Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Bridge on the River Hocking

A lot of water has flown under the bridge on the river Hocking in this past one week. Experts familiar with the geography of Southeastern Ohio would argue that "a lot of water" does not flow under any bridge on the Hocking, but this is late winter and melting snow has turned this joke of a river into a seething mass of water that twists and turns its way towards the Ohio River.
I know I have a penchant for going off track, but sometimes I start making parallels and my imagination goes overdrive. All the references to the bridges and the water are to talk about the goings on in South Africa at the World Cup 2003. The Proteas out of the Cup and it is difficult to say who is more responsible for their state. The Pakistani’s are out too and in this case we know for sure what went wrong. Any team that brawls among themselves is likely to end this way. Inzamam not only resembles a vegetable but I think has the brains of one too. Australia has taken their usual place in the Super Six and India look to be the only team that can beat this Aussie juggernaut, their earlier defeat not withstanding. The Indians are peaking and as this article says, its only a matter of winning 7 straight games in a row (of which two have already been won) and then the cup is in safe hands. But the same article also throws up several interesting scenarios. Imagine Kenya in the semi finals. It is very much possible.
To my greatest disappointment, cricket’s equivalent of the “Mexican Standoff” did not happen, though it was close to becoming a reality. If England had beaten Australia, they would have made the Super Six and then all three qualifiers from Group A would have beaten each other and India and Australia would have carried through equal points to the Super Six to take the top two positions.
But trust Hussain to muff it up. It was only a matter of attacking the weaker batsman and Hussain let down not only his adopted countrymen, but also a number of aficionados from the nation of his birth. In my opinion, Saurav Ganguly came halfway through to emulating Hussain (albeit earlier), but a great catch by the “Butcher from Najafgarh” ensured that all was well. Other than all these great performances, the rain gods spoiled the scene for more than one team. If only the weather gods were so kind with Chennai.
West Indies and South Africa should be disappointed about losing their places in the premier league, but Ali Bacher should be castrated for the claim that rain “only 2 of the 40 matches played so far have been rained out” because it is very much evident that these two rained off matches have perhaps turned this Super League into a joke. But this rain has also meant that India’s entry into the semi finals is more or less certain. Only a loss to Kenya would prevent them reach that stage. But defeat cannot be ruled out, because the Kenyan unit (regardless of the drubbing that they received from one Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar in the 1999 World Cup) has made it a habit to dish out a few surprises. With an Indian and that too a former attacking batsman in his heydays, incharge of the coaching faculty makes this bunch a potent threat. If I were in Saurav Ganguly’s team, I would not be taking this match as batting practice, save for the man who performs an act of GOD each time he walks in.
And I would not be too worried (atleast publicly) about playing under lights. Basically because, in saying so you have just given the initiative to the opposing camp. In these days of hyper competition, that wee bit loss of initiative would prove costly in a crunch situation. With Sachin going strong and the others giving him support the way they have been doing throughout this tourney, India should be the most confident team around the Cape region of Africa at the moment. With the bowling coming strong too, I foresee lots of problems for opposing teams if India bowls second in a night game.
Now for something that I wanted to avoid talking about, but have to because I still have a wee bit of the average Indian cricket fan in me. The victory against Pakistan ! Though the Indian team has certainly put the Pakistan victory past them and has started concentrating on the larger goal (i.e. the CUP), most Indian fans are still nursing hangovers from the Sachin blast. Most people that I talk to tell me that they are satisfied with India beating Pakistan and that it does not matter if the cup is won or not. This attitude is just what opponents of cricket (read “noted academicians” and “fashionable socialists”) who have made it a habit to attack cricket fans have been seizing.
In the last few weeks, a number of forwards have been doing the rounds of cyberspace, concerning the last World cup (1999) in England and how the spotlight on the (non) performance of the Indian team eclipsed the plight of the soldiers in the Drass sector. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against my own countrymen, but it is just that too much has been made out of too little. Too little because propaganda is the most potent weapon in any conflict and if the Indian or the Pakistani governments let cricket take the stage instead of their own soldiers, it means that something is wrong with their propaganda machine. The average man in the villages of Baluchistan or Bihar is probably unaware of the state of things even in the next state, let alone in the neighboring country. It is left to the respective governments to educate the people about their stand. It is unfair to blame cricket and the players for the mindset of the people and this is just like blaming Rajinikanth for my low scores in Math in my undergrad. My low scores in Math were due to my carelessness and not due to the fact that Rajinikanth chose to schedule the release of “Padaiyappa” close to my final examinations.
Let the game go on in the playing fields. Lets not equate victories in the turf to those in the killing fields. War itself is a crime against humanity. Lets not compound that by talking about it in the same breath as sport. And Pakistan is not the END. The end (or I should say, the beginning) shall come on March 21st when Saurav Chandidas Ganguly lifts the CUP on the field at the Wanderers at Johannesburg. Let us all, Navjot Singh Sidhu and Krishnamachari Srikkanth included, egg the team on towards that goal.

Quote of the Day: "I detest that man who hides one thing in the depths of his heart, and speaks for another." (Homer)

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