Will you ‘watch’ the World Cup?

Are you going to watch the Cricket World Cup? I would think that’s a fairly straightforward question. And I would normally tell people that I have watched all World Cups since 1992. But it’s actually a little more complicated.

Spare me a bit of indulgence. During the ’92 World Cup I usually saw the first half of many games – with one eye on the TV set and another on gobbling my breakfast and packing my school bag. I only got a peek of the day-night games – I remember watching Jonty Rhodes’ brilliant fielding against Australia on a black and white TV set in the teachers’ staff room – and occasionally, especially when India were playing, summoned the courage to sneak in a transistor into class and tune in. Of course, the scores were then written in chits of paper and passed around the whole class.

Four years later, I mostly caught the second half of the games (if at all). It was also tough to watch the games without feeling guilty – it was before my finals and I was at an age when your whole world is apparently supposed to be focussed on the board exams. I spent a lot of time switching the TV on and off, was highly distracted while studying and quite conflicted while watching the matches. It was all a bit painful.

There were more exams in ’99. There were also exam results, depressing phases after which I felt more guilty watching cricket. My parents were convinced that cricket was going to eventually ruin me. And when I saw my grades I realised they actually could be right. So I watched those matches without much enthusiasm. And maybe for the first time in my life actually tried really hard to study. It wasn’t as if the Indian team were really lifting my spirits anyway – bumbling against South Africa (when Ajit Agarkar handed the game to Lance Klusener in the matter of one over), shriveling against Zimbabwe and surrendering to Australia (one of those days when Azzu decided he would field first in a big game)

The point I’m trying to make is that most of us don’t really get to watch every cricket match. We’re at school or at college or at work or on a holiday or sleeping in a different timezone. We’re all tuned into the cricket but often not watching every bit of it. At work, we may not be anywhere close to a TV set but we will always have one eye on the monitor or on the phone or on the guy two cubicles away, who is getting updates via texts.

The longer the format, the longer cricket hovers. A day is planned around the timings of some matches. A two-hour work meeting is a pain under any circumstances but more so because you can’t surreptitiously keep glancing at your phone with just five colleagues around you. Often you need to find an excuse for an early lunch, to catch half an hour of the run-chase in the cafeteria. Or to make that phone call to ask your buddy about how the pitch is playing.

I’m sure all sports fans feel this way but cricket brings to it an added dimension of time. I’ve had similar experiences with football and basketball but those games are on your mind only for a short time. Ninety minutes. Done by the time you’re finished with one boring lecture in college. But cricket – Tests and ODIs, at least – mess with you all day.

Fans who watch matches at a stadium have some kind of bond with the thousands of others in the same ballpark, that feeling of oneness in watching the same spectacle at the same time, taking in the same noise, experiencing the same ambience.

But I think fans who don’t watch the games fully (but are tuned in nonetheless) have a bond too: it’s something they may never realise, especially when sitting in a workplace full of Scandinavians, but it’s a bond all the same.

This World Cup is going to be tough to watch for various reasons. I will be asleep when most games start and at work when they end. But I will stay tuned: on Twitter, on Cricinfo, on streaming links that infuriate me, on radio commentary, on Test Match Sofa, on Guardian minute-by-minute. I will occasionally hit an English or Australian pub for breakfast to catch the game on TV. And I will end up with bloodshot eyes.

But I definitely won’t be alone. I’m sure a lot of you will also ‘not watch the World Cup’ with me.

Published by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan

I’m a freelance writer, editor and author. My debut novel - What's Wrong With You, Karthik - was published by Pan Macmillan in India. You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Whats-Wrong-with-You-Karthik/dp/9389109507/ I have worked as a reporter and editor for ESPNcricinfo. I was part of the team that launched their digital magazine – The Cricket Monthly. You can read all my articles here. I used to write a fortnightly column for cricketnext.com, I host podcasts and (occasionally) write pieces at 81allout.com. I have contributed articles to Wisden, Nightwatchman, The Hindu, Mumbai Mirror, Indian Express, Forbes.com, AOL, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and Yahoo India. I have worked for Bloomberg News and Wall Street Journal as a features reporter.

19 thoughts on “Will you ‘watch’ the World Cup?

  1. ditto sidvee!
    fortunately this world cup I subscribed to http://www.espnplayer.com which shows every match live and on-demand in mainland Europe. All of India’s matches are day-nighters on Sundays (apart from BAN), meaning day matches here in Europe. Looking forward to an exciting World cup!

  2. I tend to watch an entire cricket match when I can, whether Tests, ODI’s or T20’s. It is not that hard at least in Australia. The cricket season matches with the summer holidays. And then for the India games (and for that matter, South Africa and England games) they happen during the Aussie night time so you can watch them until 2am in the morning. Even watch the Windies games. Just don’t sleep! That is cricket!

  3. Good one Sid. For me, the best part of watching cricket was during the dying overs of a chase, when the women folk used to join us and for once, we ‘The Men’ felt we are doing the right thing without the guilt of spending a good day of our lives over an ODI.

  4. The worst is when India is playing a test and trying to hold on for dear life towards the dying stages. You are checking every possible source to find out whether the next wicket has fallen. I remember the eden gardens game at Calcutta last year. The dying moments were such a torture. In the end, I just stopped pretending to work and sat in the TV room. If it gets too close it is best to stop trying to work and go and watch the game for a bit.

