Hyderabad fans embrace mindfulness when on rollercoaster IPL ride

Sunrisers Hyderabad lifting the IPL 2016 crown. Source: X

Some journeys start with uncertainty but become amazing as they cross milestone after milestone. Even as the unstoppable force called the Indian Premier League (IPL) cruises along to its 16th anniversary on Thursday, it is hard to forget that another Twenty20 product, the Champions League, that was launched in 2009, ran aground after just five editions.

Talking of journeys though, each year I am reminded of one drive home from the Feroz Shah Kotla. The agony was piled on me because of multiple identities that the IPL appeals to. As a Tamil who was born and brought up in Hyderabad but has lived in Delhi for more than three decades now, you see the problem I face.

When Chennaivasis and Mumbaikars speak of how teams from their cities have won five IPL crowns each, I remind them that Hyderabad is the only city that has been home to two IPL teams – Deccan Chargers from 2008 to 2012, and Sunrisers Hyderabad since 2013. The twin-cities can claim the unique bragging rights of being the only one with two champions.

Some teams based in other cities have tried changing their luck with name changes, but to no avail. Royal Challengers Bangalore (Royal Challengers Bengaluru this year), Delhi Capitals (known as Delhi Daredevils earlier) and Punjab Kings (known as Kings XI Punjab earlier) are yet to climb the champion’s podium.

Deccan Chargers did well to win in 2009 and get to the semifinals the following year, but scraped the bottom of the barrel in 2008, 2011 and 2012. Sunrisers have been no different, winning the title in 2016 and finishing runner-up in 2018 but, after two miserable seasons, ending up with the wooden spoon last season.

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Deccan Chargers lifting the IPL 2009 crown. Source: X

Adam Gilchrist was captain when Deccan Chargers won the top prize in 2009 and David Warner was at the helm of affairs for Sunrisers Hyderabad when they were champions in 2016. Pat Cummins has led the squad this season with the same flair and calmness that he showcases as Australia captain. Will he thus become the third Australian to lead a Hyderabad franchise to the IPL title?

Yet, it cannot be denied that fans in the twin-cities have been taken on a roller-coaster ride by the teams.  Words like nakko and kaiku – no and why, respectively – spice conversations featuring Hyderabadis but when tempers are frayed, you would hear the locals say Jaando bhai (Jaane do bhai, let it go). The Hyderabadi is perhaps the most easy-going of them all, embracing a mindfulness.

Sometimes, the team seems to crawl like traffic on the artery between Narayanguda and Musheerabad and, at other times, it drives on full throttle as if on the 98km Outer Ring Road encircling the twin cities. But the teams’ fans have learnt from experience to live in the moment with such practiced ease that it can make the best exponents of mindfulness go green with envy.

Come to think of it, as a concept, the IPL has been ostensibly designed to appeal to the basic instincts of fans, primarily their local affiliations. Yet, I have seen Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla awash with Chennai’s yellow or Mumbai’s blue and gold, while attributing that to the country’s political capital being a veritable melting pot of cultures.

While it encourages loyalty, the IPL also allows fans to change colours if they so desire. Have we not seen ‘smart’ fans carry multiple jerseys to a match and switch in keeping with the flow of the game? I must admit I am no exception, though I don’t have to wear jerseys to flaunt loyalty. Besides my roots in Hyderabad and Delhi, my Tamil identity is handy when Chennai Super Kings does well!

My mind goes back to the 2008 when I watched Delhi Daredevils host Deccan Chargers at the Kotla. The assignment I held back then did not let me go to the venue, let alone travel to other cities, to watch any IPL match that year. Quite inevitably, my Hyderabadi roots surfaced, while my daughter was firmly backing the home side.

I cannot forget how tantalisingly the pendulum kept teasing us during the game and we took turns to needle one another. Until, of course, leg-spinner Amit Mishra claimed a final-over hat-trick when Deccan Chargers needed 15 to win. To this day, my daughter loses no opportunity to remind me that she ribbed me all the way home.

Then again, what is that one drive home when one looks at IPL’s own unstoppable journey past ownership issues, match-fixing allegations, governance upheavals and economic recession?

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