Of Power Plays and Poonam Pandey

I need not be writing this at all.

For, one of the first lessons that they teach at the journalism school is: Nothing other than cricket ever gets read in the aftermath of India’s victory over Pakistan on the cricket field. For the record, the Indian Constitution was published the day after India’s triumph against its archrivals in a Test match. So till date, none has an honest clue as to what it contains. I suspect it features pictures of Poonam Pandey’s grandmother.

No, I was just kidding. The other important lesson tutored at advanced journalism and mass communication institutes is: Never make fun of Poonam Pandey or her grandmother. It’s against the Constitution.

The point is after every nerve-wracking, high-octane win over Pakistan, the lay Indian cricket fan has little or no time to relax, as he generally gets down to focussing his energies on watching the nerve-wracking, high-octane highlights of the same match. This is actually more thrilling and more satisfying than seeing the match live. It becomes a surrogate Rajnikanth movie: You know what will happen in the end. But that’s not the point of the movie.

On an average, a typical fan watches the highlights of India’s romp (over Pakistan) no fewer than 6,3678,0098 times in his life. If ever some kind of census is computed based on the statistics of the viewings of India-Pakistan encounters, the world will be in for a shock: It will realise that an Indian fan watches 26 hours of cricket in a 24-hour day.

If you are looking for a sure-fire business strategy, this is it: Start a sports channel. Appoint a programming head. No wait, sack him immediately.  Get the rights for India vs. Pakistan contests in the Cricket World Cups. Start playing all the matches on ‘repeat loop’. You are guaranteed a viewership in crores everyday for eternity. The only problem is you have competition already: ESPN-Star Sports has been running on this precise formula for the last 15 years.

Another important rite of passage after India’s success over Pakistan is for a group of friends to discuss and dissect the entire match. This usually takes about roughly three years time. But sometimes this may not be enough. Case in point being: Aamir Sohail getting clean bowled by Venkatesh Prasad in the 1996 World Cup.

It’s 15 years since that memorable game. The intervening time has obviously not been adequate for the fans to resolve to their full satisfaction that 2-minute incident in that match of 7-hour duration. We fans are still lip-reading what swear words Sohail used on Prasad and what was he (Sohail) retaliated with.

The true Indian fan not only has the wonderful talent for remembering each and every minute movement on the field in an Indian success over Pakistan, but he also has the phenomenal skill to become near amnesic to the details of India’s loss at the hands of Pakistan.

For instance, I can only recollect Javed Miandad hitting the last ball from Chetan Sharma for six in a match in Sharjah. Over time, I have brilliantly acquired the ability to forget every other aspect of that match.  Of course, true-blue Indian cricket fans have already evolved to the exalted level of asking: ‘Sharjah? What Sharjah? Is it the capital city of Angola?’ If ever Sharjah goes missing from the face of the earth, don’t blame the rising seas and global warming. Your prime suspect has to be that bigger, sinister force: The Indian cricket fan.

By the way, what of Saeed Anwar’s innings of 194? As far as I am concerned, my abiding memories as an even-eyed, non-partisan scribe who officially covered that match in Chennai, is the wonderful array of aggressive cutlets and handsome samosas that I consumed to create an imposing, all-time one-day record, which is sure to stand the test of time.

Yes, for a true Indian cricket aficionado, the unique intrigue, the sublime poetry, the fantastic glory that the game is richly famous for is never more truly revealed than when Pakistan is humbled on the field. At other times, cricket becomes what it otherwise truly is: A ho-hum exercise in utter pointlessness.

At Mohali, the other night, luckily the poetic side of cricket came to life, and we were also at our romantic best, by which I mean we cussed the Pakistan players whenever they made the cardinal cricketing mistake of taking a wicket or hitting a four/six.  Of course, the Pakistani fans did not exhibit even the elementary sporting spirit of rooting for India.

The World Cup finals, featuring Sri Lankans, will be different in that our innate cricket understanding makes it clear to us that they are not Pakistanis. But what the heck, we the loyal connoisseurs of the game are looking forward to a great game and an even more interesting highlights package featuring the biggest attraction known to knowledgeable cricket fans like us —- Poonam Pandey.

By the way, the first lesson they teach in journalism class is put Poonam Pandey in the headline, people will read the article even after an India-Pakistan match.

Thanks, gentlemen.