Friday, April 15, 2011

Following Fish: A KKR Fan's Perverse Pleasures

Following a sports team is full of heartbreaks.
Especially for those of us grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. We were seduced into a game by a victory at its highest stage. At that time, none of us understood the game well enough to grasp the fact that the victory was a fluke. And for years after that, we had to endure heartbreaks.
Heroes and heartbreaks. But heartbreaks nevertheless.

All of that started to change in the 2000s. It was a little slow to start with. But after a few hiccups, it picked up momentum in the later part of the decade.But we - or at least, I - were not prepared for this.
After two decades of losing after Sachin scoring a century and losing after Sachin scoring 18, I was so not prepared for this. After twenty years of seeing Sachin picking up the Man of the Series trophy with his usually stoic expression, it was such a surprise shock to see him drenched in champagne.

Now, nostalgia is a strange thing. When the going is bad, you think of the rosy past. But when the going is good, you - well, this is strange - miss the perverse glamour of the struggling past.
It is only when Amitabh Bachchan becomes a superstar does his stories of spending nights on Marine Drive sound cool. Similarly, when we have Sachin with the World Cup in front of the Gateway of India, the time that he scored 137 in a losing cause sounds like a Greek tragedy - sublime.
And that (after this long-winded introduction) is the utility of Kolkata Knight Riders.

For three seasons, KKR has been a reprise of the India team of the 1990s.
Gallant performances and passionate fans overseeing spectacular defeats. Experts tearing apart overpaid stars. Last-ball snatches of defeat from jaws of victory. Rifts between coaches and captains. Team playing substantially lower than the sum of its parts. Brilliant individual heroics falling short of the target. Sounds familiar? Yes, KKR was all that and more. It even had a faux-insider revealing lurid details of the team. Wow - that was like even worse better than India 90!
They even had Ajit Agarkar. Shit - they were only missing Kambli.

But even that seemed to change.
At the beginning of IPL4, the team had a brand new squad. They had a dashing batsman in Gautam Gambhir. Big hitters like Yusuf Pathan. Dependable veterans like Jacques Kallis. Exciting new finds like Ryan Doeschate. And even local lads like Bengal captain, Manoj Tiwari.
They seemed like a team that could win.
But the consensus was that they were one captain short.

And they are back to square one.
They lost to Chennai - but only just. They beat Deccan - reasonably well. They look like beating a few more teams comfortably and making the final four for the first time in four years.

Yet...

There are empty stands in their home ground. Fans are distributing leaflets exhorting others to boycott home games. Which is prompting the owner to make unconvincingly placatory noises in the general direction of the the ousted captain.
For the KKR fans who love the maverick captain, it is sad that he is not with the team in any capacity. For the fans who love the charismatic owner, it must suck to see King Khan pleading for the sake of filling a few seats. 

Come tomorrow today, Kolkata will play Rajasthan on Bengali New Year's Day.
And just like the 1990s, fans will have their minds on things other than cricket. When we beat better teams then, we used to wonder if the match was fixed. When our captain was down, the coach kicked him in the teeth. When Sachin scored a century, captains took strange decisions and lost us matches.
Now fans, instead of enjoying the cricket, will wonder if they are being disloyal to their Prince by watching the match. Not the happiest way to celebrate New Year.

But then, we have seen testing times. We have practice.
Even when we saw Australia pummeling us, we prayed for that Sachin century. Now we can cheer Gambhir on while accepting that he's not the best left-handed batsman-captain KKR could have had.
So yes, bring it on - Warnie!
And GO, KKR!!

Shubho Nabobarsho.
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