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April 4, 2000

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Baying for Blue

Sujata Prakash

Itís been quite a revelatory week of cricket in Sharjah. This is the venue which time and again separates the movers from the slackers. Pakistan make no bones about it bringing out the best in them, while for some peculiar reason whatever fight the Indians have is submerged even as they board the plane at Mumbai.. They must have realized the futility of trying to reach the finals with Pakistan in the contention, for if reports are to be believed they shrugged off the tedium of nets as an unnecessary strain and preferred to go shopping instead. The other teams meanwhile, faithfully went through the grind with gritted teeth and a determination which comes from having a firm purpose.

If Pakistan won it was by dint of being fueled by sheer emotion. You can single out instances like the five wicket haul by Waqar or the bursts of volcanic energy by Shoaib, but itís the belief that pumps the adrenalin. The belief that fans are rooting for them and their loyalties should not go unrewarded and the belief that old foe India must be vanquished. Devoid of such passion, the Indians resemble robots doing the job mechanically and silently.

Hansie Cronje is another man who believes in harnessing this passion generated by a stadium full of cheering fans. He has appealed for the home fans to come out wearing the national colors when SA meets Australia for the first ODI in Durban. Isntít that marvelous? What better way to drive home the raison díetre to players than to have a stadium awash with bright green and yellow! It could make a huge difference and Cronje is banking on it doing so.

Contrast this with the attitude of our players. I think they have blanked out the existence of such a word as intelligent communication. There is no need for them to emulate the board members and appear silent and ignorant. Ignorant of the fact that if you speak to the fans directly from the heart, as Wasim and Moin and Steve and Hansie do, we listen. For all that I admire Ganguly and his capabilities, I wish he would adopt a very open and interactive stance with us fans. We need to know the weaknesses and fears and insecurities that he encounters, and if we can do something about it, we need to know that too.

Perhaps as followers of this game, we lack the spirit and initiative that is needed to make a team rise higher than itís worth. Perhaps we should take matters into our own hands and without being asked to, turn out en masse in blue. It is disturbing to read that while the Australians continue wearing their caps and colours with pride after a match and during the presentations, the Indians canít wait to change into normal attire and what caps they sport are the ones displaying sponsor logos and endorsement labels. It shouldnít be allowed to happen, but patriotism cannot be enforced by a group which itself cannot stand up to the scrutiny. If we want them to change, then perhaps we have to show the way.

So next time thereís a crucial game, let's think of a way to pass this message on to those who head for the ground, ĎFolks, wear your brightest and bluestí. Let the boys see that we care not just for a team, but the Indian team. Reinstill in them the belief that itís not just a color, but the color which brought them here in the first place. Let's start thinking of ways to change from being mere spectators to Ďpart of the crisis management group.í

Sujata Prakash

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