If paanwallahs in north India are a signpost for the election breeze, then taxi-drivers in London are often astute sports forecasters. When my London cabbie turns out to be a Pakistani who predicts that his team is heading for a heavy defeat against India in the Champions Trophy, you know the men in green are in big trouble. After all, the one thing that Pakistanis pride themselves on is the notion of ‘junoon’ (obsession) with beating the ‘Big Brother’. All that has changed now which is why the whopping 124 run loss to India in Birmingham should not come as any surprise.
One ball to go, four to get. Millions on either side of the Line of Control glued to their television sets, Ram and Allah being invoked in parallel worlds, cricket fans waiting to erupt in lavas of emotion. On strike, Javed Miandad, a warrior of many an India-Pakistan battle. Bowling to him, Chetan Sharma, a young fast bowler, probably a shade quicker than expected for a relatively short man. This was 1986: you didn't expect sixes to be hit for fun, not even in the desert of Sharjah.
A recent piece on my late father in the Wisden India Almanac was titled Luck by Talent. And that, perhaps, exemplifies Dilip Sardesai’s story.
The 2015 World Cup was fast and furious. But was it really cricket as we knew the sport, and will Team India be able to compete in a new universe where the most important skill set is just raw power?
On the night before India’s World Cup semi-finals with Australia, I innocently tweeted: ‘Heart with India, head with Australia.’ Within minutes, followers on my twitter account were enraged: Not for the first time was I branded ‘anti-national’ for even suggesting that Australia had the edge over India. I should have known better than to challenge cricket hyper-nationalism.
Prime time news television thrives on the idea of a daily enemy, someone who can be court-martialled every night and then pronounced guilty by the news anchor playing the double role of judge and prosecutor. Politicians are the staple accused, but in the last 18 months our netas have had competition from a cricket official. In news television’s imagination, N Srinivasan has come to exemplify the rot in the country’s number one sport and there have been loud calls for his removal from the cricket board.
A Mahabharata is being played out in Maharashtra even before Election Day. For the BJP Shiv Sena alliance, it's all about kaun banega mukhya mantri. The saffron alliance knows its in pole position to capture power, but wants something more: it wants the kursi of the chief minister.