Saturday, April 2, 2011

Banal Indian cricket fan's retort to F-Aakar Patel

A friend was kind enough to lead me to this unbelievably racist and ignorant article by Aakar Patel. It seems clear that Mr.Patel is not an ardent follower of the game but seeks to denigrate only Indians who are.

Mr. Patel seems to have a problem with people being loud and passionate about sports in general, as anyone who doesn't really follow/care about sports will, and he has masked that issue with racist, rude and incorrect writing. His astounding lack of logic and inaccuracy commences from the first paragraph itself.

“It is thought that India loves cricket. This is incorrect. India loves India. Cricket gives us the opportunity to express this affection. The local cricket match in India is unattended. Even World Cup matches featuring two other sides will be played without spectators, no matter what the calibre of the players.”

As I would like to inform Mr. Patel, India loves cricket. Period. Like any other sport in the world, people usually support their home teams and back them to win. Would Indians watch a match that features India more than a match without them – yes of course. It is quite natural. Is Mr.Patel arguing that fans should watch all matches with equal, unbiased passion and interest irrespective of their home team playing? Did the England-Ireland contest hold only meaning because it was a cricket contest? Was it not watched by an almost full stadium in Bangalore? World cup matches featuring non-host nations have the most audience in the sub-continent and especially India and Bangladesh, which is why the ICC was rubbing its hands in glee at the prospect of hosting a match in the subcontinent. ICC is not worried about the lack of audience in such cases which Mr.Patel should have known if he would have cared to research his article even a little bit. In this world cup, all matches in Bangladesh were watched by a huge audience which is what the ICC wants and is unable to get when it hosts matches at other parts of the world. And if only cricket with the Indian team was followed, IPL wouldn’t have come into existence and neither would have channels like Star cricket and Neo cricket made a living as they feature discussions, analysis and videos of non-Indian teams playing.

Now, Mr.Patel moves onto racism and elitism which I can only classify as wish-I-was-white- because-I-am-so-refined syndrome.
“Indian spectators express themselves physically, through dancing, screaming and jumping about. This is done communally, in groups often including middle-aged men. It is done emotionally, with strong facial expression….. We behave like a WWF audience….
In European nations (I mean race, not geography and so: England, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand), spectator behaviour is more individual. Where communication is visual, it is not through facial expression, but fancy dress.
Instead of screaming, expression is through the written word: banners.”


Apparently, Mr. Patel has never cared enough about sport to invest any time on it but jumps hastily to conclusions. Article is filled with a sense of superiority of Europeans (as a race) over us uncouth Indians. I would suggest that he should go and watch a game that Europeans are really passionate about as a nation, namely football and rugby for South Africa and New Zealand. Maybe he is unable to hear and see the football fans in the world cup, screaming, running around, dancing with joy or maybe he thinks of it as – Ohh the white man is doing it so it’s alright. Of course it is fine when English fans walk into the world cup with only their underwear made out of their flag and yell. Being blind to the costumes and dresses that are there throughout the stadium worn by Indian fans is also one of Mr.Patel’s traits.
Mr, Patel, your description of the clap-clap-clap at the Lord’s is 40 years ago when there was a huge sense of propriety among the British. This kind of behavior is not that prevalent now when people have become more expressive and free with their emotions. Yes, even at Lord’s. When neutral, restrained and not-so-invested people watch sports, clap-clap-clap is what they’ll do. When passionate, caring, hopeful, expressive people watch sports, they cheer and holler and express their approval. They are pumped up. In that age, most British parents would have clapped-clapped-clapped if their child would have won a major sports tournament. Parents nowadays pump their arms, cheer and express support more vocally. Some societies are more expressive and some aren’t. Do you also complain about the Caribbean music, drum roll and dancing prevalent in the West Indian stadiums? Clearly, clap-clap-clap is the only right way to express approval.

“In India, signs are held up which are either obvious or embarrassingly banal. A decade ago, they were also poorly spelled…. There is never real humor, which can only come when we are able to laugh at ourselves… a South African held up a large sheet on which she had scrawled “WAQAR THE SPRINGBOK FAQAR”. So clever, I remember it 18 years later. Indians write rubbish.”

