Something that has become abundantly clear to me over the last few months is that I cannot be a cricket fan. This was brought home in a very large sense for me on Friday night when I watched the most exciting and intense game of cricket ever.
Sadly though it was a Twenty20 match and so that makes me "common", and not a real fan at all.
Dom, my friend and guide for the evening assured me that the newer, shorter form of the game was the way of the future. One day games, and possibly even test matches, would become a thing of the past in this world of YouTube-length attention spans. Twenty20, at roughly two or three hours, is a perfect summer night sports event.
But I didn't agree with Dom. Test matches are the pure form of the game. The marathon compared to the 400m that is the one-day game and the 100m sprint of Twenty20. And TV needs all three forms as well.
Tests fill in those long hot weekdays of summer, lazing about, leather on Willow (capital letter added to make Emma giggle), and all the slow pace that you expect from the English game. While one-dayers have the appeal of a single day event, like a music festival, you go and be a bit loud and the best bit is the final act.
Twenty20 is bubblegum cricket. You only have to go for a short time you don't have to pace yourself (much like the young gentleman who was removed by the police on Friday). You can enjoy, without being bored by, slow overs where the field is set and reset (you can also boo, naturally).
As the last over started on Friday, Dom and I were quite loud. I assume we were also quite funny because we were getting looked at by other crowd members.
All around us and all over the stadium there were signs and flags supporting the Indians. One sign said "Slum Slog Cricketeers", how very clever. Directly above us there was an enclave of Indian supporters, whose flags would be thrown about this immense pride whenever India took a wicket or hit a particularly good ball.
And the Indian fans need so much credit. I know at times they can be over the top, setting things on fire and whatnot, but the ones at the Stadium on Friday were screaming and shouting and whipping the rather dull New Zealanders into a frenzy.
This lot were part of the largest gathering, despite security's best efforts to make them disperse. Why are they such dicks? When I went down with my media pass I was told to "take your photos and get out". I promptly took a large number of pics and interviewed one of the loudest guys, and basically took my time.
And this was the loudest guy, a local supporting New Zealand (seriously), was insistent that the greatest cricketer in the world at the moment was Brendan McCullum and that Virender Sehwag was maybe second. And he only added Sehwag upon my follow up question of "really?"
He was, however, intensely proud of the Indian team and he was just generally stoked to see them play. As it seems were all the other fans (including the guy we saw in the Sri Lankan uniform). But the best part was I couldn't believe there were no munters (apart from the aforementioned man who was removed).
Half time at the Twenty20 was embarrassing. Dom and I dubbed it Westpac Side Story, because we are hilarious when drunk. What I liked was that the two sets of girls who were having the fake dance fight were called "entertainment dancers" by the ground announcer.
Oh and it was not long after the dancers and about the time the gentlemen was being arrested that the stadium filled with smoke. Others noticed but the game was already looking good but I don't anyone wanted to evacuate until after the final over.
And what a final over. Dom was sure all they needed was four fours. First ball we got a single. Then another. And another. The crowd were anxious. Both sets of supporters felt that the entire match was going to come down to these last three balls like some poorly written sports biopic.
A four! We went, as the saying goes, a little mental.
Another four! At this point we were just roaring. It had little to do with cheering it was just us putting all of our effort into making noise.
At some point in this over another munter showed up. He threw a bottle at a security guard. Much like this paragraph, all it did was break up the game and remove some of the tension, which, despite how much tension hung in the air, was not a relief.
The last ball was ready. The Indian fielders had crowded in to stop the single. McCullum swung and it lobbed up into the air.
Everyone went nuts. Kiwi fans thought it was going for miles. Indian fans thought it was a sitter.
Everyone went quiet. Kiwi fans thought it was going to be caught. Indian fans thought it was going to be dropped.
The ball grazed the fingers of the unnamed fielder and fell to earth and we, once again, went nuts.
I have a gauge on sporting events: when I leave, if I can still speak without sounding like Bonnie Tyler, then it sucked. When I got home on Friday I could barely speak at all. I finally like cricket, it's just the wrong kind.
[update: all of my pics are in this Flickr set, including this shot of <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hadyn/3319961844/in/set-72157609394483688/" target="_blank"Jesse Ryder]