From the Caribbean Calypso to the Chennai cacophony, cricket makes it own music, everywhere.
Drums, horns, full-throated cries, the hand clap in a beat unique to this emotional game -- the sounds of cricket make an interesting study in themselves.
Not for us the silent sadness of the English grounds. We express our joy with the "Oompa Oompa" of unknown origin and our sadness and anger with a roar that would make a pack of lions retreat!
When Sunny Gavaskar made his golden debut in the West Indies, the large-hearted islanders sang calypsos in his praise. More recently, batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar has had songs composed on him.
But what is really astounding is the group dynamics that comes into play the moment a cricket match is underway. There is a buzz as the first ball is bowled, and while nobody has attempted to measure the decibel level when a home-team run is scored or an opposition wicket taken, one is sure it is higher than at a rock concert. Forty thousand-plus voices rise up in a cry that they have never practised together before. Strangely, it is not noise that emerges but music.
People who cannot bear loud sound in other environments smile in approval and end up with sore throats at the end of five days of shouting.
The Australian captain Steve Waugh went on record after the recent Chepauk Test, which his team lost, that the vocal support of the home crowd contributed a lot to the Indians' success in a tense situation.
And what are these sounds? Can they be described or typified?
Let me speak for Madras, now called Chennai. In the M A Chidambaram Stadium, as Chepauk is now called, whether it is the hands, empty plastic bottles or rolled up newspapers, the beat for all important moments is the same. Tata tataa taataa, tata tataa taa, tata tataa taataa, tata tataa, taa.
When a batsman is approaching a fifty or a hundred, forget about not disturbing his concentration levels. A handclap is begun with increasing velocity and sound, rising to a crescendo if he is successful, and dying out only to begin again if one more ball is needed to reach the landmark.
And God help the opposing team's bowler if he appeals against a particular favourite of the crowd! The bloodcurdling cries that follow are enough to scare the most courageous of hearts.
Someone on the home team who is perceived as shirking is not spared either. Hoots and boos follow him all the way to the pavilion if he has got out cheaply or misfielded a ball. Ravi Shastri, today's popular commentator, used to be received with "Hai hais" whereever he played, for no reason that anyone could figure out. And the latest recipient of this animus is the Indian captain Sourav Ganguly!
The Mexican wave that began in football games is now a feature of every cricket encounter. It is usually the post-lunch period that sees the wave begin. The popular stands begin the wave, throwing up their arms in symphony with a war cry, and the sound and motion travel around the ground over and over.
When the game is going through a dull phase, what better than some music to brighten things up? The comedian-actor Y G Mahendra has ever since the seventies brought his own orchestra to cricket matches at Chepauk. The band, consisting of horns, a banjo and drums and of course the voices of Mahendra and his friends, would entertain spectators at frequent intervals.
The television has taken over these days, but in the old days, any matchgoer worth his or her salt would carry a transistor to listen to the commentary. To break the monotony of Ananda Rao's description of the sun-soaked stands (as though we needed a reminder of that!) everyone would switch to Vividh Bharathi's "Manchahe Geet" at exactly 3.30 PM.
What it did matter if few in the crowd understood the Hindi lyrics of Mohammed Rafi's or Lata Mangeshkar's classics? Enough if they made the by and large Delhi and Bombay cricketers on the ground happy!
Nowadays, corporate companies sponsor bands which break out into song during drinks breaks and between overs. Iqbal's Sare jahan se acha and Shankar Mahadevan's Hindustani are among the songs that raise patriotic fervour.
What of the sound of silence? It encompasses the stadium every time a wicket of the home team falls, especially if they are heading for defeat. If there is something that can be called an audible hush, this is it.
Cricket does not need any cheerleaders. The entire crowd forms one!
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