Glorious uncertainty

84Indianfans Lost Cause: For most Indian fans, cricket is not just a sport, but a religion | AP

Cricket encapsulates the Indian mindset more than any other game, as if it was designed to cater to the Indian taste for karma

  • In 2010, the Indian Premier League became the first sporting event in the world to be broadcast on YouTube.

  • The IPL is a cash cow. In 2015, it contributed 011.5 billion to India's Gross Domestic Product.

  • The first record of cricket in India dates back to 1792.

Badminton originated in India and was initially called Poona, after the city of its birth. Kabaddi and gilli danda are desi games. But it’s cricket that gets India into a frenzy, more than any other game. Ever wondered why? Well, the game encapsulates the Indian mindset more than any other. Unlike energy-packed soccer, cricket moves at an easy pace, one man bats and another bowls while the rest of them take it easy. Numerous extraneous factors decide how the game progresses—the nature of the pitch, the direction of the wind and half way through, there is no clear indication which side is winning.

The reason why any sport is entertaining is the element of unpredictability in it, but when it comes to cricket, it almost seems as if the game was designed to cater to the Indian taste for karma. The parallel industry of betting and bookies thrives because of cricket’s inherent unpredictability and India’s appetite for it, notes cricket humourist Vikram Sathaye.

Add to all these uncertainties the unpredictability of the Indian team, and cricket became more than a sport; it became a religion. Remember that India-Pakistan match in Sharjah in 1986 when India was just short of bellowing out its victory cry? Pakistan needed six runs to win, and Javed Miandad scored them all off the last ball, stunning the entire nation. It isn’t for nothing that they say the game isn’t over till the last ball is bowled. Actor Aamir Khan remembers that moment as one of the most shocking ones in his life. The nail-biting climax of his film Lagaan is a tribute to the memory.

In the 2007 World Cup, India had one of its best lineups, with stalwarts like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, but the team bowed out in the group stage itself, felled by the puny Bangladesh team.

Even India’s big victories have been rather unexpected. In the 1983 World Cup, India beat the mighty West Indies. And much later in 2007, India did the unpredictable once again by bringing home the first ever Twenty20 World Cup. Given that India was initially opposed to the Twenty20 format itself and was the last country to embrace it, this win was indeed a surprise. Even more surprising is how the Twenty20 format has thrived on Indian soil, spawning off the extremely lucrative Indian Premier League.

“The very premise of the 20-over game is unpredictability, almost every match is played till the last ball. In a sense, it was tailor-made to suit the Indian taste for the unexpected,’’ says Sathaye. “It’s a good thing that T20 happened, because Team India’s performance has become more consistent over the past decade, we win and lose along expected lines.’’ Imagine what would have happened to the bookies and punters otherwise. IPL 2016 was paisa vasooli once again; who would have expected Sunrisers Hyderabad to take home the trophy?

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