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Home > India > Cricket > Prem Panicker

Honey, I shrunk the ODI

Prem Panicker / April 24, 2008

It had everything you want of the very best of ODIs-- and it began just as you were pouring out a pre-dinner glass of wine, and ended just in time for a post-dinner glass of coffee and cognac. What's not to like, as Rob Peters asks on the iafrica.com website?

As with the best of one day cricket, this game had controlled aggression [Mathew Hayden]; attacking batsmanship of the highest order [Suresh Raina, Mahi Dhoni [Images] in a timely cameo, Robin Uthappa]; blazing counter-attacks [Abhishek Nayar, Harbhajan Singh [Images] in an adrenalin-pumping cameo]; intelligent bowling [Manpreet Gony, who not only hustled Jayasuriya into a false pull, but kept Uthappa on a leash when the batsman was in hitting mode]; fielding that ranged from the very good to the truly spectacular [any number of diving saves by both sides; a direct hit by Subramanium Badrinath; a catch while airborne after a dead run by Jacob Oram [Images] that had to be seen to be disbelieved]; and a photo finish that involved a test of skill and nerve both [Muralitharan, who now knows what it is like to bowl a do or die over with a ball that was like a bar of soap left under a shower; Joginder Sharma, rewinding to the T20 World Cup finale with a final over that saw him fight back after a couple of early tonks; Abhishek Nayar, battling against the odds till that one nervy moment when he crossed over for a no-ball, and left Ashish Nehra, whose application for Mensa is not likely to be considered any time soon, to face the free-hit ball].

It had a healthy dose of parochialism from the full-house crowd: who would have thought to see two Australians in yellow take strike to an Indian quick bowler in blue, and for the crowd to cheer the men in yellow?

A league of this nature will be nothing more than a money-spinning machine, unless it has the added plus of throwing up domestic talent for consideration; in that sense, this game had its fair share-- Raina, whose comeback hopes could have withered in the ennui-inducing realm of domestic cricket; Gony, whose bowling is increasingly impressive; and Nayar, who married fearless batsmanship with calm resolve, all got to strut their stuff under the eye of the national one day captain, and team coach.

The league, as it unfolds, is providing opportunity, in many ways: a chance for the likes of Harbhajan Singh to experience the pressures, and responsibilities, of leadership and hence, hopefully, to be more sympathetic to the needs of his captain when next he plays in Indian colors; and a chance for youngsters to play alongside, watch, learn from and even be shamed by the work ethic of some of international cricket's hardest-working stars.

One aspect of the game was puzzling�unless Bajji was looking to contest for the president's post of the bowlers' union and wanted to buy votes, I couldn't see why he would waste two of his own overs, and rotate eight different bowlers, some of indifferent skill, in the Chennai innings.

What made this even more inexplicable was that the heavy dew had reduced the ball to grease�to the extent possible, you wouldn't want to throw said ball to inexperienced bowlers against batsmen of the caliber of Hayden, Raina and Dhoni in attack mode.

Chennai, with its second win in two games, looks increasingly set in its batting; bowling-wise it has a bit of a problem with Oram and Amarnath not quite able to keep the run rate under the high double digits.

Mumbai, with two losses, seems to reckon that its ills will be resolved once Sachin Tendulkar [Images] comes back; no one is sure when that will be, though word is that he should take the field for the team's next game; more to the point, I am not sure the return of Tendulkar alone will transform the fortunes of the team.

By way of added worry, its next game is an away fixture against Punjab-- that is to say, against an attack led by Brett Lee [Images].

In other news-- remember the fuss and bother the BCCI has been making about the ICL's contracted players, and how anyone who touches the ICL will not be allowed to have anything to do with 'official' Indian cricket?

Apparently the rule only applies to cricketers, and to ex-cricketers who have had the temerity to accept managerial positions in the ICL and as a result, forfeited their pensions and other entitlements. Elsewhere, however, the apartheid is not as strictly enforced-- per this story, television producers, Bollywood starlets, 'freelance' cheerleaders and such are welcome, even encouraged, to cross the floor.

In other, even less welcome news [Link in email from Dinesh Nambisan], cheerleaders are getting it coming and going. While the prudish strata has been holding up the fig leaf of "our culture" to protest their presence, the loutish segment apparently views the ladies as soft targets for illegitimate lust. The story:

Tabitha, who says she's originally from Uzbekistan, added, "Wherever we go, we do expect people to pass lewd, snide remarks but I'm shocked by the nature and magnitude of the comments people pass here� Be it a 70-year-old oldie or a 15-year-old kid, they all letch at us and make amorous advances. I feel very threatened. We are here to entertain them, to add a bit of glamour, but we are living in constant fear (of someone attempting something)."

Another cheerleader, worried about revealing her name, said: "It's tough to dance and keep smiling when the people behind are giving you hell. People here think we're morally loose women just because they see us enjoying ourselves. We're doing a job and all we want is a bit of respect, that's all."

India's leading socio-historian and writer, Ramchandra Guha, dubbed the phenomenon of cheerleaders despicable and degrading for the game of cricket.

"All the organisers are doing by making scantily-clad white women dance in front of huge crowds is to stoke the base, voyeuristic and sexual insecurities of the Indian male. It is revolting, appalling and shows the game in very poor light," a disturbed Guha told HT.

Personally, I am not as opposed to, or disturbed by, the concept as Ram Guha seems to be. In a more bucolic age, in the game's then home, ladies in their Sunday best laid out high tea just outside the boundary line as an added attraction; today, they-- in their Sunday least-- dance. O tempora, O mores covers that, and damned if I see why that is necessarily a bad thing.

Where I agree with Ram and other critics is that maybe the cheerleaders are best kept under wraps for now; honorable exceptions apart, we as a nation appear not to have grown beyond our immature adolescence

 The cheerleaders can should wait-- till we as a tribe are adult enough to be able to appreciate a spectacle, without wetting the front of our shirts with drool.

Coverage: Indian Premier League
Prem Panicker's blog





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