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Farewell to the King
by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
May 02, 2007
As always, the glitterati on the tinsel town gather every year in the Shrine Auditorium to congratulate themselves on a job well done in the most elaborative ritual that came to be known as Academy Awards or the Oscars, for short. And just as always, at the end of ceremony, filled with surprises, hard-earns, sweet losses, gasping moments and yawning sequences, everybody guffaws about the same thing - IT IS TOO LONG.

No matter how much the organizers of the event try to tinker with the schedule - pump up the key moments, bump off the bloated, cut short the time for acceptance speeches, or cue in the presenters a little early - the event cannot seem to shave off the extra fat, so much so that, the dreary audience remember so little about the highlights of the show and instead seem to harp on the length of the show, the next at the water-coolers/coffee-makers. So what is the right mix that makes the audience crave for more? A dash of entertainment, a dollop of surprise, a pinch of homage and a sprinkle of pizzaz?

The problem is, though everyone knows what is to be done, nobody seems to know just how should one set about getting that. The good thing is they keep on trying until they find the perfect concoction and the bad thing is they keep on trying until they find the perfect potion, all at the expense of the poor audience. If one thought that the tournament in 2003 was a behemoth, rivalling the monstrosities that used to come out of Detriot's assembly lines a few years ago back when environmental concern was just a talking point of the bored rich, the one in 2007 now is just a curse, guzzling away enthusiasm to feed its continued tedium, sucking out the life force around like a black hole on a mission. It took 20 days to decide the Super 8. 40 days dragged on to decide the final 4. 50 days belabored on to decide the eventual winner. Guess, that was the only silver lining on the dark, massive cloud of gloom, that there at least was a winner at the end of it all. But what about the losers?

Sure, there were sore losers in the teams that spent years preparing for the event, but left before the party even started. There were perennial losers, who always made it to the semi-final despite all odds, but never were able to get over the hump, since time immemorial. But the real losers were the sport and the spirit of it. Crushed under the avarice of the administrators to suck the event dry down to the last drop of its advertising potential, the sport played out in front of empty crowds, chanting non-existent cheers in the language of utter silences. Of the 53 matches played in total, only a handful seem to have piqued the interest of the paying public. The rest tickled the statistician's math bone. And if the drama of murder, conspiracy, resignations, off-the-field moves and counter-moves were enough, the final 15 minutes of the finale alone could serve as the shining example to sum up the entire tournament - that it wasn't the sport that ruled the proceedings, but in fact it was the administrators, adjudicators, rules books and obscure procedures. Quite fittingly, th key moments unfolded in pitch darkness and great heroes were bid farewell in a fashion that didn't befit their statures. So guess what the next day water-cooler/coffee-maker conversations would concentrate on - the master blasters? the wizard spinners? or the eventual winners? It would instead revolve around the need for the greed and the incomptence of the powers that be. Lost in the dull humdrum is the little feat that the World Cup played host to for the first time - a 'three-peat', in a manner that was convincing, whole and totally deserving. But then, a few years down the memory lane, who would remember the scores? Scores are for the statisticians. Dramatics are what the audience pay for. Too sad that all the drama happened off the field. Add the audience to the list of the losers.

And then, there is Australia. The tournament was just a demonstration of the deep chasm in the cricketing attitudes between the Australians and the rest of the world. Such are their standards of the game - the staggering margins, the unflinching ability in either hunting down targets or setting unassailable scores, that no other team in any other sport, involving different nationalities, has established such a supremacy, a king of ruthless hegemony, a kind of vice-like strangle hold that no nation in the recent past has been able to break free from. It is so easy to hate the big guy, the one with the most money, the one with most power and the one with total control. It is very hard to see beyond the tough veneer, to appreciate the clockwork consistency and the ritualistic rigor that went into the making of the same. Also it is equally exhilarating to root for the underdog, for no other reason than the envious pleasure of seeing the mighty fall. Anytime the Aussies take the field, the entire world except the continent country, root for their bitter defeat. And when they, Praise The Lord, lose a series or two, the world seizes the opportunity to scribble a bad eulogy about how it was a sad day for cricket, but something good would certainly come out of the new coronation - the bloodless coup. So as the Aussies regrouped after the much needed wakeup call in the form the 2 consecutive series losses before the commencement of the Cup, and set upon executing their well laid plans, trampling over the hopes of the opposition, one at a time, it seemed like everything is back to being normal - Sun rose in the East, Earth rotated from West to East, all is well with the world and the Gods are smiling in the heavens. This is the way it is meant and this is the only way hard work is meant to be rewarded, even it comes at the cost of redundancy, or lack of proper drama.

No other individual epitomizes the Australian ethic of playing hard and winning right than the man who is deservedly the player of the tournament - Glen McGrath, the man who is responsible for wrecking oppositions, not through sheer speed or brute force, or any other seedy technique that might have slipped through the convoluted crevices of ICC mandated bowling practices, but in a manner, that is deep rooted in accuracy, consistency and simplicity - not entirely the trusted companions of initimidating fast bowlers. His ability lied not in submission through intimidation, but in gradual and methodical attrition - again, not a term that is associated with the fast bowling kind. Which is why McGrath is so unlike any of his predecessors and so different from his compatriots, that he almost writes himself his own category. In the shorter version of the game where bowlers are constantly listed under the endangered species after each series, here is a bowler, who bowled in exactly the same way, hitting exactly the same spots as in the longer version, and rewarded commesurately, if not more. If there is one reason why he had a lower tally in the ODIs, it has to be the 10-over limit per bowler. Had the restrictions been eased up by a couple more overs, he would have certainly given his Test tally a run for its money. Enough has been said about how egregious the just concluded tournament was. Enough has been written about how mismanaged the proceedings were. Enough has been covered about why this was the worst tournament ever. But the mere mention of the name, Glen McGrath, absolves all the of above. Inspite of the excesses, inspite of the deficiencies, if this is the final time that this peerless bowler graces the green in the middle ever, then 2007 is certainly a lot better than many that had come before. Such was his sport and such was his spirit. He left the game in a better position than when he found it, and importantly, he left it on his own terms. And the win was only the icing. Farewell to the king!

As the ground crew started to clean up the confetti after the end of the festivities, as the Australians were still basking in the blinding glow of yet another one sided affair, the clocks in the other parts of the cricketing world started their count backwards to get a head start before the champions - T-4. Quite deservingly, the wait is excruciating for the ones that ended up on the other face of the winning coin.

 
More Views by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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  India can win from anywhere
  No clear cut winners and no outright losers
  India's lower order works twice as hard!
  India-South Africa series have been Even-Stevens
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