Before we discuss the quarter-finals, mention must be made of the controversy that is sweeping the great country of Bangladesh, a controversy which the Indian media is doing its best to suppress, oppress and depress. During the Bangladesh-England game discussions, Navojyot Singh “Sheedhu” had said that “that both the birds and cockroaches fly but the cockroaches are not birds” and then supposedly he “compared the Bangladesh cricket team with the cockroaches.” [Link to Pakistani website] Now there are two things you do not do in this world unless you have severe masochistic tendencies. One is try to control Uncle Sam’s oil and the other is to diss Bangladesh. No sooner had this happened than a Bangladeshi fan wrote an protest email to ICC (they should have also cc-ed it to the metaphor police), the Bangladeshi news media went to town asking about Sidhu’s credentials (not a spot as they said on world class bowler Abdur Razzak, who is believed to be an all-time great in some parts of the world) and more importantly, Bangladeshi fans came out with very classy non-racist retort videos that would make any person quake in his boots, videos that won universal support among the supporters.
[Update: the video has since been removed by the user]
[As an aside: to the question what did Sidhu do for the Indian team, dear knowledgeable Bangaldeshi fan, Sidhu’s Test and ODI batting average are better than any of the players who are playing for the Bangladeshi team]
Needless to say, faced with this kind of naked aggression, the ICC caved in saying “we deeply regret to this issue”. [Bangla link] and warned Sidhu for being racist and more importantly for ceaselessly abusing the English language (again this news item has at the time of writing been suppressed by the Indian media in the same way they suppress news about Indians streaming across the Bangladesh boundary ceaselessly—-an accusation also made by a few Bangladeshi fans). Of course this has not mollified the great nation as a hate page has been created for Sidhu on FB. India and Sidhu beware. As a Bangla fan says “Last time India got eliminated in first round. This time Bangladesh. So India is as bad as Bangladesh.” QED.
Now coming to the less scary prospect of the quarter finals. India gave Pakistan the greatest gift after the Simla accord by giving them West Indies. Not that I would underestimate the powers of West Indies or for that matter the ability of Pakistan to have a “sponsored implosion” but I still believe that if Pakistan are serious about winning, they could not have found an easier opposition. And most tellingly, they have been spared England, who have been playing like Pakistan of 92, a grenade with the pin taken out.
As for us, we face Australia. Does that possibility scare me? As an Indian fan, it does. But for India to be rightful winner of the World Cup and to lay to rest the ghosts of 2003, they need to beat the Yellow Fever. As simple as that. On the positives, this Australian side is not a spot on the team that handed our asses back to us in 2003. Are we better than the 2003 team? Well….let’s say the jury is out on that one.
For me though the battle would be between Ponting and Sachin. Theirs has been truly one of the greatest batting rivalries of modern times,with Sachin setting a record and Ponting following behind. And come Quarter-final, we will witness these two great gladiators go up against each other, with the world to play for.
Sachin and Ponting are a study in contrast, very different in every respect. Sachin—-humble and modest, level-headed, universally-respected, the man for the high road. Ponting—cock proud, volatile, prone to humping LCD TVs and abusing his own team members, one who if he sees a low road will search for one even lower, the kind who would trip Tiny Tim of “Christmas Carol” and then laugh in his face. Sachin—the tragic hero, forever fated to play in a team populated by talent lesser than him, with not a single World Cup in his chest. Ponting—arrogant in his success, lucky enough to play in the greatest team of modern cricket (and perhaps of all time) with three trophies, two under his leadership.
So who will come ahead? True that Ponting saves his best for the big games and Sachin has often been found wanting on precisely these occasions. But on current form, my bet would be on Sachin. There was a time in the mid 2000s upto to 2007 when Sachin’s form fell away, just about the time Ponting was playing his best cricket. But after that, Sachin, in possibly the truest display of his greatness, has scripted a remarkable comeback so much so that he is currently at the height of his batting powers. Whereas Ponting looks a pale shadow of himself, now more in the news for being a cranky old man prone to bouts of temper. What has led to this falling away in Ponting’s power? Many theories abound but I have always believed (and I have mentioned it before) it was this incident when in an event tellingly called “Run Ricky Run” an Indian kissed him, sucked out his batting force and showed him for the man that he is, a fact that led to a gradual waning of his prowess.
He is a great captain. And our Indian culture is to kiss him. In phoreign, they hug them and kiss them. But bleep he refuses to hug our Indians. That is what I told him. You hug me or get lost.
This and the KKR curse of course.
As an Indian fan, it has been a disappointing month. The chronic brittleness of the middle order and the consistent inability to play the last ten overs without losing seven wickets has been a puzzling development. Something even more puzzling is that we have not once tried to take the powerplay earlier. The problem of accommodating Suresh Raina remains ( I don’t see him making the side based on his performance against the West Indies, and also doubt his efficacy against a Tait or Lee. Not that Yusuf is much better but his bowling gives him an advantage) and I sincerely hope that no one in authority gives any thought to Ian Chappell’s suggestion of dropping Gambhir to accommodate Raina—-against Australia, he is precisely the man we need at one drop. The only silver lining in the cloud is that after Ashwin’s encouraging performance today, there will be no chance of Piyush Chawla making a Agarkarian comeback. Also hopefully Kohli will no longer be sent lower in the order, where it is obvious he cannot play.
And so the India Australia clash beckons. Heroes will be made. So will villains. And two giants, one of whom we love and the other hate (but admire too at a level) will cross swords for the very last time. Here is hoping India wins. If not for anything else but for the joy of seeing a Ponting meltdown. And a smile on Sachin’s face.
I can hardly wait.