Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cricket: There’s life after World Cup for Team India

Let’s look at the positives. We beat Bermuda, didn’t we? Why not build on this win. Let’s now try out Outer Mongolia (trust they have a cricket team), and thus, strike a winning streak. I don’t see the great idea in India playing the same teams – Sri Lanka, Australia, Pakistan etc. – year after year. If Indian cricket has to survive (for the benefit of sponsors and live telecast right-holders) we need to look at fresh pastures beyond our sub-continent.

We under-rated Bangladesh, which has been one of our unfailing failures. It is time India started playing sure winnables. I already mentioned Outer Mongolia. We could tour Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and Brunei. That would be a morale booster, and give our boys the feel of victory, so that our team members can come home to a grand airport reception. This time I visualise our team flying home from Jamaica, on a late night flight, and be whisked away from the airport by the personnel on bandobast duty.

Speaking of airport receptions, newspapers carry a photo of Pak team transiting London’s Heathrow under police escort, presumably, to guard them from being ambushed by enraged fans. Heathrow has a sizeable staff strength of Asians, including Pakistanis. I guess, there is scope for bilateral exchanges with Pakistan on ways to improve cricketing fortunes to the mutual benefit of both countries. I don’t mean we play a World Cup losers’ Cup tie. In fact, an India-Pakistan series at this time would not be a good idea. If only because, we can’t ensure that neither India nor Pakistan lost any match. We could resort to match-fixing by which every tie is made to end in a draw.

I have an out-of-the-box idea. Let us hold a joint selection camp of cricket players from both India and Pakistan; split the top 22 into two opposing teams, comprising players chosen irrespective of their national colours. In fact, the ‘blues’ and ‘greens’ on the field would be replaced with plain old white, the only colour our old-fashioned cricketers knew.

Speaking of old-fashioned cricketers, the opposing teams should be led by legends such as Zaheer Abbas and Sunil Gavaskar, as non-playing captains. We could call it the Sadbhavana Cup. Legend has it that during an India-Pak tie when Abbas got into a seemingly unending run-spree, the then India captain, Sunil Gavaskar walked up to him to say, “Zaheer bhai, Ab-bas karo”.

Zaheer Abbas, interviewed on an Indian sports TV channel, didn’t confirm this story, but said that Sunil was his good friend. So was Bishen Singh Bedi. During their tours overseas both team members socialized. Zaheer recalled the match in which he completed 100 centuries. That evening Zaheer hosted a party – “every member of the Indian team I invited turned up at the party”.

Former Pak captain, referring to an India tour of Pakistan, said he didn’t sleep during the entire five weeks of the tour. Indian bowling trio, said Zaheer Abbas, was so much on his mind that he spent sleepless nights thinking of ways to cope with Bedi, Prasanna and Chandrasekhar.

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