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Hocket Vs Cricket : Toss up no more? Very possible...

With each passing WC match I’m realizing that cricket is destroying my hockey core. The last match – India-Pakistan, seriously shook my hockey foundation. Something like 8.0 on the Richter scale! The thrilling tremor that passed through (me?), easily blew hockey’s roof away (in my mind).

If the India-Sri Lanka match provides me with a similar adrenaline rush, then it could be curtains for hockey as far as I am concerned. What has hockey done for me anyway in the past decade or so? Two top-shelf cricket matches could easily wash away several decades of hockey-mania. Talk about “desi” remedies.

Once again this morning I sneaked away very early before dawn to meet at a friend’s place to seek cricketing thrills. And some vicarious ones too, especially the type that  comes from comparing beauties from different stadiums in India. There’s not much between Motera and Mohali in this regards.

Anyway, let’s stick to the match and not digress.

Sehwag’s got to be cricket’s Shahbaz. Electrifying! If this guy stays for 10 full overs in a match, the opposing team’s got to seriously consider body armour. His 38 easly negated my caffeine cravings cold. Got my nerves tingling and toes curling. Orgasmic, Man! Hope in the finals he stays put for 10 or more overs. The Pakistan team did their best to gift Tedulkar his 100th hundred in both forms of the game by dropping him like a hundred times. If you count every replay of every dropped catch, the count could easily top hundred. Or was Tendulkar angling for a fielding coach’s position with Pakistan at some later time. Whichever way you look at it, the man’s entitled to a break (he’s definitely earned several breaks for that matter), every 100th match or so. It was his day (or maybe not) and his 85 “catch-dropped” studded innings was the backbone of the Indian effort nevertheless. Now the Lankans must be dreading his next knock, the Maestro’s got to make amends for his shoddy play this time. The beauty of a swinging yorker that stunned Yuvraj was merely a shade better than Nehra’s swinging LBW that destroyed Gul. Wahab Riaz has got to be the next big swing-yorkerer for Pakistan after Wasim Akram. Getting Yuvraj out for a duck and quickly getting rid of Dhoni and Tendulkar added a yard to Pakistan’s stride, but did little good as they met their nemisis in the fast re-emerging Raina. Raina’s got to be India go-to man when the chips are down. He has possibly and (hopefully) temporarily relegated Pathan to a part time fielder and 12th man. In between, Ghambir, Kohli and the fast fading Dhoni made a meager contribution. I say fast fading as a batsman; if Dhoni’s got to live up to his “ghuma ke” reputation he’s got let his (shorn) hair down and play a lusty innings of the past. The helicopter shot, though unattractive, should be employed again to good effect. Besides, he was wicket keeping from 1/2 way to the boundary when he should have been closer for the slower fasties. So that makes it 4 who are now yearning to fire in the finals. Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj and Dhoni. If some of these guys miss then there is Kohli and Ghambir to consider. Whichever way you look at it, we’re in for a rare treat in the finals, because Sanga, Mahela, Dilshan and Tharanga would also like to blaze.

This definitely does not augur well for hockey in my favorite’s list.

Pakistan’s innings, though courageous, was peppered with batsmen who were in a hurry to emulate Sehwag in the early overs and Dravid in the later ones. Atleast, Misbah Ul Haq was moulding his innings on a slower Dravid innings. Until the last 5 overs, I thought the man would explode, but this was simply not to be. Mainly because of some precious bowling by Nehra, Harbajan and Patel. I think India shone with the ball more than with the bat. No wonder cricket is called a game of surprises. Another surprise was Afridi’s releuctance to take the 2nd batting power play earlier on. Maybe the guy plumb forgot in the melee and roar of the stadium!  This Pakistan team was unlike the ones form the past. Their aggression was controlled, their bowling was without bite and the lesser said about their fielding the better. To say that the team performed beyond their ranking to reach the finals is a poor excuse for the lack of talent back home. If you loose 3 or 4 seasoned players to a betting scandal and then struggle to put up a decent team means that talent back home is drying up. The future of Pakistan cricket may not be as rosy as they would like it to be. The fact is, that this Pakistan team looked better than they were soley because India performed well below their forte.

