Hope, Right

By the end of the 7th inning, it was clear to everyone that Gavin Floyd was pitching a no-hitter. A no-hitter with a run, no less.

Sox v Twins, May 6th, 2008

At the top of the ninth, he took the mound to a standing ovation. And stood there, alone, throwing pitches.

Sox v Twins, May 6th, 2008

See, earlier that day, I had wanted to go to my first ball game of this season. So, I emailed the usual suspects and lo and behold raver comes up with these awesome free tickets. Providence, you know. It was utterly beautiful at the park. The sky cleared up – the breeze – the game. After months in the darkness of Chicago’s coldest winter, I felt as if I had lungs to breathe.

And suddenly this good, nay pretty great night, was about to enter legendary status. I could witness a no-hitter.

The human mind is a funny thing. Well, mine is. I stood there, clapping and hollering, and wishing, wishing more than anything I have wished for, that Gavin would get this no-hitter. I wanted it for him. I wanted it because if it happened, it would be a sign. A clear indication that the impossibilities amassed on my shoulders could dissipate. Hope, right.

That moment, at the top of the ninth, with one out – that was a great moment. That’s what sports can do for you – give you air for your lungs.

Burdens of History

2002081800400101.gif“Athleticism has never been associated with Indian cricket, nor with Indians in general, and that has been a chip on the shoulder of Indian manhood.” Somini Sengupta, If It’s Hip, Fast and Furious, Is It Cricket?, 2007

“Through the same passes from time immemorial warlike races had swept down on the sun-steeped plains of the Five Rivers
and rich alluvial tracts of the Ganges and Jumna to conquer the effete dwellers therein and subdue them to their will. In India history repeats itself with monotonous sameness. In its enervating plains, far removed from the invigorating sea-breeze and the bracing cold of the mountain ranges, the keen eye, undaunted heart, and relentless arm of the successive hardy northern immigrants slowly but surely tend to change to the placid look, folded hands and brooding mind of the Eastern Sage, who, content to dream his dream of life, wearily turns from the conflict and dire struggle for existence, time after time introduced by the more warlike northern conquerors ever coming and going like the monsoon storms.” W. D. Frazer, British India, 1896.

Cricket Woes

Indian Cricket

Nothing lifts the spirits more in such desperate times than the memory of a young player gaining simple pleasure from one of his first tastes of cricketing success. India’s cricket commercialism was shaken to the core because last week a carefree 17-year-old Bangladeshi, Tamim Iqbal, smacked the bowlers to all parts. Yesterday, Sri Lanka also looked to their younger batsmen. Where their seasoned batsmen failed, they prospered through Upul Tharanga’s security and Chamara Silva’s mid-innings spark.

It all means that Bangladesh and Ireland are in the Super Eights and India and Pakistan are not. The crooks and charlatans on the fringes of the game will be appalled. But Woolmer, were he still alive, would have recognised the essential romance of it, the reminder that financial resources can still occasionally count for nothing when matched against the beating of a human heart.

David Hopps is absolutely right.

In the past weeks of watching this World Cup, it is very clear that Cricket is undergoing a deep crisis – the game is in trouble. The commercialization and superstardom of the last decade has robbed it of the pure pleasures of the game. Is it the dour professionalism and dominance of the Aussies? Or the in-fighting of Cricket Boards in India and Pakistan? The thing about these young Bangladeshi is not just that they can play … but that they are enjoying every single minute of being out there. That same glee is in the NewZealanders and in the Irish teams. It is curtains for many of the Pakistani, and perhaps Indian, players. Is there any hope for a rejuvenation there?

Luck O’ The Draw

The World Cup of Cricket is currently underway. Those of you who care, already know this and I am informing the rest now. The concept is beguilingly similar to other ‘World Cup’s – a bunch of teams from across the world gather every 4 years and find out how bad they suck compared to Australia (at least, that has been the script for the last decade though things are far more fluid this time around). And while they let Bermuda play, Americans are shut out of this international tournament. Also Iranians, Iraqis and North Koreans. Make of that what you will. Incidentally, no one can find the Bermuda team.

My favorite WC memory – and yes, the fans will cringe – was the semi-final defeat of Pakistan by Australia in 1987 at Ghaddafi Stadium, Lahore. Pakistan had a glorious team. Experienced, hungry and proud co-hosts of the Cup. Imran Khan, the captain, the leader of men, the demi-god, had promised greatness from his team. But, then the brash youth of Steve Waugh brought us all crashing to the ground. Boy, did that hurt. But it taught me the valuable, life-long, lesson to expect my home team to turn to shite at the perfect moment. Bitter, no? True, though.

In this WC, I didn’t really expect Pakistan to do much. The top-bowlers were doped-up at home. The batting lineup is old, cranky, fat and bearded [say what you will but unless the sport in question is World’s Fastest Growing Hair Follicles – shave]. And yet, one still did not expect the #4 ODI side in the world to lose to Ireland. IRELAND! Who don’t even have a cricket team. These are injured rugby players on their physiotherapy routine, people! And those Irish beat, nay thrashed, nay smacked the jama’at out, nay drove the snakes out of our glorious team. Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, Pakistan was sent packing by Ireland. Kinya belev’t?

Except I didn’t watch that match. I watched, instead, Bangladesh’s amazing chase of India’s measely 191. The three bats who carried Bangladesh, with scores of 51, 56* and 53, were aged 17, 18 and 19 years old respectively. The inning of the youngest, Tamim Iqbal, was especially awe-inspiring. That slightly, sprightly, left-hander charged every single Indian bowler with defiance and confidence that made me remember the young Saeed Anwar or Sachin Tendulkar. The composure of all the young batsmen was just solid and their grins infectious. India, on the other hand, played like over-paid, over-endorsed, over-burdened paper tigers with horrid fielding, lackluster bowling and complete lack of imagination in the captainship. You are bowling to kids, yo! Come on! I am certain there is much glee in Dhaka and much sorrow in Calcutta tonight. Oh, how the times have changed. I will remark, though, that at least Pakistan got some money to famously lose to Bangladesh in 1999. Just saying.

Hopefully, Pakistan will go home and every one on the team will be fired. And we will find some 17 year olds to get out there. Luckily for the Pakistani cricket team, our nation is burning cars over the Supreme Court firing, our press is under direct assault and The General is about to go Franco on us. The nation may be too distracted to notice that the tablighis came home early and empty handed.

In other WC news, H. Gibbs did what no batsmen had done in the history of international cricket – he smacked 6 sixes in an over against Netherlands (that’s akin to hitting a grand slam at your every at-bat – plus 2). The best I ever did was 4. So, he wins that head-to-head, I guess.

Looking ahead, I think Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia might be the Semifinal 4. With maybe West Indies in play for the NZ spot. Good chance that Sri Lanka takes it all.

update: Shocking news that Bob Woolmer, the Pakistani coach died suddenly. Truly shocking.