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Fandom and Trolling in Indian Cricket

M S Dhoni and Virat Kohli carry forward their otherworldly running between the wickets from the Australia game in this game too. It is frustrating West Indies no end the way they’re changing ones into twos.

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Kohli sees his bowlers going for sixes and taking wickets off no-balls. He comes on to bowl himself. After leading the runscoring charts for the main round of the tournament and fielding in the deep like a panther in every match, maybe he needs to take wickets too. He takes out Johnson Charles with his first ball. Team India believes, Wankhede believes, the whole nation believes.

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Kohli ends with an unbeaten 89 off 47 balls despite hitting just one six. He scores 39 runs in ones and twos. This might already be a template for future batsmen in constructing a T20 innings – keep running, keep dot balls to a minimum, place balls to left or right of the fielder and then keep running some more. Dhoni scores only an unbeaten 15 off 9 but has to run so much that he, and Kohli, have to bend over for breath. It has been a Herculean effort from Kohli yet again. India end with a challenging 192/2 off their 20 overs.

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West Indies are running away with the game with a flurry of boundaries when Hardik Pandya bowls a full toss from round the wicket to Lendl Simmons. He slaps that in the hands of Ashwin at widish mid-off. Every viewer roars before silencing down as the replay is shown on the big screen. It is a no-ball, again! Simmons gets another life. He will get three lives tonight. He will play, what writer Jarrod Kimber calls on Twitter as “four of the best innings he has ever played” in one night. West Indies are cantering at the Wankhede.

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India have to defend 8 runs in the final over. Maybe since the ball is wet, or maybe because there are two marauding right-handers at the crease and Ashwin is having his second consecutive forgettable bowling performance in this WT20, Dhoni doesn’t throw him the ball for the final over. He calls on Kohli again. Gavaskar on air reminds the audience of the 1993 Hero Cup semifinal Sachin Tendulkar starred in when he prevented South Africa from scoring 6 runs in the final over. This isn’t Sachin here. It isn’t 1993 even. This is 2016. It’s a different era. Heck, it’s a different ballgame altogether. For all his genius and will-to-win, Kohli can’t stop Andre Russell from finishing it off with a four and a six.

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Kohli is heartbroken. He has dragged this team almost singlehandedly into the semi-finals. Nehra, that old warhorse, is distraught. This might be his last World event. It might even be the last time he has put on an India cap. Dhoni doesn’t react much. He is feeling the pain obviously (how couldn’t he!) but the poker-faced fighter that he is, he won’t show emotions. That’s not him.

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After the loss in the semifinals of the 2015 World Cup at the hands of Australia at the MCG, Indian fans not only reviled the players but – to put it mildly – blamed Anushka Sharma, the Bollywood actress and Kohli’s then-girlfriend for the loss. Social media was choking on the vitriol of the trolls who crossed all limits in spewing hatred against the couple. South African fans, on the other hand, welcomed their team home after their heartbreaking loss to New Zealand at the same stage.

Kohli, the heart-on-the-sleeve man that he is, came out with scathing criticism of these trolls.

The trolls were at it again even at this World T20. They, in a (airy double inverted commas here) brilliant logic of the Internet Age, gave the credit for Kohli’s stunning run of form and unbelievable batting under pressure to his breakup from Anushka. Kohli blasted them, again. He said she had always provided him support and positivity.

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West Indies just had more firepower. India didn’t help their own case with those no-balls. But, as always, India fought. Throughout the World T20, they kept coming back from situations lesser teams would have long given up on. They, and Kohli in particular, kept making the impossible possible. After this loss, millions of Indians would be sad, heartbroken, feeling the pain, angry, disappointed, crying, gutted even. Cricket is said to be a religion in India. But let’s ditch the hyperbole and be honest here. Cricket is NOT a religion. We don’t abuse our religious Gods like we do these players. We don’t troll them when they supposedly fail us, like the players do at times. For all the passion and the emotional investment, this is only a game. I have cried too when India have lost. I have been angry too. I refused to eat my dinner once at home when India were chasing and losing, some 14-15 years back. My good and bad moods still follow the results of the Indian team. But spare a thought for these 15 bravehearts of the Indian Men’s Cricket Team. They gave it their all for 3 weeks and yet ended up empty-handed. If anything, they deserve our love and admiration for the way they keep trying to fulfill our unrealistic expectations at every world event. They are human beings after all. Sure they are paid fabulously, live lives the rest of us can’t even dream of, but even they have minds and hearts to feel emotions, like the rest of us. Respect your humanity and theirs too.

Do not troll them. Support your team through thick and thin. That’s what real fans do. Let’s show the world that that’s what Indian fans do too.

Bleed Blue!

Jai Hind!

Vande Mataram!

P.S. – somehow this post got deleted this morning. My apologies to everyone who came to the site.

Thanks for reading.

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