Towards the end of “Lamhe”, Sridevi’s character says something on the lines of “If our ultimate fate is sadness, then why bother with life? It’s the moments, the beautiful moments that make life worth it.”
My feelings about IPL are kind of like that only. If the ultimate fate of the tournament is the happiness of the powers that be, the cricketers and the advertisers, then why, as a simple person, do I watch? Why do I care?
It is because of moments, peerless in their simple yet spectacular beauty, that stay etched in memory. These are moments you would scarcely believe, like attack ships on fire off the the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glittering in the dark near Tannhauser Gate. [Reference]
So here they are, a collection of my favorite moments from this year’s IPL. So far.
1. Yusuf Pathan’s batting: As a long time KKR fan, there is nothing as delightful as watching Yusuf Pathan flailing his bat in the air, hoping against hope that the ball hits some random edge and flies to an unguarded corner of the field. But beyond the delight, what makes these moments significant is because his continual presence in the team has become an anthropomorphism of Bengali business philosophy. Which is lovely because Bengalis, and you can look at our sterling industrial record, are amazing at entrepreneurship. Let me explain why I say this. One of the tenets of Bengali businesses is to invest Rs 10, and then if things go south, to throw Rs 1000 after that Rs 10. Which is exactly what KKR does with Pathan. Having paid over 2 million USD, they are reluctant to cut their losses and make him warm the bench, instead playing him match after match in the hope that God will have mercy and make him score some runs. But as we know, God supports Chennai Super Kings (even plays for it) and so even though Yusuf keeps batting like an aunty at a family picnic, KKR keeps playing him, showcasing to the world the way we Bengalis do business. I am waiting though for the match where he scores a paltry 30, at which point of time, KKR (like any true blue Bengali) will take a bite of biskoot, say “Bolechilam tomake” (Told you so !), feel smug about this little victory and continue to play him for ever, thus completing my metaphor perfectly.
2. Tonting: Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. Together. Watching them bat in a parnership was a fantasy we knew would never happen, like Samantha Fox and Pamela Anderson doing a make-out scene . But thanks to IPL, this is now a reality. What a lovely sight it is then to see this dynamic duo come out to bat, like two retirees out on morning strolls, their bats like trusty canes clearing the hedges, as they discuss Carnatic music, the shortening of skirt-lines and the best time to take their Isabgol. And add to them, old Murali when he bowls and it truly becomes a laughter club at the corner of the park, or a scene from Shaukheen with Utpal Dutt, A.K. Hangal and Ashok Kumar
3. Sreesanth’s Twitter Meltdown: One of the most enduring mysteries of literature is what exactly happened in that cave between Dr. Aziz and Adela. Did Dr. Aziz assault Adela sexually? Or was Adela’s “heatstroke” actually a flash of her own sexual fantasy? The greatness of E. M. Forster’s “A Passage to India” is that it never resolves the question (the original draft apparently did), leaving it open for generations of readers to interpret in their own way. Similarly epic in its dramatic scope is what actually happened between Sreesanth and Harbhajan all those years ago after that Kings XI vs Mumbai Indians game. Most of us were lead to believe that it had been a slap, but since there was no video of the exact act, it was shrouded in great mystery. And so it had stayed buried till Sreesanth, after all these years, has a Adela-type breakdown on Twitter and declares that he was not slapped, but elbowed. In the process, he also says many other things that are as coherent as the mumblings of a man in the throes of a heatstroke. Lalit Modi, not to be outdone, claims to have the only video that would conclusively prove what came to pass but in true E. M Forster style, he holds on to it, thus letting the mystery persist for generations to come.
4. Gambhir vs Kohli: The incident that triggered Sreesanth’s meltdown, though I fail to understand how exactly, was the chest-to-chest confrontation between Gambhir and Kohli, Delhi boys both, playing out a slice of life straight from the polite streets of NCR. It was spectacular, even more breathtaking than Steven Smith’s switch hit, capturing perfectly what IPL is all about, the MC-ing and BC-ing of good taste.
5. Amit Mishra’s arrival at the crease: Amit Mishra never looks truly happy. Looking at the state of his national career, it is not difficult to understand why. What however I find truly endearing is when he comes out to bat, all reluctant, frazzled and angry, like a middle-class uncle in Lajpat Nagar coming out to poke, with his trusty wooden stick, the stray dogs howling at 1 am in the night.
6. Srikkanth and VVS Laxman: Years later, when they make a movie about the success of Deccan Sunrisers, perhaps titled Moneyballs 2, there is no doubt that Brad Pitt will play Srikkanth, one half of Sunriser’s mentors, based on their facial resemblance. VVS Laxman though will play himself, because no one can quite bat like him. However what’s truly epic is when the camera focusses on the Sunriser’s two brain trusts, deep in discussion. Which is usually an asymmetric conversation with Srikkanth incessantly going on and on and VVS sitting with an infinitely bored expression on his face, a scene straight out of a local train, where you always find one reluctant passenger staring out of the window as the irritating stranger sitting at his shoulder, explains to him all the mysteries of the universe.
7. Sir Jadeja, Kohli and R P Singh: There is a scene in Star Trek Into Darkness when Benedict Cumberbatch, playing the icy cool villain, says “I am better …at everything”, a line I believe Sir Jadeja says in front of the mirror every morning. And for good reason too. In the game versus Bangalore it is down to 2 runs off 1 ball with Sir on strike. Mortals would have been eyeing a two or a four or perhaps even a six but then again Sir is not a mere mortal. Using his Jedi-ja control of the force, he makes R P Singh, admittedly a weak mind, bowl a huge no-ball. Then Sir Jadeja hits a catch towards third man, and jogs across for a single. Bangalore celebrate the “victory”, Kolhi does a pumped up run from the boundary-line, with that MC-BC face that he is famous for. Till he stops, and then the expression of his face changes from triumph to despair as he catches sight of Jadeja at the runners end, exulting in pure delight, and the umpire’s arm raised sideways. And it is then that the penny drops for.
Oh what a cruel game to play. Jadeja could have finished the match with one clean blow but that would be too easy an execution. What he instead does is to inflict the torture of hope, the legendary last torture of the Spanish Inquisition. The night before execution, the prisoner would be shifted to a tower, where there would be a brick in the wall left deliberately loose. The prisoner would “discover” the brick and the passage behind, and crawl through the dark hole, being bitten by rats and other foul things. Yet he would carry on, delirious at the prospect of impending liberation. Till he would come out at the other end, bloody, tired but hopeful, only to find the Inquisition standing there.
And his soul would be crushed.
Kind of what happened to Kohli. [Link]
The sheer perfection of the moment however would not be totally described if I missed out the hapless bowler, the legendary Indian seamer R.P. Singh, and his face frozen in the cement of terror, anticipating what will happen once they reach the hotel room.
Neither can the perfection be captured if we do not conjecture what Chennai captain Dhoni might have felt at the moment. I suppose elation at the victory and sadness at the state of his best friend, with whom he has always shared a special bond, as the video below shows.
Which brings me to why these IPL moments are inherently so fascinating, crystallizing the essence of what makes IPL truly IPL, a tournament in which best friend fights best friend, teammates slap each other, brothers unite in incompetence, massive cruelty is unleashed, old men try to recapture their youth, and drama is never in short supply.