Will India emerge victorious in the Cricket World Cup? Check out the online buzz.
As Zaheer Khan ripped through the New Zealand batting line-up in India's last Super Six match, I entered a Kolkota chatroom where a discussion on India's World Cup chances was going on.
Just to check the mood online, I typed this message in big bold red letters: "Sourav Ganguly is India's weak link." In the next five minutes my chat friends almost ripped me apart!
It was one of my worst online adventures. But also testimony to the strong sentiments about the World Cup that are alive and kicking on the Internet. Cricket crazy fans take active part in online discussion forums, message boards, blogs and chat rooms.
There is no doubt that the extensive Web coverage of this year's tournament has been aided by the latest technologies, as we also explored in an earlier feature. It has even outdone war cries and inflation and budget talk. The interactive nature of the online experience has kept fans engaged and entertained. Another form that is slowing gaining popularity is the Web log.
These interactive communities have seen an outburst of public opinion, normally restricted to discussions with friend and family.
Mumbai-based Sameer Gharat, the cricket enthusiast behind One Day Mataram, says the responsibility of maintaining a Web log on the World Cup has kept him on his toes. "I've been doing match previews and reviews. The mood generated by the tournament has egged me on to write lots of stuff on the Indian team as well as other teams." Gharat has also been running a contest and is amazed by the response he's received.
Discussion forums and message boards also give the pulse on public opinion. From the basics to the more complicated details like 'how to play a certain ball' or 'how to bowl to a certain batsman', everyone has something to contribute.
Gharat offers his explanation about the online buzz: "In India, almost every person has an opinion on cricket and how the game should be played. But they don't have any way to actually make their opinions heard by others, at least, up to now. The emergence of personal publishing through blogs has really given a chance for the people to have their say and voice their opinions. The interactive nature of blogs and the ability to get feedback from the readers, is a big advantage."
Sample some comments on India's chances of winning their second World Cup on the Rediff Message Boards.
-- "Having won 7 matches in a row, now this Indian team needs self belief to beat the Aussies in the finals. With our fast bowlers firing on all cylinders, if our batsmen put on 275 +, then the World Cup is ours!!"
-- "Beware Aussies! You are due to taste the might of the Indians. Moreover, you are due to be caught by the 'Law of Averages'. This will be coming against you at a very critical point."
There are those who are more cautious.
-- "Lets not be so upbeat. Sehwag is yet to find his touch. Ganguly is on and off in matches. Dinesh Mongia is a heavy baggage we are carrying."
-- "Its times when people talk about the Indian cricket team as a sure thing that I get most nervous. Everyone from the chai-wala to the greatest former players is predicting an India-Australia final. It's making me edgy."
Here's a high spirited response to Bret Lee's 'spit rock strategy'.
-- "That's fantastic!! We'll all get to see a new shot to send the ball over the boundary from Tendulkar."
The resurrection of the Indian team left some cricket writers and commentators eating their words and Tapan Joshi of Cricketnext.com candidly admits it in this article. S S Ramaswamy compares the tournament to a typical Bollywood pot-boiler. An Australian news site warns its countrymen about Tendulkar seeking the 'final revenge' in the final.
A funny email forward making rounds these days will be a confidence booster for Ganguly's boys. It lists three reasons why India would win the Cup and the prominent among them: The captains of all winning teams in World Cups have been right and left handers alternatively. In 1999, it was a right hander, so this year following the pattern, it should be a left hander. Ganguly is a lefty.
Another post on Sixes and Fours that triggered a lively discussion was in response to possible methods about how the tourney could have run in a better manner in terms of point system and rain rules.
Then there are those who will miss the hectic cricketing activity once the World Cup is over. Gharat is still toying with the idea of continuing his blog to discuss the year's cricketing action: "I am almost sad to note that the World Cup is coming to an end. I was thinking about this and I think I have decided to continue it as it gives me the chance to talk about my passion... cricket!"