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Monday, June 20, 2005

Bring out the ashtray

When you are feeling knotty in the stomach, wobbly in the knees, and a bit windless in the lungs, Navjot Singh Siidhu’s mind numbing filibuster can help. And it certainly did.
I woudn’t have minded the Mexico-Brazil game to continue for another full 90 minutes, especially after the events of Disaster Sunday. But because Adriano and Ronaldinho aren’t from Krypton, I moved on aimlessly to NDTV.
The subject of debate on the Sidhu Show (misleadingly called Cricket Controversies) was whether The Ashes still remain the greatest cricketing rivalry. The answer is a resounding no. End of matter. I should have switched over to Sun TV in my usual late-night quest for Raaja songs. I stuck on as the number of "experts" in fvour of The Ashes was surprisingly high with a Sidhu being the lone voice arguing the Indo-Pak case, relying not on logic or facts but his verbal antics. The soft-spoken Dr Narottam Puri (yeah, he’s still around) said we can overlook the Ashes tradition. An English diplomat and Anand Vasu (who Harsha Bhogle thinks is one of the many fine young writers on the game today) tended to agree. A popular sports journalist said India-Pak cannot be a great rivalry because it’s war minus the shooting—something which goes against the sporting spirit.
The debate set me thinking on what constitutes a great sporting rivalry. For the last 20 years or atleast since the time we got see live Ashes action on TV, it has never been a contest. Shane Warne could have bowled the Englishmen out with an orange if, and all Aussie comers piled up the runs. Things are different now we are told. England now have Hope and Harmisson on their side, but that’s another matter. Great sporting rivalries are marked by the intensity of the battle. Individuals often end up turning in defining performances; heroes are born and we discover new villains; and usually there is always a sting in the tale.
When people watch live sporting action, they don’t think of tradition and history. A great rivalry is born when the players involved can provide great drama consistently. Bjorn Borg and Mcnroe did that. Manchester and Liverpool did during the 70s, 80s and much of the 1990s, Brazil and argentina will be great and worthy rivals for the forseeable future. England and Australia? I’ll watch Gol Maal for the 97th time, thank you very much. Critics say India-Pak matches were characterised by dull draws with neither side wanting to put a foot wrong. Ergo, both decided to spar at each other without pushing forward. But since 1999 when cricketing ties resumed, the two countries have produced managed to produce the most riveting test match cricket ever seen. The first test at chennai in that historic series will remain a classic. Tendulkar battled against the guile of Akram, Saqlain, and his recalcitrant back, and almost won. Afridi made a quickfire 140 which to date remains his best knock. The last four Indian batsmen failed to make 12 runs between themselves. The crowd gave the victorious enemy a standing ovation, but the defining moment for me was an Akram delivery to Dravid. Left arm over the wicket, a full fast delivery which seemed headed towards dravid’s pad changed its course to knock down the off stump. Dravid attempted a straight drive but he missed it by a few good inches. Dravid isnt God, either on the leg side or off-side. He’s merely a great batsman. But even the man up there would have failed to survive. Warne’s "magic" ball wasn’t a patch on this one. So is the current Australia-England rivalry compared to India-Pakistan.


  • At 6:58 AM, Blogger QuixoticMahesh said…

    To me, the ball that akram bowled dravid that took his off peg,is the ball of the century. More so , considering the previous ball which was a reverse in swinger that took dravid's wicket but for the umpire.


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