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'Lufflay shaaat machi'
Alfred Satish Jones in Washington, DC |
February 08, 2003
Your average garden variety American knows the following about cricket. He knows, for instance, that it 'goes on for five frikkin' days! To him, if you do something for five days you'd better have a new two-car garage to show for it. Not some wimpy ass pair of lily-white pants with green stains at the knees. He also knows that cricket was invented by his colonial cousins from across The Pond. He instinctively realizes, from long years of shared history, that whatever sport the English may have come up with, they 'sure as hell' didn't leave it behind when they left.
In the office hallway that crisp August morning, Dennis was by no means your average garden variety American. We had run into each other, after I'd picked up my first cup of coffee for the day. And in keeping with years of tradition, I was testing my coffee with the Coffee-Is-Hot-So-I-Slurp test, followed by Smack-My-Lips-And-Say-Aaaah test. Every self-respecting South Indian will tell you, coffee is bliss.
Dennis poured some coffee into his cup and said, 'Hey Alfred, I just read that the cricket World Cup is happening next year. Are you going to watch it? Are you excited? India has a good team, right?'
I checked my stopwatch and officially the-coffee-is-bliss thing had lasted about five seconds. I mumbled, 'Er, er, oh yeah, the Woooorld Caaaap! Sure I'm going to watch it, Dennis. My entire cricket team is going to watch it together. India, well you know, we have a very talented team.' I was slashing outside the off. 'But it's hard to say you know. Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties!'
My oh my, what utterly pedestrian cliché right? You think you can do better right? Without your first cup of morning coffee? No, I didn't think so.
Dennis looked at me inquiringly. His look said, 'You are a man who has fallen right on his ass because he put both feet in his mouth in one smooth and flawless motion.' His good manners took over however. 'That's nice,' he said. And added as he walked away 'Hope you guys have fun.'
I skulked back to my desk. Shame washed over me like, you know, like shame. Here I was, an expat Indian that still played the game in this foreign land. An Indian who claimed cricket was his passion. And just two minutes ago, I had been unable to cogently sum up India's chances at the World Cup. I had to fix the situation. I knew what I had to.
I was going to rely on my teammates, i.e. the guys from the Virginia Cricket Club (VCC). I quickly composed an e-mail asking for information. What the heck was the Indian team doing -- were they touring or at home? How were they doing -- wait a minute, I take that back -- how badly were they doing? When was the World Cup starting? Who was planning on shelling out the money to watch it on TV?
As usual, Rajeev was the first one to reply. 'Dood,' he began politely enough, 'since when did you start taking an interest in cricket, dood?'
OK, he wasn't being very polite now. 'India is touring England at the moment and they are getting their butts kicked royally.' Concise, to the point, and evocative. Chitty's email followed. 'Yo Rajeev, why are you asking Jones about his interest in cricket, man?' 'Why don't you look at your scores from the 2002 season!' It was happening, I could feel 'It' in my bones.
Sure enough, Gunu's email arrived in hot pursuit of Chitty's. His tone, as always, was measured and regal, 'Guys, we shouldn't be pointing fingers at each other. None of us has performed to our potential this season. That is why we didn't go beyond the first round of the 2002 playoffs.' By this time Vinodh had joined the party. 'Guys, do any of you know when Anuj's birthday is?'
By now, it had occurred to me that there was no hope of my original questions being answered. To wit, Rajeev had started his second innings, 'Chitty, why don't you focus on keeping the ball on the stumps, ra' he mocked. 'Our opposing batsmen at the crease give each other Thums Up signs when you begin to bowl man!'
This went on for the rest of the day. When I last checked, the guys were arguing about who was on time the most during the 2002 season, and why VCC shouldn't start fining latecomers. Vinodh, I think, got the last word before my free Internet e-mail inbox was house full. 'If all you guys paid your fees on time we wouldn't have to think about fining anyone 'ra'.' Ah, my magnificent teammates, you can't play with them and you don't have any fun without them.
In the following days, I got on the Net and and brought myself up to speed. On one particularly popular cricket web site I saw the following popup ad that had something to the effect of, 'Just because you're in America don't miss out on watching cricket!' The ad was from a satellite TV provider who had the 'exclusive' rights to telecast the World Cup here in the States. Because the satellite providers compete with the cable guys, this meant that there was no chance that the World Cup was going to be available on cable. Which is what I had at home.
This sucked. Did I tell you this sucked -- well, it does dammit! A few months have elapsed since then, and a few of the guys went out and had satellite dishes installed. Meaning, I'll basically be shamelessly mooching off them for the next eight weeks.
It's a couple of days to the first World Cup game and India has gone and lost their practice match to some South African B team. It was a B team for heaven's sake! I don't know about you but I'm getting that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Still, I can't wait for the tournament to start.
My teams await, one that sits in front of the TV and the other one on it. We (VCC) still haven't discussed why Laxman was left out of the Indian team. I know Vinodh has a conspiracy theory about it, and it involves Mz. Jayalalitha (of MGR fame), N.T. Rama Rao's son-in-law's niece, and Veerappan. What, you thought we just sit there saying, 'Lufflay shaaat machi!' [That's lovely shot for the uninitiated]
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