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White noise
by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
Apr 12, 2008
It was just like in the late 80s when the new phenomenon, promoted by Don King, burst on to the boxing scene, with a crooked smile and a cruel punch. During his heyday, any bout that involved Tyson never lasted for the entire scheduled duration. It was particularly telling in one of his famed encounters, when people at home shelled down more than $100 to watch the event, and enthusiasts, more than a few thousand, to watch it live, only to see the horror last a mere 47 seconds flat. It is never really clear in such situations, whether the audience would be rejoiced witnessing (or, in some cases, not witnessing) such a gale of force unleashing on the opponent, or just feel robbed, because it was all over, way too soon.

Records aside, a sport is more than just a duel between two opponents, and spectators' involvement direct or otherwise, plays a major role. Going by that, the just concluded series between Indians and the Proteans is, in boxing parlance again, a 'thrown fight', except the culprits here aren't the sportsmen, but the curators. After finishing an intense, bitter, grueling and a very consuming tour to Down Under, the current series ended up as a bland cola with all the fizz left out. Granted, nothing can top the excitement of a drawn out fare, the irony notwithstanding, when it comes to cricket, particularly when the advantage keeps see-sawing between the two teams, from one session to the next. Ending the way it did, the Australian series served as a great advertisement to cricket, in spite of all the bad blood, only because the contest between the bat and the ball was fair, even and equally poised. Compared to that, the current series had a foregone conclusion for each test, even before a single ball had been bowled. It was as though the sportsmen had absolutely no say in the proceedings, and all that they were doing was just going through the motions.

With the Chennai test serving a good belter on a platter, the Ahmedabad one, a pacing beauty and the Kanpur one, a spinner's delight, the line up looked liked a very balanced approach by the curators - one for each discipline, and denying none. And the series ended up as a tie, honors are shared, everybody seemed happy...except the game itself. If one match ends up being decided in under three days, it might be a stroke of luck for one team, or just one bad test for the opposition. If two tests end up in a similar Tyson-bout fashion, with exactly opposite results, it is very difficult to make something of the result and find fault with one team in particular, as the curators go scott free. It is tough not to feel for the players who take one look at the pitch and already see the writings on the wall. If the visiting captain heaves a huge sigh, not of relief but of disbelief, while assessing the nature of the pitch, or if the home captain, seethes in rage at the sight of the pitch, that was prepared more for a guillotine lineup than for a game of cricket, the only interesting thing about the game would be watching the carnage unfold, like watching a Nascar event just for the car crashes.

At the end of the series, everything was as it were. The only silver lining was witnessing yet another swashbuckling innings from Sehwag, notching up yet another triple hundred in the process. Had he had a few more over towards the end of the day, there was no doubt that Lara's record would have exhausted its shelf life. It is indeed ironic that of all the people who were touted to make triple centuries - the Tendulkars, the Dravids, whose technique and temperament are far more pronounced than Sehwag's, it is the latter who keeps contradicting the conventional wisdom with his rapid assaults. Other than that, and a dazzling display of South African's superior skill in the bowling department (currently the best in the world) that had the Indians on the ropes throughout the series, not much would be remembered about this tussle, and for good reasons.

The feeling was akin to the build up of a threating storm, that eventually blew past the coast, leaving everything untouched. It is as though the series never happened at all. Much like how the spectators might have felt watching Tyson take the victory laps, before they even settled in their seats. What was that Beatles song again - 'All that we are saying... is give peace a chance', except here it is the game, voicing for a little support.
 
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