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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The excitement's building up !

It is World Cup time again – and, as one would expect, the mania is sweeping the cricket world.

It is the hottest subject of discussion, squads (now announced by all participating countries) are being animatedly discussed and, as we get closer to the actual event, we can bet that betting on team and individual performances will only increase. Unfortunately, it is a reflection of the times that injuries are as much a routine headline item nowadays as the game itself.

Not a day goes by without an interview with either a coach or a player. Players who have made it to the squad talk about the excitement they feel. And players who have not, understandably more muted, wish their team-mates good luck. Players of yesteryear, now self-professed experts on everything ranging from selection to strategy, talk about what needs to happen to bring home the World Cup.

All in all, this is a great time to be a cricket fan. For many, disillusionment may be just round the corner but the journey is often as much a source of enjoyment as the destination itself.

Those of us who are true fans of this game (and that pretty much includes everybody reading this, I would expect) will know what I am talking about. The game of cricket, with its twists and turns, with its pitch conditions and weather dependencies, with its Hawkeye and consequent umpiring debates, with its economy-rates and strike-rates, lends itself very naturally to all sorts of analyses. One can rest assured that every form of analysis will be carried out in the next few weeks. Thanks to the internet, online reporting and blogging, this has become that much easier.

It is probably safe to say that World Cup fever would be highest amongst that most emotional breed of cricket fans - South Asians. Or to put it more accurately, reflecting today’s increasingly visible presence of South Asians worldwide, fans of South Asian origin wherever located on the globe. This bunch, bred on a recipe of cricket from a very early stage in their lives (in some cases, possibly as a substitute for a harder-to-obtain material need in life known as “food”)) can be counted upon to follow each game, especially those involving their home teams, ball-by-ball – with further pre- and post-match analyses.

The World Cup is being played in the Caribbean – which, if I am not mistaken, means late night viewing in South Asia, going well into the wee hours of the morning (especially if you include highlights and post-match analyses). Add to this the sleeplessness you anyway have when your team has had a bad game (or excitement when your team has had a good one) and it is a safe bet that there will be several red-eyed South Asians at work or school the next morning.

The media will do its bit to keep everybody hooked to it. The World Cup comes around once in four years and, while there are countless limited-overs tournaments played every year, everybody knows that this is the big one. Even those of us who swear by Test cricket as being the “purest” version of the game make an exception for this one tournament. World Cup performances are remembered and passed on from generation to generation – and true to style, get more legendary status as time rolls on.

I still remember the first day of the first World Cup (Prudential World Cup) of 1975 when England opener Dennis Amiss massacred the Indian bowling (poor Karsan Ghavri the most hapless bowler of them all) and Indian opener Sunil Gavaskar retaliated with a defiant, if somewhat snail-like and inadequate by galaxies, reply on India’s behalf. It was the same day that Glenn Turner, that under-rated New Zealand opener tore apart the East African attack (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda then played as East Africa) a few miles away.

It feels like yesterday. The World Cup may not have had its most auspicious opening game but, as the tournament went on, the games got better and better, closer and closer (it does not get much closer than that remarkable West Indies-Pakistan game) and by the time the semis came along – and Aussie mystery man Gary Gilmour did his magic – the tournament had caught on with the public.

The final was a magnificent game in itself, every bit fitting of a World Cup final. Clive Lloyd was majestic, Rohan Kanhai signed off with a polished half-century , Viv Richards – then yet to become the legend of later years – sparkled in the field, effecting some crucial run-outs and the last-wicket Australian pair of Lillee and Thommo, better known for their bowling partnerships, fought hard and inched close to the West Indian score, only to have their dreams shattered by, what seemed to be the most fitting manner of dismissal of the day – a run-out.

Like I have said earlier, it feels like yesterday. And it was all of 32 years ago. This inaugural edition of the World Cup will always have a special place in my heart. It was played in times that would be unrecognizable today, media coverage was nothing like it is today, the game itself was different - for example batsmen had no helmets to protect themselves - even the number of overs played was 60 compared to today’s 50. Maybe part of my nostalgia is derived from the fact that I was not even in my teens then – so I had a very different, more innocent, view of the game then than I have now.

Since then, there have been seven World Cup tournaments. Different players, different venues, different rules, different strategies, lots of expectations, some disappointments. Several memorable moments – each World Cup has just added to the memories and the excitement of being a cricket fan.

I cannot wait for this ninth edition. Whichever team wins it finally, whichever captain holds that Cup, one thing we can be assured of – lots and lots of fun and excitement.

If Rahul Dravid and his team-mates hold that Cup on the 28th of April, I will obviously be a very happy man but, in any case, it is for the fun of following the game that we come together and I would like to just wish all the teams the best of luck and say “may the best team win”.

Bring it on.

1 comment:

Nandini Vishwanath said...

Nice! I really really hope we win the cup. All the patriotism is out now :) And of course, keep writing..after every match, after every WC associated event :)