I am sorry Mr.Patel that the majority of Indians have not had elite English education and do not live in rich-urban areas like Bandra where English speaking is the norm. People used to write in English earlier because they thought that was the only way that they could come on TV and the match broadcast was primarily conducted in English. Again, if you had cared to spend any time watching the match, you would have noticed some incredibly innovative banners ranging from “pyaar to hona hi tha” for India-Pakistan unity to mocking Sehwag’s milk drinking habits to Chappell’s finger incident to Ganguly’s doing a Salman at Lords. While I take away nothing from the humour in the Waqar comment, it may be that you giggled because you were like a 12 year old mills and boons reading girl who giggled uncontrollably on seeing a variation of omg! Fuck! But of course, since the white South African wrote it, it was funny because as you generalize so aptly – Indians write rubbish. Your writing is well on its way to giving weight to that statement, Mr.Patel.

“One unique thing is how Indian spectators are silent when the other team scores. On television it’s as if the screen has gone mute.”

Yes, Mr.Patel. Passionate fans all over the world rejoice when their team is not dominating. In football, the fans clap on having a goal scored against them, isn’t it?
While misbehavior, vandalism and attacking player’s houses is never correct or justifiable, emotions run high in sports and some people vent them out in the wrong way. Even in tennis, which arguably has the most dignified, refined audience in sports – players are booed off the courts. Gilles Simon was booed off recently because he had to walk out because of injury. Was the booing fair to him? No. However, fans and sports enthusiasts can be that way. If that is your complaint, then here is a very fine piece of writing that expresses that opinion.

“Usually, Indians are happy if their team wins the skirmish and loses the battle. This is because national honor is often safeguarded by the hero. The astute Ian Chappell noticed that Indians were content if Sachin Tendulkar scored his hundred even if India then lost. In Australia, this would never happen, he said, and it would be seen as defeat, which it is. Since his audience telegraphs this, the Indian cricketer plays for himself much more than players of other sides.”

Sigh. Where do I start Mr.Patel? Ian Chappell is a shrewd observer of the game, no doubt, but he is not correct always. He has also been known to make ignorant comments about people and societies he has little idea of. In 2007, he was of the opinion that Sachin was a man playing for his records and he should retire as he has nothing to contribute.
Recently, he called Afridi idiotic and crazy. His irritation at Afridi’s celebration was childish to say the least. All bowlers have their own narcissistic way of celebrating. Pakistan as a team looks for its leader to perform, garner attention and motivate them which might be unlike Australia but that is no reason to believe that the rest of the team dislikes it.
Mr.Patel, I recommend that you realize what Sachin means to India and why. There are multiple readings available on these topics which attribute it to his excellence, dedication, temperament and how he symbolizes the freeing of Indian economy in the 90s. I will try and explain this in simple words to you. When Sachin appeared on the scene, his batting was a blend of free-flowing aggression and sound technique. He took the attack to the bowlers. He represented courage and hope. There are numerous occasions when he tore apart the opposition while he was there only to be let down by an incompetent, spineless team of the 90s. He has won matches single-handedly for us - from Australia in Sharjah in 98 to Australia in Australia in 08. What does an Indian fan do when he sees Sachin fighting for the team and the rest of the team surrendering meekly? He takes consolation from the fact that even though the team disappointed, its cherished and beloved son did well. It happened so many times that it became a norm. There’s a reason why people switched off television sets once Sachin got out. Chappell is clearly unaware of such a feeling having played for a dominant, balanced Australian team. Lately, the team has become less dependent on Sachin though he is still a huge force. We obviously want an Indian victory. There was celebration over Indian victory in the quarter-final and the semi-final and not remorse over Sachin not getting his century. It is stupid to say that Indians don’t care about victory. However, the fans still support and care a lot for their Sachin – their hero, their child, their God.
Next, you speak on the issue of the Indian habit of littering, throwing things and our racist attitude towards black people. However, you can’t simply package it as the sole vice of the Indian cricket fan. It would have made sense if you addressed the issue on the whole. However, are you not aware that Indians hear racist remarks in other ‘white’ countries?

“Indian spectators are watched over, like inmates.”

Patel dear, there’s security in any sport stadium where passions run high. It is unfair to compare the stands in India with the stands in South Africa where not many people come to watch the match and a lot of people take it as a picnic and family’s day out. In football stadiums, there are stewards all around the stadium and bordering the stands. Any person misbehaving and throwing things is immediately caught, taken out and arrested. Sounds familiar? It happens in European countries too. You should read this about football hooliganism, this, this and this about misbehavior by fans.

“On all Indian grounds, a wire mesh now separates players… In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, West Indies and England, this isn’t needed….The policing here is excessive, but necessary… I think a bit of racial profiling is fine, and we should be firm only with Indians.”

