
    Gul thanks for posting this article…… i love to HATE cricket………..

  19. dukeofdhump

    Absolutely right thinking….I have’nt seen any cricket match since 2003 can I marry you as I have fall in love with Naina after watching Turning 30….

  20. ashu

    love u gul for dis one… i believe iin the same ideology…

  21. theBollywoodFan

    Gul: I agree with you on the whole, and the mass-commercialization of cricket bothers me as it would any purist, but I tend to look at it in the light of societal trends. You know all too well that commercial movies often lack substance but are much bigger hits than the commercially irrelevant (relatively) indie films. So is life. So is cricket. So be it.

    Cricket’s in the top-five sports played globally (soccer and perhaps basketball and field hockey ahead) in the number of countries that play it. If we really wanted to feel good about ourselves, “kabaddi” and not cricket would be the national pastime! After all, we hadn’t won the cricket World Cup in, well, only close to 30 years or so until we finally did earlier this year. It’s not that we win all the time, so it’s not that we’d gravitate to the sport if only wins motivated us. There’s something to be said about its force to unite, which cannot be ignored.


  22. salma gul

    I agree I won’t marry a cricket lover either.

  23. Ravindra

    The country is spoiled by cricket, cricketers, politicians and politics…

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