Blowing Kisses in the Air
Capt Ghulam Hussainn
The much-touted recent cricket series between India and Pakistan has finally concluded with the hitherto "relegated" team emerging as victors, and the Indians whimpering to an unfulfilled climax. It was a performance below par for the Indians in their home ground, having drummed up a chaotic foreplay but not being able to maintain their form when it mattered most.
During the tests, perhaps both the teams came up with equal honours. Sehwag's average was commendable and aggressive, Tendulkar did not have his fairy tale hundred when it mattered, Dravid was as always, a rock, albeit without the characteristic ease of yester years. Surely they have under performed. The bowling was mediocre to say the least and the wizardry of their famed spin attack held no potion of reckoning. Dhoni seemed to be the only positive discovery for India with Kaif doing his acrobatic somersaults along the peppered inner circle now and then, almost a comic relief to the sobbing Indian fable.
Pakistan on the other hand did everything right. With extremely limited resources in the bowling department, their batsmen contributed regularly and they played to their potential. Everyone seemed to come to form when it mattered most. Gone were the 35 runs bonus given to the opposition with vides and no balls in each innings. Gone were the numerous fielding Lapses. Even Inzi ran faster between the wickets. They played as a team, which had nothing to lose, and they played to win.
The one dayers were Pakistan all the way. It really did not matter on what the curators said or who won the toss. They smashed their way through, tempting India with near achievable targets or chasing insurmountable ones set by India. With or without Ganguly, irrespective of whether Sehwag and Tendulkar got off to a flyer, the Indians just could not build up any worthwhile partnerships in the final decisive one dayers.
All in all, it was an over hype where the crowd who braved the heat and the humidity, did not get their money's worth nor any really good close encounters except the last ball win with Inzi on the crease on the 5th ODI. The 'excitement' off the pitch was much more, a few boos, some silence when the opposition smashed the ball to all quarters, a hush when the ball hit a camera man and the usual water bottle thrown on the pitch in disgust.
As for the commentary team, who literally breathed down the necks for almost 21 playing days in total, they were banal, (which possibly is better than being anal as in the past.) The English language is the best to play around the bush, so the speak, yet not one commentator seems to have the real gift of the gab nor have any kissed the Blarney Stone, yet. Perhaps we are being harsh on them and are trying to re-live the days when radio alone was the means of following a match. After all, what are words today, when we have the options of close ups of pretty faces (or grim ones of the players). The statistics given were commendable (206th six for Afridi etc ... thank you computers), but the "human" and the humane aspects were missing. Commentary should be interesting, the voice modulation should be impeccable, it should be technicalities when and it required only, but spruced with bits of everything. Not a monotonous tirade. One cannot 'feel' the noise of the crowd, nor revel in the 'silence' of a bat stroking a ball when one is subjected to 20 minutes of Mad Lal (who presumably is better then Harsh Bugle or even Sid Who), coming up with his barrage of "on the stumps, stump to stump, over and round the wicket, on the rough, short pitched, variable bounce and going down leg".
Waffling is but an art; one has to convince the listener it is a worthwhile waffle. One should not be repetitive, nor do a sudden Manjrekar, by asking why Tendulkar was not being brought on to the attack with his varied leg break and off break and dipping delivery or slower ball. Did he very seriously think the Captain was an oaf out there? Or perhaps he was.
Cricket today is a fanfare of commercials with money raking in for the organisers. Advertisement industries churn millions on the players in India. Tendulkar is now fighting Shah Rukh Khan on screen, having given his best on Hero Hondas. Irfan does his thumb push ups, Kumble runs for miles with the "when the going gets tough" look, and Sehwag patronises condom usage. Yuvraj is running circles literally with a mobile phone or a petro product ad. Sunglasses while bowling may have not helped him either. Saurav looks uncomfortable and is dwarfed by Inzi, on and off the screen. With so much footage on the air, one wonders where they get the time to film and whether it is at the expense of the practice at the nets. And of course the entire Indian team is also shown in another ad, getting Amitabh out of the "pits." Its time they got themselves out first, from the pits and their present defeatist mood. With Wright on his way out it will be an uphill battle to bounce back since egos have been very seriously dented.
On the "friendship tour" front, Shohaib (Of the Malik fame) marries an Indian (while Balaji was the hero in Pakistan, like Pathan in Australia). If nothing else, we surely have better-looking faces on the way in. Dhoni's Bee Gees hairdo is being copied by Murali Karthik and will soon be adopted elsewhere in India. And Dinesh Mongia may have a flat face, but has high lights on his hair.
The 'friendship' clash is now over and done with. Protocols have been signed and Musharraf leaves Delhi with his birth certificate found in the original. Fortunes waver in cricket; this same Pakistani team may once again belittle themselves in the West Indies since cricket in the sub continent is played with passion, ego and not skill. Till that happens Pakistan flies home with glory and pride intact and the Indians rake the ashes looking for the ultimate clue of their defeat while their captain (ex perhaps?) languishes with a six-match ban. Its time they realised they were getting a trifle too big for their boots. As was evident on the placard of an Indian fan, that read, "Spare us, for friendships sake," as Afridi led the slaughter of the lambs in Games 5.
Zaheer, in the mean time, did not mind having his own display of sorts with the Konkona looking damsel, exchanging furtive flying kisses in the air, displayed on the big screen in the field and zoomed to millions. It was "going out with someone," the Indian way. Harmless flirtation from a distance. When nothing else goes ones way, perhaps affection from unexpected quarters do wonders to perk lagging spirits. One can only hope that after the dust has settled and the weary Indians get home, they realise that perhaps the only display (and consolation) during the series were kisses, in the air.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005