Like many major sporting events in 2020, the IPL, India’s world-famous and spectacular Twenty20 cricket tournament, has been delayed and is taking place in very different circumstances than usual. However it is now well underway and at least two big Chelsea fans are taking part.
The contrast this year to the matches normally played in front of the colourful and noisy crowds that pack the stadiums is akin to the difference being felt keenly in English football’s Premier League, but England and Surrey cricketing brothers Sam and Tom Curran are out there in United Arab Emirates, which is the one-off behind-closed-doors hosts for the IPL this year.Both players are much involved so far, with Sam especially doing well in these early stages for Chennai Super Kings.Back before lockdown last season, when he was a visitor to Stamford Bridge for one of our matches, we caught up with Sam to talk about supporting Chelsea and especially about football’s following in India among the cricket community there, with one very famous name mentioned!‘I tour quite a lot, including to India for the IPL, which is a great deal of fun, so I don’t come to Chelsea as much as I’d like which is annoying because I love coming to Chelsea,’ the 22-year-old told us, ‘but I still follow them on the live stream when we are abroad and always I wake up a bit early when the time difference means you have to.
‘But I try to come to games as much as possible. I can be at home for only a few weeks in the whole winter but as soon as I know there is a Chelsea game on I try to get down because I love coming. I live around the London area so it is quite easy access.’Sam’s first live Chelsea game got him off to a good start – a 3-0 over Newcastle in 2014 when Eden Hazard scored a hat-trick, and having been bitten by the Blues bug, he explained that for once, jet lag can actually be useful when in Australia or New Zealand and needing to get up at ridiculous hours to watch a Chelsea match live.
That is less of a consideration this year in the Middle East but Sam also has previous experience of playing in the IPL when it is in India, and he believes that is when cricket does match the atmosphere at a big football game.‘I always say that cricket in India is probably similar to football in England, the way people love their own sports. My first time in India was pretty amazing in terms of 50,000 people screaming at us on the pitch, which is pretty cool, and Chelsea have great support around the world and they can replicate that in a way. I am sure there a lot of fans in India watching Chelsea games.
‘Football is definitely getting bigger there. They do have a lot of football streaming and just the love for sport in India is huge.
‘There were a lot of Man United fans in the team I played for last year [Kings XI Punjab] but there were a lot of Chelsea fans when I went to a bar in India to watch the football with a few of the local players. Anywhere football is massive, it is a great game, pretty short and sharp, and the guys in India love it.’
Which brings us to the question, would any of the Indian cricketers make a good football player? Sam instantly plumps for India’s superstar captain.
‘I know Virat Kohli is a big football fan. I am not exactly sure which team he supports but I would say he would be a very good football player.
‘A lot of the cricket teams actually warm up playing football. There have been a few injuries so with England we have been banned from doing that for sensible reasons, but I love playing football, even if it is just kicking a ball around a bit. In India a lot of their players warm up with football boots on which is quite interesting.
‘I don’t know which Chelsea players are cricket fans,’ he adds, turning the spotlight around the other way, ‘but I know Frank Lampard is a massive cricket fan.‘Alec Stewart, my boss at Surrey, is a massive Chelsea fan and he always says when Frank might come down to the Oval. Hopefully in the summer Frank can come down and watch us play which will be exciting.’