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|May 20, 2000||
Vox PopuliHarsha Bhogle
Amidst his tears, and a man is entitled to his emotions without being dissected by a largely uncaring world, Kapil Dev made two very relevant points. Sadly, neither has received any attention at all. I suspect that is symbolic of the way we view cricket and television. Does anything else have a shorter shelf-life today?
"Why should I have to," Kapil Dev told Karan Thapar whose heart had slid into one of its many incarnations of stone. And in doing so, he illustrated the poverty of our public life where a man is condemned and hanged on the basis of the smallest, the most trivial and the most irresponsible allegation; and where the onus is not on proving guilt but on proving innocence.
And judging by the glee with which everyone is joining in, public figures must continue to have a trial by fire with no defence but time on their side. Funnily, the last time I wrote about this, I was accused of being a party to the cover-up. Reason and dignity are not only in very short supply at the moment, they are very poor qualifications to possess.
So, let us talk cricket instead and look at the other comment Kapil Dev made. "How can I take my team to Dhaka in such an atmosphere?" he said and he makes a very valid point.
People's minds are made up and they are only looking for events to justify their conviction; for this isn't even a mere hypothesis any more. People will watch matches, not to admire the skills on display but to search for evidence of guilt.
Kapil Dev knows this and the players know it as well. Should Sachin Tendulkar then, go over the top in the second over knowing that if he gets a top edge, the jury will pronounce its verdict before he takes his pads off? Can Robin Singh wait for the precise moment to begin an assault? What is the real pressure on Anil Kumble in the slog overs; that a ball down the leg side may be hit for four or that it would be proof that he wants the game lost?
If India lose, there would be the flavour of crime around the players. If they win, they would be assigned the benefits of opposition largesse. It is a no-win situation.
Things are even more bizarre across the border even if that is a more predictable event in Pakistan cricket. Either they are engaged in the greatest cover-up operation in the history of the game or the judge, who spoke so freely to the media, was taking them on a giant merry-go-round.
And these players, virtually pronounced guilty one moment, let off unscathed the next, will be around as well. Like with some of the Indian players, the people's verdict seems to have been passed on the Pakistanis as well. In such a context, what relevance does a cricketing contest have?
It doesn't help either that it comes in the middle of nowhere and will be played in very hot, very humid conditions. For a month and a half before, India will have played no cricket and for two months later, they won't play any either. Pakistan come there after a gruelling schedule and Sri Lanka will have to brush off the dust from their kit bags as well. It is going to be a contest between one very tired and two very rusty teams in energy sapping conditions. Was it necessary?
You would have thought that the best time to have played it would have been in early October when the teams would have had some time to rest and more important, when the truth about match-fixing might have had a slender opportunity to emerge. Sometimes, it pays to let a storm pass rather than engage it in combat. Sometimes, it is better to be deprived for it enhances the value of what you get later.
But then, that isn't an option anymore and we must wish for some good cricket. One team that has played a lot of that in recent times is Sri Lanka. They have a simple man as coach and a simple man as captain. Simplicity, often a great virtue to possess, is priceless in these times and to that Sri Lanka have added an excellent work ethic. In the grammar of the game, they are the most advanced Asian nation and though they may be a touch short on bowling talent at the moment, they must fancy their chances against two teams that have ignored the reality of the modern game with great relish.
India and Pakistan have always used talent to overcome the most obvious shortcomings in athleticism; the building block of the modern one-day game. Pakistan are stocked a little better than India at the moment but their talent is bruised and unfit. They are vulnerable and I think Sri Lanka are best equipped to take advantage of that situation.
It is a difficult tournament to play but maybe, and here goes the optimist in all of us, it will show us unexpected shades of character
Mail Prem Panicker
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