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February 1, 2000


India Down Under

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Bon appetit!

Sonia Savkar

The date is 21st January. It's a Friday. Pakistan is playing against India which, for the Indians, is a win-or-die situation. Since they think they have a choice, they take the latter option, and as the scenes and sounds of yet another defeat fade away I avoid looking into the mirror. For fear that I might be tempted to go in for a facelift just so I can get rid of the droop!

But then I remember something Harsha Bhogle had written in his article some days back. He had remarked (with a kind of wonder) that when the good players in the team are doing very well the rest of the players perk up and look hungry and eager, as for example happened during Srinath's wonderful spell the other day. Or when Tendulkar and Ganguly put on that 100-run partnership to have Pakistan looking a touch uncomfortable today.

Now, I trust Harsha Bhogle. There's no way he's going to lie about this, but as I rewind back a bit in my memory (I did this thrice to make sure), I distinctly recall not seeing any hunger pangs on VVS Laxman's face. And come to think of it, Jacob Martin looked a bit stuffed, as if he'd had an extra helping at lunch and was finding it difficult to run. As for the rest, if anything they looked hungry and eager to get back to their coach asap.

Deciding that this matter needed settling, I called up some of the players in Hobart. This was easier than I thought. All I had to do was give my name as Joan, and say I was trying to decide who was the sexiest player on the Indian team. It was amazing how helpful they all were on hearing that. So, here are the (edited) conversations I had. Make that, never had. Me: Hi, VVS, how was your day?

VVS: Terrible! Imagine trying to live upto my own feat in the last test all the time. I wish people would wait till the last match in this series!

Me: But Sachin and Ganguly played very well, did you feel any...

VVS: What should I feel except that that's what they are there for, right? But tell me Joan, did you notice how once, when the ball hit me on the thigh region my muscles rippled beneath my...

Me: Er, I meant did you feel any hunger and eagerness when you walked in after Ganguly?

VVS: Well, Paaji let me have only the salad as I was batting at No.3, but luckily I managed to eat a couple of dosas a fan managed to sneak to me. lowering voice And I'm always eager, Joan, to meet a great journalist like you...'

I moved on, hastily, to the next in my line of calls to make. This was to Rahul Dravid, towards whom, I must confess, I am somewhat partial.

Me. (Coyly). Hi, Rahul.

RD: Hi, Joan. HOw can I help you?

Me. We..ell, I just wanted you to know that I'm sure you must have tried very hard today to get some runs.

RD: You're very perceptive, Joan.

Me: And I'm sure it was just sheer bad luck that you got out.

RD: As sheer as you can get, Joan.

Me: And the hunger and eagerness to win was there.

RD: Ditto, Joan.

Me. Umm, would you like to say something in your defence?

RD: Yes! Sheer..hunger..eagerness..sexiest man! I'm so tired of hearing these words from women all the time. First India, now Australia! It makes a man so shaky it's no wonder I've lost my touch...!

I beat a hasty retreat, and went on to the next one -- Anil Kumble.

Me: Firstly, I think you did a great job by bowling so well today.

AK: What do you mean, today, Joan? Ha ha ha, you've got a good sense of humor. You mean everyday, don't you?

Me: It's a pity you've lost your batting touch. If only you could have made 20 more runs.

AK: 20 runs! That's the extra amount Mohanty gave away, Joan. You want I should mop up his mess? No, let him learn his lesson the hard way.

Me: What about the hunger and eagerness to win after all that hard work by the openers?

AK: Hey, I never said no! But did you get a load of Dighe and Sri and Mohanty and Prasad? In your eagerness to glorify hunger, Joan, you forget that too many cooks spoil the stew, and boy, was it a stew out there! The lesson to be learnt here is, it's the batsmen's job to get the runs and the bowler's to bowl.

Me: I've heard you are a computer whiz.

AK: Well, it's interesting you mention that, Joan. Check out my sites. There's one where I sell my software. Another solely devoted to my 10 and I'm thinking of having one where I advise young and upcoming bowlers on the importance of being allrounders. Do my bit for the country and cricket.

Me: Very commendable. No wonder many women find you appealing.

AK: It's even more interesting you mention that, Joan. Check out a site where you can read all about that...

I pass on his kind offer and get Samir Dighe on the line.

Me: There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the wicketkeepers. How do you feel about pipping Mongia and Prasad to the post in this series?

SD: Well, Joan, I've always mantained that Fortune favors the favoured!

Me: Indeed. And no doubt you will mantain the tradition of the WK being being a good batsman?

SD: I'm alway's willing to do my bit for the team, Joan.

Me: And a bit is what you did. But surely you felt the hunger and eagerness to win after that fantastic opening?

SD: Just between you and me, Joan, I've learned to curb my appetite. After all, no one's going to give me the man of the match! Fortune favours the prudent, and prudency demands that rather than get out to a rash cover drive I show the selectors my growing ability for lengthy defensive play.

Me: Hmmm. So that is your modus operandi...

SD: That's Modus OperIndia, Joan! You do what's good for YOU. Mongia had the looks but not the brains to understand that. I've always mantained that Fortune favours the one who has both, and that is why it's me and not him who's talking to you, Joan...

At this point, I figure I've gleaned enough.

Harsha is right - the Indians are alive, and hungry. It is only that they look asleep!

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