Why Indian Fans are on KP’s Side
by Devanshu Mehta
On Twitter, Indian cricket fans (and fans of Indian cricket) are largely on Kevin Pietersen’s side in his battle against the ECB. Here is my theory why.
I want to preface this by saying:
- This is a theory.
- Since it is a theory, and it might hit close to home for many people, I don’t expect everyone to accept this theory as explaining their feelings on this matter. Even if the theory is true. Instinctively– and perhaps reflexively– we may discount this theory purely because it says some uncomfortable things about how our minds work. Having said that, I accept that the theory may be wrong.
In the summer of 2011, England comprehensively beat India over the course of four Test matches and a handful of limited overs engagements. India was significantly disadvantaged through injuries and the unavailability of players, but to be fair, they were also outplayed.
The combination of the English press and the English Cricket Board, however, continued to make the point that the English system for producing a cricket team was, in fact, inherently superior.
Now this may have been true– the truth is, we will never know for sure. However, this was not a message palatable to Indian fans at the time. Especially since the much-maligned Indian system had until recently produced a world-beating team in Tests and One Day Internationals.
In addition, this message was coupled with the common attacks about too much cricket, IPL as devil-incarnate, the lack of preparation for “transitioning” the senior players, your players are fat, with unmanaged injuries and on the other hand–
–Look at the professional, perfectly managed English team that Andy Flower rules with an iron fist and a heart of gold. Marvel at our perfection, for we will be the new dynasty in Australia’s place.
Indian fans did not take kindly to this message. And Indian fans took note of the members of the press most stridently pushing the all-hail-andy-flower-ecb-is-singularity message.
This summer, the ECB is locked in a battle for its relevance against Kevin Pietersen. And the English press has largely fallen in line with the ECB, serving as their mouthpiece, dropping leaked tidbits when requested. You scratch my back, I scratch yours, KP was a Saffer anyways.
The English establishment– and specifically certain characters we remember well from last summer– has continuously upheld and sold the English system as perfect and “professional”.
In the KP story, we see how and where this is not true. We see how and where the narrative of a perfect English system breaks down.
And we enjoy it.
At the same time, Kevin Pietersen alone among all English Test cricketers plays a brand of cricket that is (sometimes abhorrent-ly) referred to as a “subcontinental” brand of cricket. I say this with no disrespect to English batsmen, but KP is the least English of English batsmen.
His style of play would not stand out so much among say an Indian, Pakistani or Sri Lankan line-up. But among the English, he is positively alien.
And we appreciate this.
Also, KP is an iconoclast. India is a country of one billion iconoclasts. In fact, India as a country is united by one thing and one thing alone– to rail against the man. KP is an honorary Indian.
Sorry, make that Delhi Daredevil.
Perhaps true, even in part, for some. But might I offer another theory? In KP we see what we imagine to be the establishment meting out injustice with the same condescension, derision and bumptiousness that we see them shower upon our board, the IPL and just about everything that isn’t British. We further see a system where board, players and press seem to be hand in glove to a distasteful degree, where their polarized and bullheaded views cannot be challenged. It has nothing to do with KP “loving India or his beloved IPL” as they like to put it.
Another reason so many Indian (and indeed, several other countries’) fans dislike England, and this was true prior to the 4-0 thrashing, is their dismissive arrogance, and the rather churlish articles that seem to make it out of their regularly hyperbole press. Scyld Berry’s article after the first day of this series is a case in point. There are fewer joys then than watching them turn on themselves after a humbling experience, and thanks to twitter the dirty linen has never been hung so publicly. Oh yeah, and finally the Broads, Stuart and Chris. ‘Nuf said.
But why KP? Why no spirited defence of say Ravi Bopara who has more obvious merits on his side in his fight against the ECB. Why don’t Indians support him more vociferously (or at least as vociferously as they do for KP)?
One point I think is that KP (like Gayle) actually has a fan base in India independent of the English (or WI) cricket team. I think he’s one of the very few cricketers in modern times, who, even if he’s doing well against the Indian team, we wouldn’t mind watching and, for the less rabid among us, applauding.
Among all the people who endlessly profess love for India and the IPL, KP and Gayle seem to genuinely mean it. KP was instrumental in bringing the English team back to India in the dark days of 2008-09 and committed to the IPL teams he played whole heartedly. Beneath the obvious schadenfreude I think there is genuine affection for a hugely talented cricketer who’s managed to transcend English cricket’s narrow fan base.
Well KP does have a fan-base in India (he was RCB’s and now DD’s icon player) and he supported Virat Kohli after he flipped the bird in Australia. Plus he’s a star, his batting is the type that anyone comes to see, not someone like Johnathon Trott! 😉
But then again, some Indians simply dislike him for his arrogance and ego. @achettup I agree with you mate.