India has a lot more people watching the match, something that I would expect him to be aware of. India also suffers from constant terrorism threat which makes the security necessary. The attempt at mock racism to make a point is just sad.
Thereafter, Mr.Patel rants on and on about the art of commentary and how Indians only do it the wrong way. Most of his statements are elitist, racist and drawn from an ignorant upper class perspective. First of all, Mr.Patel, there are not too many Indian players who are that comfortable with English to make it as a commentator. If Kapil Dev could, I think he would have been very original and bold in his views. The wise Ian Chappell has had to eat his words many a times and in a country where public figures learn to be diplomatic, especially in the past, Gavaskar and Shastri choose the safe route. Srinath makes some very interesting points and so does Sivaramakrishnan. Sidhu is made fun of everywhere but he is entertaining sometimes. To question Harsha Bhogle’s insight of the game just proves how invested you are in the game. First of all, he is a host and he writes some very insightful and wise articles. You could do with reading through some of them on cricinfo – a place where there are dignified, knowledgeable experts expressing their opinion. You choose to simply state that restrained, un-expressive behaviour and commentary is correct. Commentators also try and capture the emotions of the crowd, bring excitement and their own flavour into the game. Ever seen the commentary during Formula one or Football matches?

Then there’s a long rant on about how India has ruined cricket for everyone by excessive advertising. It’s the advertisers cashing in on the passions of the Indians, Mr. Patel – not the Indian cricket fan. Would he not like if there were no ad-breaks in between the overs? Yes, he would. He wouldn’t care if the hoardings were plain and without advertisements. Majority of these advertisements are by multi-national corporations run by white-people whose elegance and viewpoints you completely endorse. There is less advertising in English matches because they don’t have that big an audience for it.

Patel also laments that he is Indian because abroad “there is the restrained commentary, the women in bikinis (unthinkable in Delhi), the glasses of cold beer (unthinkable in Ahmedabad). Relaxed bodies on sloping green knolls. No danger of such small rewards of civilization ever reaching our shores, but at least we have Sachin.”

I am really sorry that you have to go through the despicable fact of being an Indian. I am sorry that you live in a country where people choose to express their love and affection freely, without restraint. I am sorry that you were born in a conservative nation where women do not wear bikinis and you are forced to watch Baywatch and midnight FTV to get your jollies. I am sorry that drinking is considered a vice in our society still and is banned in public places. I am sorry that we are just so many people brimming with passion about a lot of things including cricket and in an attempt to give opportunity to a lot of people, we have not given you a chance to lounge and relax around the stadium. I am sorry that our trains are so crowded and streets jammed. I am sorry that you are Indian when you would much rather be a ‘civilized’ European.

However, I am NOT sorry about being Indian and passionately supporting my team.
As Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankan captain spells it out before the big final:

the subcontinent, and the teams that represent it, is the "best place" to play cricket. "No other place can match the buzz, the hype, the excitement around the game. When you play a tournament of this magnitude here, it kind of lifts the entire occasion, makes that occasion a lot more glorious."

Now I need to stop reading a paper like livemint and gear up for the big final where I will cheer every Indian run and every Sri Lankan wicket. I will shout, swear and express my support for my team and enjoy Shastri speaking his clich├ęs when our cherished son Sachin returns to fulfil his ambition, his dream.

*Update 1* India has won! And this is how we celebrate. Hee YAAA! Happiness. Kohli made the statement of the day :)

*Update 2* Some links have been added in the blog which Patel dear should read. His beloved European race indulging in 'unclassy' behavior. This Wikipedia article gives a pretty good picture. Some statements from the article -
...football and violence could be arbitrarily traced back to at least the 14th century in England.
Football hooliganism in Belgium is a common problem.
Football hooliganism in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a big problem....Riots often happen after the games and in restaurants, bars, etc.
Football Hooliganism in Bulgaria is fairly typical of everyday life for the public. In Bulgaria fights happen regularly on match days, sometimes even on the field as well as off it.
Football hooliganism in Croatia has seen riots over inter-ethnic resentments and the politics...
Football hooliganism in France is rooted in social conflict and racism....Violent fights and post-game riots including car burning, and store windows smashing...fan was shot and killed by police...two Arab youths were punched and kicked by white fans...more and more banning of violent fans from stadiums.
...German football fans fought with police and rival fans at a friendly match...damaging cars and shops, and shouting racist slogans...The police detained over 300 people...a task force was established to deal with violence and racism in German football stadiums.

Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Portugal, Serbia, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, England and many others follow.

Indian Cricket fans still banal and uncouth, Patel dear?