Ho(wzz)use At!? : insti IPL story

Design by Abhiram

Edited by Mahima Raut

When the trumpet prelude to the Spanish song “En Er Mundo – Pepe El Trompeta” blared through the television screens of over 86 million households on the 19th of September, 2020, for just a small moment, the omnipresent feeling of fear and uncertainty gave way to a sudden yet powerful rush of exhilaration with a distinct Pavlovian origin.

India’s passion for cricket is well documented. Talking to an insti student about his love for cricket, he said, “One of the first matches which I watched as a child was the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Team India’s victory in that match drew me towards the game. Even though I could not watch the matches live due to my academic work, I used to see the scorecard in the newspapers during my school days and in apps like Cricbuzz after coming to IIT. Unknowingly, I got attracted to the game and it almost became a part of my life ever since.”

Ever since its inception in 2008, the IPL has left millions of fans all over the world spellbound every summer as they gather to see the world’s best cricketers duel it out in blistering 20 over matches.

For any impressionable child at the time, this was the event to look forward to each year: spending the day playing cricket with friends and then cheering their favorite teams on at night. Nothing but fast, unpredictable, and exciting T20 action.

Such is the nostalgia attached to the IPL all over the country and this spirit is only elevated in the insti atmosphere where one would often find 10 people hunched over one small laptop in a room, waiting with bated breath before every ball. 

That’s not all. 

This wouldn’t even be the only such room in a wing as fans of different teams gather together in factions to support their side.

Oftentimes, someone’s broadcast would get delayed and they would be greeted with a sudden collective scream heard all the way from the other side of the hostel informing them about a big boundary or wicket before they even saw it happen. 

This would happen every year. And it was supposed to happen this year too. Until the pandemic changed everything.

Much of the insti crowd was left disappointed and aching for some sort of cricketing action as their yearly tradition was snatched from their hands even as they held the fully printed schedule of the tournament in them. Gradually this disappointment gave way to routine, coursework, and deadlines and the monotony of life continued, albeit in an even more repressed fashion.

That was until August when it was finally announced that IPL 2020 would indeed take place in a secure “bio-bubble” like environment in the UAE without fans in the stands.

Everything felt so much more normal! The regular appointments in front of the television, the intensity of the performances, the backstories behind team rivalries: it was time to delve into all of it once again. All that was needed was to bring back the feeling of belonging they felt while in insti. Not much can compare to being surrounded by fellow fans and experiencing every emotion be it ecstasy or disappointment together.

Then again, not much could keep cricket fans apart. Even before the tournament began, there were multiple Discord Servers and WhatsApp groups being circulated all over. These groups then became a source of endless memes and long discussions on all things cricket and even served as venting areas when a favoured team would lose.

One such student who was an active part of these groups testified to their efficacy and spoke fondly about how their small WhatsApp group became a source of fun cricketing memes while also being a space for play by play discussion during each match. “IPL made our nights…” he said, reminiscing the games and the time spent with fellow avid fans.

Another student talked about how the IPL helped distract him from the continuous monotony of coursework, saying,

It helped take my mind away from acads and gave me some time to relax and think about something other than test/assignments and projects. Having been a professional cricketer for over 10 years and having played alongside players like Vijay Shankar and Washington Sundar, who are currently a part of the Indian Team, cricket is much more than just a game to me. It has taught me a lot about how to lead a balanced life in ups and downs and how to react to unprecedented situations both on and off the field. Even though I don’t play cricket at a professional level now, my love for cricket would never decrease.”

He, among others, is part of another close-knit WhatApp group made for discussing anything about cricket with like-minded people.

Of course, these groups were also home to some friendly banter with fans from one side criticising the other and making sure the opposing side fully understood the magnitude of their loss.

Many incidents in this year’s IPL became immediate talking points with five super overs(including a twin super over), Rahul Tewatia’s five 6’s of 6 balls to successfully execute the IPL’s highest run chase and Ishan Kishan’s 99.

However, some talking points hit closer to home as CSK, the team enjoying great support in a majority of the country, faced a season in which they underperformed. Fans, nevertheless, took it in their stride and enjoyed the game while identifying weaknesses in their teams and looking ahead to drafting a new, younger core of players.

“The victories in the last three matches would be great news for the players and the fans alike. The main reason for the change of fortunes is the involvement of the younger players in the squad. A mega-auction set to happen next year will allow CSK to form a new core group to erase the demons of 2020.”

Many insti fans even opted to play fantasy cricket on various online platforms this time around, creating private contests and carefully drafting teams every day with the objective of reaching the top of the table.

This way, each match acquired even more importance as they cheered on for their fantasy players to perform well, often facing a dilemma when they played against their favorite team.

When the IPL finally came to an end on the 10th of November, there was an air of satisfaction upon the completion of an annual tradition, but it was coupled with a yearning for more. Nothing quite brings people together like sport and the IPL served its purpose by not just delivering the sheer joy of cricket, but also giving insti students an excuse to talk at length with their friends and escape into a different world, even if only for a few hours each day. Even as the season itself has ended, the memories made among friends, acquaintances, and even total strangers all sharing a bond over a common passion will last forever and someday be remembered fondly as the IPL Season That Was.

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