Sunday, March 14, 2004

Live commentary...

I love cricket. Totally, completely, absolutely love cricket.

But to assume that I’m a rabid fan who watches every match, knows every obscure statistic and worships the boys in blue, would be quite erroneous.

The truth is I haven’t watched a match in years, no, not even the World Cup. Whether India wins or loses, I enjoy a good night’s sleep. And I never ever care to ask, ‘Score kya hua?’

So why do I say I love cricket? Simply because I enjoy watching the incredible effect it has on people.

Take yesterday, for instance. My cricket loving brother was up at an abnormally early hour (read 8 a.m) just to watch the pre-match commentary. Knowing that I wouldn’t get any writing done through the day, I decided to step out to complete some chores.

I walked out into a deserted street. I could actually hear birds twittering. A sound normally obscured by impatient honking and the roar of exhaust. Forlorn shopkeepers beamed when they saw me approach. At the grocery store, a few other stragglers entered and started an animated conversation about the day’s match and prospects of winning. Perfect strangers until a minute ago.

‘Ohhhh…..’ a gasp went out in unison from several windows in a building. Some batsman probably had a near miss. It was incredible to think of families, friends and neighbours all sitting together, their voices and fervid prayers commingling with each other.

It reminded me of my office which has a rather hierarchical order. A cricket match and all the structures temporarily fold up since the director’s cabin has the only TV set on the floor. It’s fun to see people troop in under some flimsy pretext or the other. After a while all pretences are dropped and people unabashedly plonk themselves on the sofa. The transformation of serious, no-nonsense executives into raving, whooping fans is a sight to behold!

The latest tour of Pakistan has meant a brief and welcome respite from the bizarre political and filmi shenanigans. From the ‘India Shining/India Whining’ debates. From the mind-numbing soaps and go-to-any-lengths music videos. For just a little while, there’s just one religion in this crazy, troubled country. My favourite moment is when the players all stand in a row, hand over heart and with passion in the eyes sing the national anthem.

Finally, there’s one more reason why I welcome cricket this year. Since my exit from mainstream advertising, I haven’t had to ads that somehow ties in cricket with cosmetics or department stores or banks. No cricket metaphors, no clichés, no stale puns. Whew!

Cricket? I’m game for it…

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