  5. Well, my blog name says this as well, I am as much a Cricket fanboy as yuvar. When Laxman was hitting every ball over the mid wicket while saving India from a follow on and later thrashing the Aussies in style, I was appearing for 10th Boards. Later when India beat the hell out of Pakistan on 1st March in World Cup, I have my Physics Board in 12th.

    Like in 96 as well, school had exams in March.

    I have bought TV in my room just for the world cup and will watch as much as I can.

    I will watch this world cup.

  6. i can completely relate to d post,as can d fellow repliers over here.on that fateful march 1,2003,i was supposed to be locked up in d room preparing for d boards 2 days later,but hell…sachin just drove me mad!!n for once,my dad went crazy with me,even allowing me to watch the full match.during d last ind-aus test at mohali,i ws in my medical college lecture room when laxma-ishant were making a match out of it,n i ws getting d updates on phone,by..my domestic help!!fortunately,i m kinda free right now,so will try to grab as much of d cricket as possible…
    to all fellow cricket frenzied guys,cheers!!
    to Mr.Sid-hope u can have much more than bits n pieces of the great celebration of our religion,i.e,cricket!

  7. god this is the story of my life!
    my 10th boards clashed with the epic ind-aus series in 2001….n yes i watched every single day of cric….a girls goto have her priorities straight:)…..n i even went to the last day of the last test in chennai to the stadium in my school uniform after writing my maths exam and saw us scrambling to the victory…goto say it was probably the most exciting day of my life:D
    2003 clashed with my 12th boards n ofcs again i washed every india game….now looking back i dont think it was even a que of picking what to do….i watched the games n then continued studyin all night!
    the ONLY game that i missed is india chasing down 300+ in chennai against england dec 2008 n it was the day of my final yr surgery practicals!!
    but somehow i feel this wc will be the last that inspires such “teenage” fanaticism in me….all the greats i grew up watchin are gone n its jus one last time for sachin tendulkar….n MAYBE then i can finally grow up!

  8. Sid,
    Been lurking over here for long, simply love your pieces. Owe you a big thank you for them.
    This one struck a chord. I have had the same joys and despairs of watching the WC over the years. If school was frustrating with exams, boards, anxious middle-class parents (with high expectations of you) and Doordarshan (of which you had none), I feel things only got worse with time.
    Driving home from work like Schumacher on acid to catch the last few overs, or staying up late and getting to work bleary-eyed and grumpy–not exactly what Dad meant when he said, “Finish your education and you can watch all the damned cricket you want.”
    It didn’t help working in India and the UK where everyone wanted to watch the match as well, and couldn’t be cajoled to covering your shift for you.
    This time, though, I am in Russia, where the time difference is only two-and-a-half hours. And I have planned my shifts well in advance. And asked for amnesty from night calls for most of the month. And arm-wrestled a colleague to cover for me on consults. (It’s not as if he could refuse; I covered his ass during the hockey league, in freezing winter.)
    The only problem is sitting in a neonate ICU with bleeping alarms and bawling babies, and trying to explain cricinfo’s running commentary to the nurses. Scandinavians, Russians–tomAYtoes, tomAHtoes. I just tell them it’s baseball with a flat bat and umpires without body protection.
    Oh, well! You can’t have it all, can you?

    1. Thanks a lot for the comment. Really interesting to hear your experiences. Loved the bits about watching cricket in the ICU. And good to know that your Russian colleague agreed for the swap. I look forward to reading about your cricket-watching experiences from Russia 🙂

  9. Sid, love the kind of topics you pick to write. Please keep ’em coming!

    A couple of instances come to mind. Was down with chicken pox in 1999 and hence got to watch almost all the matches at home with my mom and dad! In 2003, our convocation eve dinner was on March 1 and everyone on campus including Professors were checking the score with everyone else of the India-Pak match. The dinner got over soon and all of us were by the side of the big screen TV erected on the football ground, cheering Sachin and co!

    Cannot forget the Natwest final when someone woke us all up in our hostel rooms and we roared Yuvi and Kaif to that famous win! Don’t think even Dada had that amount of adrenaline gushing through his veins!

    One other memorable moment was when I was studying for my exams and my dad and mom asked me to stop studying (you can do that later too!) so as to watch Kumble and Srinath take India to victory (egged on by Kumble’s mom and grandma at the stadium!)

    So many memories! Not (m)any from 2007, no prizes for guessing …! Hope 2007 stands out as the odd one out!

  10. Great post!
    And it is so true! I feel the pain you felt in ’96. I’m in 12th now, supposed to be studying.
    But come on, how can we resist the temptation of watching the World Cup?
    And things get worse! I’m in Bangalore, and India play England this Sunday!
    Now, I’ve watched matches at the stadium, but an India-England World Cup game would be a whole new experience. Unfortunately, my boards start from Monday, so I’m not allowed to go. What’s frustrating about it is, it’s not like I’d study if I were at home. I’d watch the game on TV anyway. Quite ridiculous.
    But on the whole, a great post, I loved reading it!

  11. Ha ha ha! I SO relate to this.
    In 1996, my whole extended family, about 20 of them went to Chepauk to watch the Aus-NZ quarters. It turned out to be quite an awesome match with NZ scoring what was then considered quite a winning target but it was eventually Mark Waugh’s day. I was not even considered in this list of people who were going for the match as I had a model exam. Hurts me to this day that it was a model exam and not even a real one. Sob story of my life!

    I tried consoling myself that it wasn’t India playing, but tough to maintain that stone face I tell ya! Especially when cousins go on yapping about their experience.

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