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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Friday, April 01, 2011

Cricket Diplomacy

Tomorrow India shall be playing world cup finals against Sri Lanka at Wankhede Statium, Mumbai. The match shall start at 2:30 pm. Before this finals India played semi-final against Pakistan on 30th March 2011 at Mohali. More than the finals this match was important and as any other cricket fan I watched the whole match on TV.  As I have been watching other matches I have been thinking of writing down my personal reflection on the world cup, which is much more than the sport, a great business opportunity, a great advertising venture, a profitable enterprise, full media masala, and a political platform for many.
While we watched the semi-final there were many things and thoughts which kept my senses vibrant all through.  First when it was decided after the quarter finals (India Vs Australia, India won) that India shall be playing against Pakistan, the national media nerve took all counts and got busy in capitalising almost all opportunities.  The Prime Minister of India, Man Mohan Singh (MMS) sent an official invitation to Pakistan's Prime minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, who is 26th PM of Pakistan, to watch the match which was positively responded.  All bigwigs of media, politics, administration, business were their to watch this match which included the whole Gandhi family who chose to sit in the public gallery, of course surrounded with the designated personal security in suits and black goggles.
MMS and Gilani were seen watching the whole match and exchanging glares. After the match they had dinner together (hosted by MMS) and talked on various issues of mutual interest.  MMS told media that the talks were quite cordial and they wanted to start afresh forgetting the turbulent past.  Pak chief also addressed Pak media and reported that it was a good beginning.  There seems to be a good reason why MMS chose this cricket diplomacy at this juncture, there are elections in 5 states and there is so much about the present government (financial scams of all nature and the dumbness of MMS), this must have been a great opportunity for them to catch the eye of the media for all its positivity.
Anyways let us get back to the match, it was fully charged match with not even a single instance of sledging or facial retaliation, which I thought was quite unexpected during a match between India and Pakistan.  there were many who were found waving Pak flag and carrying Pak stickers on their cheeks.  It was in itself a good display of positive gestures.  I saw one spectator, wearing Indian cricket team like attire (blue) waving Pak flag.  Further another interesting placard which read 'India has two religions - cricket and cinema, then why do we fight.'  It caught my eye and then there were film personalities like Aamir Khan, Prity Zinta etc and the business tycoons like vijay Mallaya, Singhania, sharing their proximity with Prafful Patel and other politicians who are involved in national policy making.  
I was again and again thinking that if at all India looses this match, how media is going to respond, I am sure many of them might have already made up some stories so that they can telecast it just after the match and boast of their first reporting.  But that was not to happen.  AK Singh (my colleague) told me that India is going to win this match by 27 runs and he told this at around 5 pm even when India was playing. What a precision in his kind of astrology I am sure Nostradamus must have had some connection with him or Alwin Toffler must have infused some environmental sociology in him so that he could be so definite. India won by 29 runs. Well done...Dhoni, Raina, Sachin, Nehra, Yuvi, Munaf, and Sehwag... all team members.
Sachin played very well.  He is considered God of cricket.  There have been people who have advocating that he deserves to get Bharat Ratna (highest civilian award given by GOI) award.  I feel it is little early for him, though he deserves it.  He has contributed to cricket through his excelling sporting behaviour and cool temperament. He is not a good leader but he is an excellent team member.  Through he did not play his best innings in this match as 4 times his catches were not caught, but still his contribution took India to a quite competitive start and finish.  He is playing cricket since last 21 years (started at 16 years of age, he is 37) and as I have brown I have followed his career growth which has included some phase of out of form syndrome but overall he has been one of themost consistent and reliable player for his team.
When he started playing, Indian cricket team was sponsored by ITC through its cigarette brand called WILLS.  Indian team use to wear WILLS.  Many players were using WILLS on their bat.  I remember seeing Azaharuddin in FOUR SQUARE bat, but Sachin refused to endorse any tobacco brand and instead chose to sign a contract with Madras Rubber Factory (MRF) and played with that tag until recently when he signed a deal with Adidas and now he carries Adidas on his bat.  His attitude towards tobacco products is a good gesture and tell us about his personality and value system.
The best part of the semi-finals which I liked was the response given by Shahid Afridi (Captain of Pak Team) after he lot the match, at the presentation ceremony in response to Ravi Shastri.  Afridi appreciated indian cricket and said India played better cricket, he apologised to his countrymen that they lost and cold not come upto their expectations.  And he wished good luck to Indian team for playing their best int he finals.
After all we are one, India, Pakistan or Sri Lanka, we belong to one continent and sport is their to bring us and keep us together and not at all to divide us.  Lets take the finals in good spirit and enjoy the game, does not matter Indian wins or Srilanka, Cricket must win and shall win in the finals.  Wishes