By Suresh Menon
While alternatives to the toss before a cricket match are being discussed worldwide, another ritual – this at the end of the match – has not got the attention it deserves. I refer, of course, to the post-match awards ceremony where captains and winners of the man of the match awards give us insights into the game and their role in it.
Rather like the middle overs of a 50-0ver match, the ceremony has lost all meaning, with both the interviewer and the interviewee content on a holding position. When the same questions are asked day in and day out, we ought not to complain that the same answers are provided. And players long ago gave up even attempting to look and sound spontaneous, merely going through the motions in the manner of the bowlers and batsmen after the first 15 overs or so.
The monotony of the middle overs gave rise to the Twenty20 format; the post-match ritual awaits a similar excision.
The winning captain says a) We played as a team, everybody contributed, b) There are still some areas that need improvement c) Our bowlers put the ball in the right areas d) Our batsmen rotated strike well e) We fielded well, especially under pressure and then f) thanks the crowd for its exemplary behaviour and if he remembers g) congratulates the opposition for putting up a good fight.
The losing captain says a) We will take some positives from this defeat b)The batsmen let the bowlers down (or vice versa, depending) c) Our bowlers didn’t put the ball in the right areas d) Our batsmen didn’t rotate strike well e) Our fielding left much to be desired f) The crowd was great g) We lost to the better team (his tone suggesting that such was not the case, and he is merely being politically correct).
The Man of the Match a) Is happy for his team; after all, individual performances mean nothing (but I will hang on to the cheque, thank you) b) Will always carry memories of this match with him c)Realises the importance of winning at this historic ground d) Put the ball in the right places (if he is a bowler) or was grateful for the support of the other batsmen e) Knew from the start that his team was going to win, although there was that hiccup in the middle overs f) Accepts everything as part of something he calls the learning curve.
In fact, so set in stone are these responses that you can take as read (or heard) the answers preceding the questions and the ceremony wouldn’t miss a beat.
The awards ritual gives a lot of has beens, unknowns and will-never-be’s an opportunity to get on television and shake hands with their heroes. They cannot be denied their fun and their hour in the sun or under floodlights. If you cut the ceremony out, sponsors might drop out so that is not a chance worth taking. So how do you Twenty20fy that?
Since everyone knows the questions and the answers, the whole thing can be reduced to an exchange of letters from the alphabet. For example, the interviewer says “ b” and the winning captain responds with “c”. Viewers will know immediately that the question involved something about the bowling and the answer was that all-time favourite one of putting the ball in the right areas. A few more letters and responses, and the interview time is cut by 90 percent. It is a win-win-win situation for the interviewer, the interviewee and the viewer.
Cricket is evolving, and the responses to the game must evolve too. This is one way to make the post-match ritual as exciting as the pre-match one. By the way, how long before a winning captain says, “I won because I put the coin in the right place”?