I sat down with optimism and hope before the Royal Challengers Bangalore took on the Gujarat Titans last Sunday, just like I sat down before Rahul Dravid’s men took on the Kolkata Knight Riders in the first-ever IPL game back in 2008.
Every RCB fan would surely have been devastated after we lost to Gujarat by a narrow margin and, consequently, failed to make the Playoffs. I don’t know why, but this loss hurt more than most others. It was worse than the losses we suffered in the last two seasons after making the Playoffs. My 12-year-old brother, watching the game beside me, broke down in tears after the game was done. It took me back to 2009, when I broke down after the RCB failed to beat the Deccan Chargers in a very winnable game.
“How do you keep going when you don’t win,” I sat to think, after the game was done. “Why did it hurt more than other defeats?”
And, as I put my thoughts together, I realised that the bond I have created with the team over all these years is unimaginable. The purest form of unconditional love is the relationship between a person and their favourite sports team. And when your bond is that strong, it hurts when the other side does not deliver.
But it’s okay.
Your friends who support Chennai or Mumbai always remind you that you have won absolutely nothing since the IPL began. You have no reason whatsoever to continue to back a team that has never given you a trophy in all these years. However, nothing has changed for me, and for all those supporting the RCB. We come back every year with hope and pride.
Your bond with a sports team, in this case, the RCB, is not determined by the number of trophies the team give you. It’s the memories and moments of joy that count. You remember the small moments in life.
I go back to when I was nine years old. The RCB had had a disastrous first season, finishing second last in 2008. I came back in 2009, hoping for a better season. In our first game, we played the Rajasthan Royals, the previous edition’s winners. I was scared and did not know how we would get out of this game alive.
We didn’t score the most convincing total. My cricketing hero, Rahul Dravid, pushed us to a 130-plus score and gave our bowlers something to bowl at. My father, pessimistic as always, like most other Indian fathers, was already done with the RCB team. Little did he know what was to come in the years ahead.
Anyways, my father went off to sleep after the first innings, and what a colossal mistake that was! Anil Kumble, the local hero, weaved his magic and skittled the Royals to a meagre 58. I went running to the room to wake my dad up and narrate what had just happened, something I would do so often in the years to come. My dad woke up, rushed to the TV screen in amazement — again, something that would happen often in the future.
It was special — a game I can never forget. That moment for me kickstarted a bond with the RCB that, at the time, I did not know would give me several highs while also increasing my stress levels occasionally.
Would I have wanted to win more over the years? Yeah, sure.
Would I have wished to support any other team in the IPL? Definitely not.
Yeah, some fans would love to win it all. But I’m not one of them. It’s the feeling of playing the game even when you’re not that tells you you’re in the right place. Every sweet cover drive of Kohli’s bat, every stunning ramp shot AB played, and the incredible striking from Chris Gayle makes you pound your chest and scream your lungs out. It’s that feeling that is unmatched.
Some nights are incredibly hard to let go of. The day Chris Gayle came to Chinnaswamy and said he was going to give us all a night to remember, you would have wanted to be there. You wanted to back the team when he scored all those runs in Bangalore against the Pune Warriors and still holds the record for the highest-ever score by an individual batter in the shortest format of the game. In my opinion, that’s the kind of day you’re lucky to be a part of. Again, I think he will hold the record for ten more years at the minimum.
To have witnessed that incredible season from Virat Kohli’s bat in 2016 — to score nearly a thousand runs in an IPL season with an average of 81 is something I will probably never get to see again.
To be a part of a culture that retires jerseys of our greatest players, to be a part of a culture that lives every second of every game, to be a part of a culture that gives us so many laughs through social media content these days — I am lucky. We are fortunate to have lived these special moments, and we’ll continue to go through the ups and down together.
Yes, there’s a tactical element and issues with the team. Maybe our Indian core of batters needs to improve, and perhaps we’ve never gone out to buy that strike bowler who will win us games single-handedly, or maybe we have just been unlucky.
Regardless, let’s cherish the moments from this season and understand that we all feel the same way when we lose — Maxi’s breathtaking batting, Siraj’s incredible energy at the beginning of matches, Faf’s lead at the top of the run charts, and Virat’s excellent hundreds.
To be honest, I have never seen a fanbase as affected as the RCB’s when the team don’t do well, but I also haven’t seen a fanbase celebrate in the manner that we do.
To know that I’m a part of a crowd that lives every game and is fully committed to supporting the team, and to see that we have someone in there who feels us (Kohli) and goes through the same rollercoaster year on year but still comes out and gives it his all, is enough. I’m happy and proud.
I’m glad I have the RCB, because when I have a terrible day, I know the team can turn my mood around, and that’s something I look forward to. Not the trophies, not the silverware, just the irrational effect that the team have on me.
Don’t forget. You have a trophy one year, the next year you may or may not, but you’ll always have the team.
Ee sala, yella sala, RCB namde.