The advent of social media has changed the watching of cricket forever. Abid Hussain narrates this new experience of the world cup.
Six weeks after it began with much fanfare in Dhaka, the protracted and ultimately successful cricket world cup is about to end. By the time you read these lines, the remaining two teams will be preparing
for the final showdown, set to take place at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai.
The unofficial entertainers of the World Cup were, to the surprise of many of us, the English Cricket team. Yes, those men with stiff upper lips. Lighting up the world cup with its only tie match (against
India) and five other absolutely electrifying, nail-biting finishes, which included losses to two minnows (Ireland and Bangladesh), the English team’s journey was a thrill-a-minute till it got to that damp
squib of a quarter final against Sri Lanka.
However, personally speaking, despite all the spectacular action seen on the cricket field, this world cup kept me entertained mainly by the way its covered on new forms of social media.
The last world cup was played in the Caribbean in the 2007. In those days (they seem so far away already), internet streaming was slow and unreliable, twitter was just a year old and facebook was just opening
up to a global audience. Four years later, things have changed. Andhow!
For every match that I saw during this world cup, I made sure I was logged in to my twitter account and facebook profile, as well as the ball-by-ball commentary on cricinfo.com and the Guardian over-by-over
coverage (everyone should follow it religiously). The life I’d known for a quarter of a century as an avid cricket enthusiast had undergone an unprecedented transformation.
There was no fun following cricket matches without telling the world what was on my mind in approximately 140 characters (this is, for those of you who are still resisting the pull of social media, the
maximum you can type in a twitter update). 300 balls every innings amounted to at least 600 twitter updates. And this was in normal circumstances. When Shoaib Akhtar bowled that ripping inswinger to
Mahela Jayawardena in the match against Sri Lanka, I can swear I cyber-screamed “OMG SHOAIB I LOVE YOU #ShoaibILoveYou!” seven times till the next batsman came in.
In the old days (yes, a few years ago is ‘old’ now), the trend was to watch cricket matches at home with your family. Now you have an army of online followers and friends with whom you can ‘watch’ the match,
scream in ecstasy and yell in agony, as well as interact through regular status updates. And if one wants to watch the match in a bigger setting with 200 hollering fellow cricket fanatics, just log on
to the greatest modern-day event management tool, aka www.facebook.com, and join the event of your choice. Till Monday night, I had received at least 19 different event invitations from my friends who were planning to watch the mouth-watering Pakistan-India semifinal at various places. (For those of you who wish to know the outcome, I ended up watching the match at the conference room at a friend’s office. Yes, that’s what happens when you work in addition to tweeting.)
Aside from the big matches, which were seen with friends and such, the latest surprise came in the form of watching cricket on online streaming channels. What a joy it was! With hardly any of those
annoying advertisements which attack your senses at perfectly-timed, all-too-brief intervals during TV-aired matches, online streaming has made me a believer in the power of alternative media.
Throughout the world cup, there have been some consistent themes among the timelines of twitteraties and facebookers in Pakistan. In fact, before the world cup began, there was a bunch of people who initiated
a #MakeAfridiCaptain campaign to ensure that the beloved ‘talisman’ was chosen as captain of the team. During the world cup, Kamran Akmal, the man with iron gloves and butter fingers, was labeled with some
hilarious-but-unprintable nicknames. After Shoaib Akhtar was dropped from the team, his loyal supporters began a #BringShoaibBack mission. Then of course there was this horde of Afridi lovers, men and women
alike, who all declared their unconditional love and desire for him post his 4-wicket performance against the West Indies in the quarter finals.
However, as far as pure entertainment goes, the Pakistan Australia match on March 19 was absolutely brilliant. The timelines during that match perfectly showcased the unpredictability of the Pakistan cricket
team and its legion of followers. Skeptical and incredulous in equal measure, even though the target was down to 10 runs in some 70 odd balls, the variety of internet statuses and comments ranged from
downright witty to absolutely moribund.
The odd banter with Indian fans while unleashing a barrage of videos on youtube to celebrate the man that is Afridi, the writing of blog entries on why Ian Chappell is the sourest loser on the face of the earth, to listing 10 new commandments on How To Watch The Greatest Match Ever – cricket-watching will never be the same again. At least for those of us who are logged in. #CricketWeLoveYou!
*: The hash tag #FF is used on microblogging website twitter as an
acronym for Follow Friday.