Read this and ambush the market


In India, this one magical word is good enough now for your pulse to shoot up and break the monitor you are reading it on and scamper away to a place of some relative sanity, like where they are screening Vijayakanth’s Virudagiri.

Admittedly, there is a cricket overkill now in the media. But remember if we have had less of cricket, it would have meant more of spectrum & scandals. Let us face it, between Manmohan Singh and Harbhajan Singh, most of us would prefer to read about the latter because he was the first Indian to dramatically pull off on a cricket field what we had always desirously dreamt of: Slap Sreesanth smack in his face.

Yet, when you come down to it, Indian politics and cricket convey the same essential truth of life, which is: There is no escaping Sharad Pawar.

Sorry, wrong example. Anyway, with the World Cup starting, the demands on sports reporters in a cricket-frenzied nation like India are even more extreme. They have to rise up to the creative challenge of writing to nil readers, as the entire nation is glued to the TV tracking all the non-stop action provided by the players in advertisements.

So how do you explain the finer aspects of the game to the non-reading types? Ok, this is how. (This is a quick primer on some of the new things you will come across during the World Cup).

UDRS: If a job is good enough to be bungled by two people, it is only logical that it is equally good enough to be further botched up by the addition of one more person. Cricket has borrowed this quintessential corporate philosophy, and improved its overall appeal with more controversies and confusions.

Since the on-field umpires are constantly under pressure, and hence prone to mistakes, the ICC has come up with the most logical solution:  Outsource the actual job of umpiring to a firm in Bangalore. Ok, not exactly. But somewhat close to that. So whenever there is an issue on the field, the players can refer it to the unseen third umpire, who in turn does what all telephone customer service personnel always do:  Put you on hold and play an advertisement in the background.

The third umpire, in the scheme of cricketing things as it exists today, has to be the most important person, because technically he is the only one privy to what the rest of the world can never hope to see: TV visuals of cricketing action without any advertisement.

Ambush Marketing: Cricket, more than any other sport, truthfully reflects the real human condition and the ultimate purpose of life: To earn money and more money. The mandarins of the ICC have honed this philosophy further: If there is money to be made, why let others bother with it.

Ambush marketing refers to the efforts of those, other than the ones handpicked by the ICC, trying to make money during the World Cup. For instance, you cannot collect your salary during the World Cup if your company is not in the consortium of the official sponsors.

Ok, we are exaggerating. But it will not be long before the ICC deprives telecast feeds to non-official TV brands (not channels).

(Statutory Disclosure: Crank’s Corner is not in the ICC’s official media partner list. So if you’re reading this, you’re committing level one offence of ambush marketing.)

Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, Kenya, Zimbabwe: One look at the names, the obvious question follows: Why is Bangladesh missing in the list?

Oops, wrong question. What we meant to ask was: Why are these teams here when it’s more than clear that some of them will have to be in extremely inspirational form to even win the toss?

But let us also accept the fact that if cricket is to spread far and wide, these smaller (cricketing) nations will have to be endured and encouraged. For instance, the Netherlands players may have received a pasting at the hands of South Africa’s Herschelle Gibbs during the last edition of the World Cup. But they surely went home with one cricketing truth that will stand them in good stead for years to come, which is: You can do grass and binge on other stuff and still be a success on the cricketing field. Naturally, more Dutchmen must now be interested in cricket.

Actually, not all of these teams are total newcomers to the world of cricket. Canada, for example, has been playing the game since the 1800s and its rivalry with the USA is said to be the oldest ever. Perhaps these two glorious sporting powers gave up cricket because it must have seemed a hard toil in comparison to baseball, in which it’s possible to be classified as the equivalent of Bradman if you have the capacity to hit a few sixers in your entire career.

Make no mistake about it, these smaller teams have the capacity to author the quaint little fairytales in any World Cup. Like Ireland did during the last World Cup. The blithe romance and undiluted joy of their brilliant win against Pakistan was superbly resonant in the next day’s headlines all across the world: ‘Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer found murdered in his room’.

Just cast your mind back: Bangladesh outwitting Pakistan (1999) or Kenya upsetting the mighty West Indies (1996). Well, there is nothing more sublime than when these minnows triumph, than when these underdogs come out on top, than when these proverbial Davids fell the Goliaths. It’s then the cricket’s ultimate truth comes out: Hah, the glorious certainties of match-fixing!