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May 8, 1999

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Cutting it fine

Arun Krishnan

They are a dying breed, almost extinct. In fact, the last genuine cricket scribe existed aeons ago, about the time of the dinosaurs or probably even before that. This would be the time when the first episode of 'The Bold & the Beautiful' was aired. Browsing through billions of articles crammed with trillions of ostentatious figures, one (that's the name of the central protagonist of this piece) finds much to one's consternation that all these cricket scribes put together have not been able to predict the winner of the sixth edition of the World Cup.

Take any typical cricketing piece trying to predict the winner. UAE, Holland and Kenya have about as much chance as winning as India winning the baseball gold at the Atlanta Olympics. Pakistan and India have odds of 1:3, South Africa (slightly worse) at 3:9, New Zealand are the dark horses, Australia are the white horses, England has the distinct advantage of playing at home. The typical piece does not end here. It rambles on and delivers an ode on the glorious uncertainties of one-day cricket.

See what I mean? No clairvoyant prophet hitting the bull's eye. In fact, one gets the feeling that this entire mindless exercise won't hit the bull, let alone the eye. One simply yearns for those days of childhood, when one could easily predict that Apartment A would give Apartment B a resounding thrashing, because they had two batsmen, two bowlers and, more importantly, two umpires. Well, one does not wish to make a hollow protest. So, one will endeavor to predict the winner of the World Cup:

1. Sri Lanka is out (read O-U-T). The fat is in the fire. The reference is clearly to Arjuna Ranatunga, their skipper. What was once upright pose is now downright a dispose. Someone (not one) might reason the chest has slipped a bit, but it must have been one hell of a chest while it was still up there.

2. Australia plays hard, sledges mercilessly and wins. In fact, the training of an Aussie cricketer starts right at home. Scene: After dinner, Aussie Mom (AM):Washed your hands? Aussie Cricketer (AC): Yes Ma. AM: Learnt your expletive for the day. AC: Yes Ma. AM: For the match tomorrow, remember to carry your brass knuckles, bullet proof vest, security guards...and oh...I was forgetting, your cricket bat and pads and keep the asking rate under six an over. AC: Yes, ma. Yes, definitely the silent, solemn types. Hard boiled eggs from shell to core.

3. India look to Sachin and Kumble to spur them on. Sachin, while not giving fielders catching practise, is keeping the scorers busy with tables of four and six. He also runs across the wicket occasionally, while entering the crease and leaving for the pavilion. It is the opinion of all experts, that Kumble has all the makings of a leg spinner. He turns the ball ominously towards the heavens, leaps a step or two and spirals the ball towards a shivering adversary. Great leg spin, no doubt. But little by little, critics are beginning to point out that the ball never spins. It may bounce menacingly, swing a yard or two, but never reveals the slightest inclination towards spinning. The befuddled batsman reaches for his helmet and looks for the spin. But alas! His doors of perception are closed and he lies deceived. India definitely has a cutting edge in their pace attack. Experts are of the opinion that on TV telecasts, there is no need to have the word "medium" before the adjective "fast". This augurs well for India. Prasad, over the last season, has realised that it is the leg cutter and not the fast ball that is the surprise delivery. In Agarkar, they have a man who can generate pace inversely proportional to his wiry frame. The batting is good on paper, but there is a simple formula to calculate the Indian total: Sachin's score*1.5. This means that India should chalk up imposing totals on the scoreboard as well. Yes, South Africa is the best team. But the history of the World Cup (favourites after Lloyd's team have never won) and their history of choking must remain the grains of dust in their universal spinach. So one hopes to see a confident, sunny Azhar lifting the cup, mouthing the words he says in response to any question: "Yeah, the boys batted and bowled well. The wicket was good. We have to work on our fielding. Sachin is a genius and we are lucky to have him, etc, etc… ."

Otherwise here is this ditty for him: ''I would have lit up the entire world, but somebody blew out all the fuses. I may run out of time, but I'll never run out of excuses."

One hopes that on that glorious Lord's evening, it will be Wasim Akram humming this song (if one is permitted to step down from the lofty pedestal of analyst and indulge in some patriotism.).

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