Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cricket for those who wait

I was talking to my buddy Jon the other day. He happens to be British and wraps the game of cricket around the grandfather coat he wears from time to time. He has other typical British qualities as well and since this post is not about Jon or those British qualities he so admirably carries around with a bit of nonchalance, let me just say he is an extremely likable chap.

Couple of months ago, before the England team started touring this part of the subcontinent, he appeared concerned, which made me equally concerned as I always marveled at his ability to stay unfazed under any circumstances (once he managed to fend off a Grizzly bear by just being himself which is another story). But when his usual smiles turned distinctly sarcastic, I asked him straight face what the matter was.

Turned out that he was wondering whether his team have learned their lessons, having showed up poorly in Pakistan, leading to an early demise of the post-Ashes euphoria. I agreed that it was indeed a matter of grave concern but he wasn't finished.
"We" he said, "are the second best team in the world", as if it meant something. "Last night while doing the crosswords I realized Ashley Giles MBE will miss the entire tour".

Since I have never heard anyone previously worried about the presence or absence of Ashley Giles MBE, I wondered what he had for breakfast.

"It is a good sign that Giles is unavailable; now people will start taking them more seriously", I assured which made him look at me in a most queer way. Clearly the hopes of british fans do not necessarily revolve around quality.

He was skeptic or so I gathered. I understood where he was coming from, how difficult to be in his shoes; the pain and the pressure of being a fan whose hopes materialize approximately every twenty years or so (the Ashes for example).

I continued what I thought an outstanding social service. " Good things come to those who wait. You waited for the Ashes for eighteen years and the last time you won a series in India was exactly twenty years ago".

********
I left for India for a month in February. I wished him good luck knowing that he will need a lot of it. On 27th I received the following email from Jon that pretty much summed up the then current situation.

"What the hell do you think you're doing to my cricket team?! You just 'happen' to be on a month long tour of India, and our players just 'happen' to be sustaining injuries left, right and centre! Don't think I can't see what you're up to!"

"Trescothick will be missed", I wrote in my reply. " He is your obvious money guy on subcontinent pitches. But I fail to see how it could affect the final outcome. "

I assume he thought it was a joke because I never heard back from him.
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Injury excuses notwithstanding, in what followed shortly after, the visitors showed plenty of cricket in the first test. They managed a respectable draw and for a while even danced to the hope of a win on day five. It was pretty impressive and I called him to congratulate.
His voice was like a proud father. " We are still number two and the slot is for yours' to take and not ours' to give," Left with no choice I reminded him that it is his team which hasn't figured out how to win on Indian soil for two decades.

The convincing win for Team India at Mohali however dismantled my theory of good things come to those who wait for twenty years or so.

So much for the pride of being number two.

********

Random notes:

* I suggest two beers might help anyone looking at the brighter side of the prospect of Ian Blackwell.

* Flintoff scored nine runs in four innings during the 2001 tour; Liam Plunkett has scored ten runs in his last four test innings so far; not exactly Flintoffesque (2001 edition) but raises hope for 2011".

*Even playing for pride, no matter how abused cliche it is, makes a lot of sense now. Now that the team India is playing against is not Bangladesh, Kenya or Zimbabwe, I feel somewhere Ricky ponting is smiling.

***********************
I sincerely wish our Guests enjoy Mumbai. I was there only last month and besides being ripped off by the cabwala, I enjoyed every other moment visiting old friends and having few beers. Some things never change: Prawn Koliwada at Mahesh was awesome as usual.

Jon might take solace in the fact that Ashes is just few months away.

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