Loyalty beyond boundaries in IPL fan fable

DC Fans and IPL Trophy
DC Fans and IPL Trophy (PC: X)

The IPL is the time when cricket fans from across the country unite to support their favourite teams. However, amidst the sea of loyalists, there exists a curious phenomenon: fans who support teams other than their home franchises. While this might seem counterintuitive at first glance, delving deeper unveils the intriguing motivations behind this behaviour.

Imagine not supporting your home team and supporting someone else for some reason? To answer that, we need to understand the types of IPL fans. You can categorise them into two groups — those who back the teams from the same geographical regions they belong to and those who don’t support their home team.

Delwyn Serrao is an ardent Delhi Capitals (DC) fan. He is the content creator of the official fan club of the Capitals — DC Toli. Know what! Delwyn hails from Mumbai and he does not root for Mumbai Indians.

“It is very normal,” answers Delwyn. “You follow a team for different reasons and my reason for following the Capitals was the feel-good factor that always emanates from the team irrespective of the result. So, it is a very normal feeling.”

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When the IPL was introduced to the Indian sporting landscape in 2008, franchises made efforts to establish a local connection. Icon players such as Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh represented teams based in their home cities or states. There were designated catchment areas for each team to scout players from. These areas were determined by the proximity to the team’s home turf. For instance, the Mumbai Indians were allocated Maharashtra and Gujarat. The idea was to attract local fans.

Several teams have undertaken initiatives to engage with local communities. Two of the most successful franchises in the league’s history — Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings — organise inter-school tournaments in their respective cities. The Rajasthan Royals offer cricket marketing courses within India and provide coaching services in the UK and UAE. The Kolkata Knight Riders operate the ‘KKR Academy’ in Bengaluru. But now, the times have changed and the ways of supporting teams have evolved.

One of the main reasons for fans supporting non-home teams lies in the allure of star players. The IPL boasts a galaxy of superstars from around the world, each with their own legion of admirers. For fans, the opportunity to witness their favourites in action transcends geographical boundaries, prompting them to pledge allegiance to teams based on player preferences rather than regional affiliations. Whether it’s cheering for MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings or Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, the star power often eclipses local loyalties. While digital media has revolutionised and helped in connecting fans and forming new associations, it has also led to fan wars.

Trolling is common nowadays. Fortunately for Delwyn, he hasn’t experienced that. “I have had the good fortune of not being trolled so far. The cricket culture here is not that vengeful. So that’s a good sign,” Delwyn reveals.

Rishabh Pant in DC
Rishabh Pant in DC (PC: IPL)

Putting trolling aside, how does it feel to watch matches from your own city in public and support the Capitals despite opposition from local fans? “It feels like an episode with constant twists and turns, but a fun one. If we win, I get the chance to lord it over the opposition fans, so that’s an additional feather in the cap. But it’s a great experience in general,” Delwyn responds.

These days, fans have access to a plethora of content, including player interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, and team narratives. As they consume all that, they develop emotional connects with teams and players, irrespective of their geographical locations. Engaging with like-minded fans online further strengthens these connections, creating virtual communities that transcend physical boundaries.

It’s always a question in the minds of common people whether the fan clubs will welcome supporters from other cities or states to become members or not. Delwyn clears this doubt by saying, “It’s not exactly challenging. I was well-received and have always been appreciated for my work. DC Toli stands for a fan-centric atmosphere, and the way I was received is testament to that.”

In conclusion, the phenomenon of fans supporting non-home teams in the IPL is a testament to the league’s transcendent appeal and the power of cricket to unite people from different corners. As the league continues to evolve, one thing remains certain: in the colourful tapestry of IPL fandom, loyalty knows no boundaries.

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