Ouch! That hurts like a Malcolm Marshall beamer to the rib cage.

The umpiring was excellent. Billy Bowden as the TV umpire didn’t really sweat any bullets because both the guys on the field were spot on. Clinically incisive.

Indian commentators still have not found an altenative to the phrase “looking to” and our in-house statistician (a part time nuero surgeon on non-cricketing days) counted Shastri (mis)using it a 106 times! Just for this match.  And to further aggravate the poor-phrase-use malady, if you were to add up Manjrekar’s, Gavaskar’s and copy-cat Raja’s use of this “phaltu” phrase then we were exposed to it’s silliness more times than the runs chalked up by the boom-boom Afridi in all forms of the game. 20/20 and single wicket matches included! And the expatriate (for lack of better term) commentators made more gaffes than a clown on his best day. The disparity in cricketing and commentating standards is ever widening, with commentating taking an ever larger beating with every match that I watch. Someone with a better command of the language should write in to them with alternates to “looking to”. If none of you guys do, then maybe I’m looking to do it, even though my english is modestly mediocre.

The last time our tubanned PM watched a match live was during the CWG hockey final – India vs Australia. I’m happy to note his experience today was much more pleasant and gratifying. Then, Australia demolished the Indian hockey team 8-0 and the PM put up a stoic face suggesting that things could have been worse! This time, with Gilani in the same box, Manmohan Singh did his best to hide his smirk. Our taciturn PM, I’m sure, spoke words of encouragement to Gilani. A possible exchange between the two after the match could go like this: Gilani (maybe) says “Manmohan, even though Pakistan’s defeat is humiliating, maybe more than Malik’s remarks on match-fixing, I feel relaxed and safe in this box, thanks for the  invite”. And Manmohan copying the Indian commentators, replies “Yes Gilani, I was looking to get away from the scams myself, inviting you was just an excuse, now the crowd has something to gloat about”. Incidentally, both Shastri and Manjrekar referred to the spectators as “crowds” no less then a dozen times. It’s time they are told that the term “crowd” has bad connotations, more so in the sub-continent.

I’m now fully convinced that the first thing you need to do to be rich and powerful is to not do an honest day’s work.  The Ambani’s, the Mallya’s, the Singhania’s were shirking and rubbing shoulders, amongst other things, with the gliteratti and the starlets. No wonder Air India is in the red, perpetually. With their ever absconding leader – Praful Patel, more interested in playing truant and winking at the camera than guiding a propeller-less fleet of aviation management to work hard, I’m not      surprised in the least. Then there were the august members of the BCCI, looking like stuffed peacocks in their sunday best, really stuffy in ties with bordering-on-morose expressions. I guess when you are dleighted at your team delivering, you show it by non-challant, disinterested and sullen expressions. Not to forget the Amir’s, the Preity’s and the other filmy folks who were needlessly “Veeing” for victory and flashing their pearlies more than required, getting cheap publicity. The Mother-Son Gandhi team tried their best to merge with the commoner but really stood out like Nehra’s injured thumb by their orchestrated entry very close to Indian victory.

All in all a good (not great) victory for India and a happy day for a billion plus expectant cricket centric “crowd”.

Hope one day Hockey generates 1/100th the interest and 1/10,000th the revenue. That’s all I ask for. I’m not greedy, just a hopeful hockey nut.

Now for the finale, it’ll be an all blue affair. Wonder, if one of the teams is asked to don a different colour uniform. What colour and whom?

But, the real big question is, will Dhoni’s devils put one across the Sanga’s Singhas? Wait and watch. Just be on time to get on to the roller coaster ride.

And ofcourse the biggest question in my mind is…will the last match in this WC tilt my presently-fragile preference Cricket’s way?

Later

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