World Cup fever is here..A week to cricket's flagship event and TV channels back home must be deep in the frenzy..A good time to be not watching them..
The knowledgeable cricket fans can take a backseat during these times, because they are usually forthright and boring.."This is the most open World cup ever..Any of 5 teams has a great chance" is a non entity as far as headlines material is concerned, compared to someone with an India tattoo on his heart shouting "India zaroor jeetega. Mujhe Bharosa hain", ending with a chest thumping roar "Indiaaaaaahh"..
These days I dread looking to the left hand side of the Times of India newspaper online..Every day, an Indian cricketer is paraded, praised to the skies and proclaimed as a world beater..For all you know, he might be one..The eye ball grabbing headlines must stop and so must the silly quotes "We will win it for Tendulkar!".What people ostensibly forget is it can only go downhill from this quote..Even a semifinals or finals finish will seem a national disaster..
The World Cup, despite all celebrations is usually a career ending event..Cricketers past the age of 35, either go out on a high or never again play for their countries..By convention, all teams decide to go into a "grooming youngsters" phase post World Cup.
Muralitharan will not play beyond WC 2011,but he already has a World Cup medal..To be honest,even if he didn't have one yet and his team don't win 2011, the Srilankan cricket public is not likely to go on an effigy burning spree..They love their drums and their drinks..It is fair to say they love the game..Passion is a step too far..
Sachin Tendulkar though, is not that privileged..He has lived 21 years of his life under intense media scrutiny...So intense that a lesser mortal would have gone into depression..So tough that he spends family vacations in London...
Since that "First to Mount Everest" double hundred in February 2010, the reference to him not having a World cup medal in an otherwise glittering career has been the "Aaj ki taaza khabar"..For once, SRT did not help matters by agreeing that winning the WC was a dream..Remarkably, during the ICC Awards in Bangalore in October 2010,he did an about turn while receiving the "Cricketer of the year"..He categorically declined to comment about the World Cup saying that the team is superstitious about it and they would prefer to perform on the field, rather than make grand statements..Bingo!
You don't need to be a pessimist to figure out that there are very few fairy tale endings in sport,if at all..Few sportsmen leave on their own terms..
In a cricket fanatic country like ours, the air of expectations usually transcends into a balloon, which then bursts if/when we lose..Illogical phrases like "Too many advertisements", "Match fixing", "Internal team politics" are injected by the cricketing illiterate and the media adds fuel to the fire by showing exhaustive and never before seen footage of players partying.This is an epidemic that must be vaccinated..Everybody plays to win..This Indian cricket team under MS Dhoni sure does..
"India will win WC 2011", "Australia has no chance this time" is all hokum..3 knock out games means that even teams like WestIndies can make the semifinals with one good day..You don't want to run into a rampaging Chris Gayle on a sultry afternoon in the Quarter Final.And from there,ability is not as important as handling the pressure..
Let us hope for a competitive and thrilling cricket World Cup 2011, one that obliterates memories of the sham and farce that was World Cup 2007..
Keep it subtle and may the best team win!!