May the best-looking team win
Patriotism can be kept aside for cheering development and growth, or not avoiding property taxes.
The T20 World Cup is on in full swing. Last Saturday, while the India-Pakistan match was being held in my hometown Calcutta, people on Facebook were furiously posting how Earth Hour - 8.30pm to 9.30pm, smack bang while the match was ongoing - appeared to be a resounding flop in India. I fanned the flames, commenting, "Righto! Match being played in flood-lit Eden Gardens" (got a lot of Likes for that).
Cricket, being environmentally unconscious (in aforementioned case at least) apart, holds no traction with me. There was a time when I used to follow ball-to-ball commentary of Test matches on that dinosaur known as All India Radio, but that was a long time ago; I feel very old when I talk about "those times" (the other day, for instance, I asked a colleague from the Sports department what Daniel Vettori - who I seriously fancied, I thought he looked like a Harvard professor - is up to now, and he said, "Oh, he's checking into a retirement home").
In my middle age, I view cricket as something incredibly juvenile. I have no idea, for instance, why when 10 countries play a tournament, it is called a 'World Cup', and why somebody qualifies as a world-beater simply because a team has defeated not 196 (number of countries that constitute 'the World'), but (only) nine others (what have the other 186 been playing?).
I also don't get the hook to patriotism; it's just so overplayed. A few days ago, when New Zealand was taking on Pakistan, I was trying to keep myself in the game - because it was on in full flow, on the telly, in the middle of the newsroom - by cheering the Kiwis (I used to love NZ in my cricket-obsessed days, thanks to men like Richard Hadlee, Martin Crowe, Mark Greatbatch and, later, Daniel Vettori. and I liked that Glenn Turner's wife Sukhi Turner, a lady of Indian origin, was mayor of Dunedin). I realised I was getting strange looks from a few Pakistani colleagues, who must have assumed I was supporting NZ simply because I am pro-India, anti-Pakistan.
So, here's the thing. I'll support NZ any given day over my 'home country' India - if I can bring myself up to watching cricket. In my salad days, some of my friends (and I) had a slogan: "May the best-looking team win". Our logic was simple. If we had to watch a bunch of boys putting bat to ball, and scramble all over the field in pursuit of a red cherry, we'd rather watch cricketers who were eye candy. Patriotism can be kept aside for cheering development and growth, or not avoiding property taxes. Why mix up a "sport" - which is supposed to be sporty, and has nothing to do with war-like temperaments - with nationalism?
There was a time when England had some great-looking blokes. There was Nasser Hussain (who a lot of Indians tried to give an Indian spin to since he was born in Madras), the utterly delectable Graham Thorpe, the flamboyant Andrew Flintoff and so on. In that phase of my life, I always supported England when they played against India. Everyone around me (in India) thought I was anti-nationalist. "Our former colonialists? Really?" used to be the refrain.
No, I'm not anti-nationalist, I used to say. But I'm pro-good looks. I thought when Flintoff took off his shirt (sometime in 2002) after beating India in India (I think it was in Bombay), he was a sight for sore eyes. Sometime later, Sourav Ganguly decided to pay him back in the same coin, so he yanked off his jersey too - at Lord's, no less - after the tides were turned and India beat England. But the visual that emerged was cringe-worthy; I'd rather not visualise it as I write this.
Let's just say the better-looking player (Flintoff, obviously) won the day for a few of us who believed in being truly sporty.