Prem Panicker


IN the Bible, there is this mention of a woman who spake in many tongues.

Being a good Hindu, I believe in rebirth. And it is my firm conviction that that particular she-male was born again, in male avtaar, as Raj Singh Dungarpur.

Check the following statements out:

1) 'There is nothing wrong with Azhar's captaincy'

2) 'Azhar's batting form is okay, it is his captaincy that is causing concern. I was never for giving him a second innings as captain, it was the selectors who insisted' (This, by the way, from the man who held a gun to the selectors' heads and forced them to confirm Azhar's appointment to lead the side for the World Cup).

3) 'There has been nothing wrong with Azhar's captaincy at all, in fact it has been very good. It was the failure of the team.'

The first statement was made after the defeats against South Africa and Zimbabwe. The second was made after the defeat against Australia in the first of the Super Sixes. The third was made after India's exit from the Super Six.

Duh?! It may be too much to expect sense from the BCCI and its head. But is it also too much to expect consistency, even in its nonsense?

And if you think this is an isolated example, think again. The cricket team's brains trust -- okay, I know that is an oxymoron, but still -- has, in its hurry to explain the collective failure, been excelling in this regard.

'Why do you say all these one-dayers are bad? It is the ideal preparation for the World Cup, we are playing more one-day cricket than any other side, it will help us when the World Cup comes around' -- thus spake Anshuman Gaekwad, shortly before the team left for England, when we asked him if perhaps there hadn't been an overdose of the short stuff.

'We played more one-day cricket than any other side, so much of one-day cricket is not good, the team was feeling jaded and not able to perform consistently' -- this from, surprise, surprise, Anshuman Gaekwad as the team prepared for the long flight back home.

Funnily enough, Brijesh Patel, former player, now manager, pulled the same double bluff on us. Before the World Cup, the inordinate number of one-day games was good preparation; on arrival in Bombay, overdose of one-day cricket was the reason for our defeat in the World Cup!

Is it that these blokes are senile? Or drunk? That under the influence of age or alcohol or both, they genuinely don't remember what they say, from one day to the next?

Or is it, as I suspect, that they don't give a damn? That, for them, a media briefing is just a chore to be gone through? That the questions we ask are mere nuisances, to be brushed aside with the first words that come to what, for want of a better word, I'll call their minds?

Or -- awful thought -- do they genuinely, honestly, believe their own nonsense?

If this last is the case, then it is, perhaps, time the obituary of Indian cricket was finally written. For if, after all this, you are capable only of trotting out such tripe -- when you should by any yardstick be looking to genuinely probe your performance, identify the weaknesses and seek remedies -- then you really don't have a future, do you?

IN all the hoopla about the tournament rules -- most of it coming from the nations that didn't, one way or other, make the grade -- we seem to have forgotten those two mad mathematicians, Duckworth and Lewis.

As it turned out, those two gents didn't have much of an impact on this World Cup. But one of these days, a big team (and by big, I don't mean a team like India, which meekly accepts the slings and arrows of outrageous rulebooks, but a side like say South Africa which, if it doesn't like the rules, lobbies the heck out of them and gets them changed) is going to cop it in the neck in some ultra-crucial game, and then we'll hear all about it.

Ever since May 10, I have been waiting, stifling a chuckle, for this whole rain rules issue to blow up big time. What happened on May 10? Nothing much -- just a practice game at Edgbaston, featuring the West Indies and Warwickshire. Batting first, the West Indies managed 228/4 in 47 overs of the allotted 50. Then the rains came down. When play resumed, it was decided that Warwickshire had enough time to play 47 overs -- which, in case you need reminding, is what the Windies got in the first place. But this being a rain-interrupted fixture, Duckworth and Lewis stuck their fingers into the mix, and guess what they came up with?

This -- Warwickshire were asked to score 245 in 47 overs to win the match. 17 runs more than the West Indies got, in fact. I must be missing something here -- did they, without telling me, change the rules so that now, a cricket match can be won by the side scoring fewer runs?

Now what if that had happened yesterday, in the Australia-South Africa semifinal?

Darn it all, what is it going to take before someone in authority throw those two boffins out of the woodwork and come up with a simple formula that the average joe -- and there is no joe as average as your international cricketer, believe me, or reporters like us who cover their doings -- can understand?

IN 1996, if you can throw your mind that far back in time, the international press was at its sarcastic best. Their target? The 'gross mismanagement' of the World Cup that year, by India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Hell, they cribbed, the stupid Indians couldn't even do a laser show right, the wind kept spoiling the fun.

Yeah, right. So I, for one, waited three years, for the Cup to go back to cricket's Mecca, so I could learn what good, honest, true-blue British management was all about.

Now I know. The official World Cup song -- never mind that you need a label stuck on it to realise it is about the World Cup, or even about cricket, since the words are absent from the lyrics -- is released after 30 matches of the 42-match programme are gone through, and the host nation has already been dumped.

The security -- something every visiting British journalist has a dig at when travelling in India, for all the world as though they were being routinely mobbed every time they set foot outside their hotel rooms -- was so stringent that there was a crowd invasion after every single game; the first semifinal between Pakistan and New Zealand had to be deemed complete because with two to get, the batsman played a stroke and ran, not between the wickets but towards the pavilion for fear of the invading hordes...

You get the drift?

Ah, they'll say, but you see we were doing it with a noble aim (While on this, the British seem to do everything with a noble aim -- even when they shoot themselves in the foot, the aim is admirably noble). We are making cricket a carnival, see? Making the thing a vast picnic, getting the wife and kiddies involved, only way to ensure that cricket grows, don't you see?

Yeah, right, thanks for the see-nery, all you guys in the World Cup organising committee and the respective county committees, it has been unmitigated fun. So fun, I didn't need Conan O'Brien for the duration.

My pick of golden moment of the World Cup? Easily that moment, prior to that game between Warwickshire and the West Indies alluded to before. When -- don't ask me why -- the two teams were lined up on the field to watch the 'marriage' of Warwickshire mascot Hugh Bear to a shy, dimpling, white-gowned she-bear named Carmen.

Only the chronic cribber, in the presence of such an edifying spectacle, would wonder why 'Carmen' was played by a middle aged, bearded Warwickshire watchman.

And these blokes complain about our lack of organisational skills?

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