Opinion: Split loyalties for Indian-New Zealand cricket fans

4:17 pm on 9 July 2019

By Sandeep Singh, Indian Weekender editor

Opinion - I pride myself on being a reluctant cricket lover only, whose interest in the game of cricket was primed in the late 1990s, and early 2000's when satellite television had just arrived in India and galvanised the mass interest in the game.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson and Indian counterpart Virat Kohli.

Black Caps captain Kane Williamson and Indian counterpart Virat Kohli. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

Since then I have become more an intermittent cricket lover, whose interest in the game flares up almost selectively, depending upon the stakes involved.

The higher the stakes and the bigger is the stage on which the game is played, my interest in the game gets propelled.

One such occasion in my not-so-recent memory, I recall being glued to the seat, till the last ball, (or the second last ball to be accurate). It was the 2015 World Cup semifinal between New Zealand and South Africa at Eden Park.

The images of Grant Elliot's six off South Africa's Dale Steyn's penultimate ball to win the 2015 World Cup semifinal for us is still fresh in my mind.

Watching that match in my Mt Eden apartment, I was thrilled to the core, screamed out loudly, heard a huge uproar from the nearby Eden Park stadium after that towering six and immediately rushed to my balcony in anticipation of some fireworks at the Sky Tower.

Then I walked out on the roads of the suburb, inundated by an excited crowd, returning back basking in the glory of the hard-fought victory at the second highest level of the world cricket. It surely took a while before the level of excitement subsided, allowing me to return to my apartment.

Indeed, that was an ecstatic moment.

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The only other similar shot that would probably outshine that cricketing memory, in my mind, was Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's six in the 2011 finals against Sri Lanka that won the World Cup for India.

Then, I had sheepishly indulged in more ecstatic activities ranging from driving my car in the middle of the night as a part of victory celebrations, honking endlessly, to dancing on the top of standing cars.

For many Kiwi fans, the recollection of these two instances of cricketing brilliance is little more than a story of two almost similarly riveting cricketing contests played at the highest level of the World Cup.

However, for those with a penchant for sharp observation, especially of human emotions, it might be of interest how someone could be so equally passionate about two different teams and can celebrate their victories with similar zeal.

If this is something alien to you, then chances are that you have not experienced external migration in any of its forms, where you end up living in a new country, primarily for economic or political reasons.

Among many other impacts of such external migration, is the issue of divided loyalties between what one's mind considers as original and the new home.

This is what will be experienced by almost every Indian-New Zealanders tonight when Black Caps meet India at Old Trafford, in the World Cup semifinals.

Grant Elliott celebrates hitting the winning runs to put New Zealand into their first Cricket World Cup final.

Grant Elliott celebrating his match-winning six against South Africa in the 2015 Cricket World Cup semifinal at Eden Park in Auckland. Photo: Photosport

So, who to support?

Ideally, this is a situation that many Indian-New Zealanders have long been hoping to avoid. Many have been rooting emphatically on social media for a Aus-NZ and India-England line-up, only to be let down by an otherwise disappointing South Africa in their last league match.

Their surprise win over Australia, meant India now take on the Black Caps.

So, what will ensue is that in most households of the Indian-New Zealander community, the battle line will be drawn over the game of cricket, with divided loyalties.

In every household, initially, there will be the political correctness of "may the best team win," which will be relinquished as the game progresses "only my team should be winning," assertions.

In most likelihood, the younger generations, who are either born or raised for the most part of their life in New Zealand and identifies this as their only home, will be rooting for the Black Caps. Whereas the older guard, who still feel connected to their original home, for reasons largely intangible, will be vouching for India.

However, one thing I can say with confidence is that the morning of Wednesday will bring back some tranquillity and order in our Indian-New Zealander's households regardless of the outcome of this match.

We Indian-New Zealanders will still have one of the teams that we identify as our own playing in the finals - a privilege not available to all Kiwis.