The kid at home is a die-hard Mumbai Indian fan. A super fan, actually.
No wonder then that the celebration has not stopped since last night after the team won a cliff-hanger against Rising Pune Supergiant. The boy still wears the Mumbai jersey. It comes out of the cupboard on the morning of the match day and goes back after the game almost as a ritual. But a victory in the Indian Premier League (IPL) final called for a change in the ritual. If allowed he would have gone to bed with the team cap on and the team flag hanging above his pillow.
Watching him go delirious in joy in the morning you feel a tinge of envy. If only you could celebrate with such abandon. Being mature surely is inhibitive. It restrains you from being expressive. What’s a fan if he is not mad about his team? What’s a fan if his love for the team is not unconditional? What’s a fan if every match of his team is not an emotional roller-coaster ride for him? What’s a fan if he is not irrational? Like a true fan, the kid makes it look like a personal victory as much as his team’s.
The mood was definitely gloomy as Mumbai played their inning last evening. With two wickets gone inside three overs, you could read the anxiety on the kid’s face. You could note the anxiety turning into desperation when the scoreboard read 65 for 5 at the end of the 11th over. It didn’t help that Kieron Pollard was the last wicket gone, following Rohit Sharma quickly. When the innings ended at 129 for 8, desperation had made way for sadness. Tears had welled up in his eyes and you could feel he was trying to control sobbing to look brave.
“Low-scoring matches are interesting. So don’t give up yet,” you try to console him. “I don’t think 129 is a bad score at all on this pitch. Wait till the match is over.” That hardly helps.
“Why 129? Why not 150? Isn’t 150 a low score too? We are losing.” You know it’s no point arguing with a fan. You cancel the idea to hit bed early and decide to watch the full match. Just in case things get too difficult for him.
Rising Pune Supergiant begin well, in cool calculated way. Low run-rate targets allow the best batsmen in the team to settle into their natural game. So Ajinkya Rahane scores a sedate 44 of 38 balls. At the other end skipper Steve Smith plays a unhurried game. With the scoreboard reading 71 for 2 in 11.5 overs, you see the boy next to you watching the proceedings with a sense of dejection. MS Dhoni is in and he knows with him around matches can end in a flash.
When Dhoni is gone at the beginning of the 17th over, the mood changes in the room. You see hope back on the face of the kid and also the fighting spirit, and the smile. Soon he is on his feet cheering every dot ball, waving the flag and breaking into Gangnam-style dance steps at the fall of every wicket. The fan is back with a bang and he is confident his team cannot lose now. Tell him it’s going to be very close and his team can lose, he won’t buy it.
As Smith departs with three balls remaining, the celebration begins. Pune end at 128 for 6, choked by some brilliant bowling from Mumbai Indians and the roof comes down. Flag in hand, the kid sprints across the living room space a few times, performs several kangaroo jumps, throws the cap in the air repeatedly and just refuses to calm down. A similar celebration, albeit more subdued, is on as this piece is being finished.
Now, that’s a fan, isn’t it? What would teams be without their madness, unconditional love?
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