July 7, 2008

Diarrhoea outbreak at Hogwarts.

Subcontinental cricket is suffering from a diarrhoea of the 50-over game. And it is apt to make the cringing pun that the players are going through the motions. It might be that my memory is showing signs of aging, and I'm a prime twenty-five, but the fact is that I can no longer recollect one day matches for more than three days. Triumphant victories, resounding defeats, last ball nail biters - nothing remains. The deluge of ODI cricket in the subcontinent is so overwhelming that it undermines what passes from one game to another, I can no longer tell Dhaka from Karachi, Guwahati from Colombo. On average a subcontinent team plays a one day match every three days. The downtime between consecutive series has petered down to a paltry week. Off season - what off season ? This leaves hardly any time for the spectator to build up anticipation before a tournament start, and definitely none for a post-series breather in which to savour the memories.

This year the IPL bonanza concluded in June and the flag post event, Asia cup, was fixtured for early July. A month's gap in the harsh summer, what luxury ! The players looked set to use the intervening month to cool off, the press dreamed up an extended bout of volleying amongst the Asian rivals, the Indian team might have had the time to dig out a tape or two of the Mendis carrom ball and the Asia cup would have ended in a crescendo celebrating all that's good in Asian cricket. Instead, the witches that run our cricket boards got together and brewed up an ugly money spewing syrup called the Kitply cup. It wasn't the first time they had done so, remember the IPL was similarly pulled out of the bag and plonked into what was supposed to be India's rest period, but while the IPL was born out of the necessity to embrace change there could surely be no such pretension about the Kitply cup. It was a tournament of tired teams playing on over-worked pitches at the onset of the Bangladeshi monsoon for the honour of lifting a plank of plywood. Safe to say I remember nothing of the games played.

The real witchery of the Kitply cup was in what it robbed us of. It robbed the players a chance to have a decent rest and a preparatory camp. Niggles and strains could have been sorted. Zombie cricketers could have caught some naps and the support staff could have worked out the new mystery spinner. The media, so essential to modern cricket, too could have enjoyed a longer build up to the Asian title race. Opposing camps could have lined each up in the press better, intricate rivalries could have been sufficiently hyped and strategies of mental disintegration could have been firmly established. No such thing happened. Rather, India's best batsman did not play due to a side strain, Pakistan's captain shabbily collapsed from exhaustion minutes before a match and his coach successfully instrumented a journalist walkout.

Because our witchcraft institutions compromised the quality and the success of the Asia cup for the chance to pick up an extra nickel along the way. It was thus that the baffling Ajantha Mendis brow beat the indifferent Indian batsmen in front of an absent crowd.