Friday, May 18, 2007

Musings on the Cricket in the Middle-East

Kunal Diwan

Maybe I am anti-patriotic to the extent of being vitriolic, but you will have to accept that cricket matches not involving 'Team India' are markedly refreshing. The kind of zeal that lanky youngsters from Sri Lanka and Pakistan bring to the game is sorely lacking in the overweight, over-hyped paper tigers from India. Anyways, there must be something in the air of these Middle Eastern countries (Sharjah, Morocco, Abu Dhabi...) that unfailingly produces dramatic, edge-of-the-seat contests.

Searching unity under a young captain after the World Cup and Woolmer debacle, Pakistan matched skills with Sri Lanka who were looking to reassert their status as Cup Finalists.

Batting first Sri Lanka stuttered, pottered and finally sprinted to 235, a total which hinged on a brisk 69 by Maharoof. Shrugging off three untimely run-outs and some accurate fast bowling by Sami and Gul, SL was helped on by a solid knock 47 by Chamara Silva.

With his team far from safety at 194-7 in the 44th over, Maharoof was seen striding down the pitch to converse with his partner Bandara. He thumped his chest as if to say – "I am in charge here, just don't do anything silly." In fact, Maharoof countered wasteful batting by both Bandara and the very irritating Lasith Malinga by some lusty hitting at the end.

Both Sami and Asif bowled fast and straight; Umar Gul picked up three wickets but was carted for 61 off his ten. Maharoof managed a smile when he was outwitted by a wily slower one
from Gul, and yet another smile when he hoisted the next delivery over long-off for a six. It was an apt representation of Kipling's lines – "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat these impostors just the same." These are the young and fearless of modern international cricket, unblemished by nauseatingly burgeoning bank accounts and channelling their gully-cricket instincts into the international arena. Australia had better watch out. But then, the
Aussies ain't scared of anything either.

Pakistan began in trademark fashion, Imran Nazir whacking the wayward Malinga and Maharoof for boundaries in the first few overs. It is one of crickets great mysteries how a bowler with an action as ungainly and discordant as Malinga can be so successful at this level. I guess the batsmen are distracted to the extent of losing their wicket, for at the time of release, Malinga's arm, forget about being parallel to his torso, is nearly perpendicular to his body. Nevertheless, I shall keep my trap shut in light of the freak's great success in the games' premier event.

Razzaq looks like a roadside romeo in his new hair-do. Even though they're essentially of the same genetic stock, I can somehow identify a Pakistani miles away. Maybe it's their prognathic upper teeth or the general 'cheapness' that surrounds them. This is not to say that the VHP inspired miscreants in UP and Bihar are not cheap – they're even cheaper - but still the Paki brand of crassness is singularly unique. I would have to attribute my skill to endlessly watching Pak mutilate India on the cricket field in my formative years, where I painstakingly studied each and every mannerism of these brash victors for the secret of their success. "Killer Instinct" is what Henry Blofeld and co. called it in those days. Where is Mr. Blofeld these days? He's probably too old now to even admire earrings, but you never know. You can take a man out of voyeurism, but you can't take voyeurism out of a man.

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