Thursday, 3 April 2014

Cricket Wars and All That


Long before the 2011 census figures uncovered the mind boggling bulge in the demography of eleven northern states , the Hindi media had sensed  the hysteria and  the psychological warfare waiting to be unleashed at the WC matches between India and Pakistan and the unprecedented TV rating points and political point scoring the Semi finals were going to trigger off in the spring of 2011. Anil Kumble confessed on an English TV channel that the Indo Pak matches have a special subtext for cricketers and their audiences up in the north which he , as a southerner from Bangalore , had always missed out on . But the Hindi channels declared early on that there is going to be a war during the semis and even the English channels believed them and began giving all viewers additional lessons about the sub continent : on what Indo Pak relationship is all about outside of Delhi and Islamabad .

At first the non Hindi speaking India paid it scant attention . As the teams arrived the English channels carried most of the exclusive interviews as usual , discussing what the nasal voice of the singer Shan called India’s , “ new thinking , new possibilities”  . They created an impressive line up of ex captains of teams from the subcontinent , England , Australia , New Zealand and the Caribbeans . They came and sat perched on stools on hard lean buttocks and predicted and analysed constantly cracking in jokes at which they laughed the loudest . For the subaltern mobs, that were not privy to the old bonding a la public school cricket teams ,the Hindi channels lined up godmen , astrologers and demented fans : always a better bet for watchable TV and wild predictions that the subcontinent loves . Since everyone in the subcontinent loves  intelligence conspiracy theories , spying and plots , on the eve of the Mohali match a driver from the Pakistani PM’s entourage was caught and questioned for roaming aimlessly in the army Cantonment area in Chandigarh , a gesture reciprocated with alacrity across the Wagah border where an Indian embassy official was hauled for questioning . Both were later released .

India and Pakistan have been waging wars and playing cricket matches for the last six decades . But each time they begin from scratch as though this is the first ever encounter between them . Both teams have their own die hard fans who move heaven and earth to procure visas and buy tickets for the crucial match . They don body paint and bring along their national flags and a fund of shouted encouragements in chaste Punjabi and Urdu . When asked to describe the situation on TV , after the first few ritualistic statements about the warm welcome by their hosts , they say that they are sure to win on all fronts and that the other side will suffer heavy casualties . The domestic audiences hoot and laugh . OK say the anchors lets now go back to the pavilion . The politicians and the corporates are already there . They always get in and get seated in the best boxes without hassles because they command obedience and can arrange for all kinds of exemptions and easing of rules for the organizers . The fat sweaty policeman guarding the venue tell the rest that all card holding fans must bring an identity proof and shall go no further than  permitted , after which the fans must wave to TV cameras whenever and mouth inaudible slogans .  

In the light of the above, happy viewing fans ! I’d rather watch Kapil’s Comedy Night re runs!


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