Updated: Oct 3
26th September 2020
The curious case of the relationship between Indians and their love for cricket has always made a great case study for professionals across various disciplines to look into and analyse. Everyone from sports psychologists to journalism scholars has made it a point to include the kind of bond that the Indian population shares with the sport in their works over the years.
India’s love affair with cricket started way back in 1983 when an ‘underdog’ Indian team went to England, the birthplace of cricket, and came back with the title of World Champions - becoming only the second team ever to do so at the time. And what followed was just total craziness.
Cricket had found its way into the hearts of Indians, and media houses quickly started making Indian cricket players the centre of their top stories across all mediums. As times changed, more and more media forms became accessible to the Indian population.
The first major breakthrough came in the form of television, which provided a chance for marketing professionals to make an unprecedented move of bringing the western concept of making players into celebrities and people who could change opinions. The cricketers had made their way from the hearts, into the minds of the Indian audiences, by appearing in various advertisements and making the Indian consumer want that product instantly.
Later, the IPL and the internet came along in the year 2008 - and things were never the same ever again. A three-hour-long show of cricket, as long as a Bollywood blockbuster providing every cricket enthusiast boatloads of entertainment. The meteoric rise of internet users and cricket watchers in India triggered a new revolution altogether. Cricket could now be viewed from any place and at any time, and this made the people convert what was considered to be a sport into a ‘religion’.
The IPL gave families a two-hour-long time every day to sit together and bond with each other while cheering for their state or city’s team. From here, local stars who were lingering around in the unknown void of Ranji trophy and other domestic cricket tournaments started becoming household names.
The boy whom you may have seen featured in a small corner story of your local newspaper now could be seen playing against the greats of international cricket. All of these things combined made the Indian Premier League an emotional and physical getaway medium for the average Indian, who till date has to sit through 5 days or at least a day-long cricket match to watch his or her favourite player play.
With IPL came various other western concepts like the introduction of cheerleaders and music in the stadiums, fantasy platforms — where you could make your own team and yes, earn money by doing so. It was a win-win situation for all.
Things did not go down all well for IPL, but all the things that did go wrong did not affect the Indian audiences who, at the end of the day, wanted to sit back, relax and watch a good game of cricket, in what had become a bullet train speed life of theirs.
But come 2020, and the biggest tragedy of all struck the world. The coronavirus pandemic, starting from the second month of the year, took the world by storm and affected people in all walks of life. Lockdowns were imposed, and various forms of entertainment, including sporting leagues, which had been the go-to resort for people across the globe, came to a standstill.
By March, what would have been the time IPL would have started and people would have seen their idols wearing their favourite place’s jersey and stepping onto the field, the entire country of India was under lockdown, and the tournament had been postponed indefinitely.
The tournament being postponed triggered a state of mental fatigue and stress that Indians had never gone through before. Work from home strategies looked great at the start, but as times passed and sources of entertainment after work for Indians started to narrow down, people started missing IPL.
It was not before September that IPL started and people all over the country were back again, cheering and waiting for their favourite tournament to begin. Across the board, people locked in their homes stressed from the precautionary restrictions, now had a medium to channelise all the energy they had in store sitting at home for all these months into the tournament.
Sadly, the matches had to be shifted to the United Arab Emirates, but technology helped bridge the mental and physical gap between the matches and the audiences. It could be seen on all the social media platforms, how happy they were, just because they now could see their favourite players in action. There were reports of people’s depressing thoughts subsiding to a great extent as soon as the tournament began on 19th September 2020.
Cricket had done its job. A job to rescue Indians from the state of stress and depressed feelings and had brought them back on to their feet, the way they were supposed to be.
Edited by Meghna Venkatesh