Matchmaker – World Cup 2011
It was a crowded frenzy. Or maybe it was a frenzied crowd. Maybe it was both. It was a celebration of wild, unbridled, raw emotions gathered in thoughtless, mindless shouts, cries and howls, But enough about the party in Charlie Sheen’s Jacuzzi. Let’s move on to the slightly saner world of sports.
I say slightly saner, but I am stretching the word thin. Sports is perhaps the last refuge of covert insanity. It is the one arena where it is still acceptable for mature, rational adults to behave like college dropouts on spring break. It is a global phenomenon – across all types of sports. But right now, the news of the hour is the evergreen Indian favourite – Cricket.
Cricket, for those who are not familiar with the sport, is a bat-and-ball team sport where the players take turns as the batting team – who fiercely defend three vertical sticks from an onslaught of impeding balls and, having done so, run back and forth across a small stretch of land called the pitch – and the bowling team – who throw balls at the batting team and run after them (the balls, not the batting team) within the confines of a wide ground, which surrounds the pitch. Cricket is known as the gentleman’s sport, invented in England by the late 16th century, presumably by British high-society who got bored between their evening teas. Since then, it has developed into several formats, including the ICC Cricket World Cup, a multimillion dollar televised event where, once in four years, people all over the world come together to side against Australian arrogance. This year, the 2011 ICC Cricket World Cup trophy was pocketed by the Indian Cricket team. It was a proud moment for India. This was our first World Cup victory in 28 years. Most Indians were glued to the TV set for the final eight hour match, and the rest were in the stadium.
My country, India, is often talked about as a land of varied diversity (as opposed to the sort of diversity that is uniform throughout, I suppose). It is a land full of mountains and plateaus, ignorance and knowledge, richness and poverty, and a blend of hundreds of subcultures, languages, religions, cuisines, and artforms. But one thing that seems to bring them together is cricket.
I watched the final match with my friends this year. It was a thoroughly enjoyable display of energy, rigor, team spirit and unity. And I’m just talking about my friends jumping up and down every time India scored. There is something rivetting about the sport… or so I’m told. Personally, I am more entertained by the audience than the actual sport. And boy, are they entertaining. They would jump up on their feet like cartoon characters sitting on a tack. They would cut off mid-sentence if a ball is dropped; they would shout at the players on screen, punch pillows, and dance spontaneously without warning. And my friends are comparatively sane. Sports has somehow become a caricature of explicit patriotism. During the high of the season, there were fans who would consider their day incomplete without the National flag painted all over their face… and other faces too, if they get the chance. Leave no face unpainted. That’s the unofficial motto.
A relatively unknown (well, unknown to me, anyway) model called Poonam Pandey had ‘incentivised’ the Indian team by promising to strip naked if the team won. She said her stripping would have therapeutic effect on the Indian team. The Cricket World Cup comes once every four years, India hasn’t won it in the past 28 years, and for people who are basically professionals in the field, the trophy is consideredto be the pinnacle of their career achievement, but no… the real motivation is to get Poonam to strip. Yes, therapy is most certainly required. But this isn’t a new deal in the crazy crazy world of sports… Model Larissa Riquelme had promised to run nude in Paraguay if her team won the football World Cup last year, and even though Paraguay lost, she ran naked anyway. It couldn’t be that she misheard the final score or got a fake newspaper that said Paraguay won. No, I believe she was planning on stripping anyway, and was just looking for an excuse. I wonder how much therapeutic effect she had on her team. But models’ aversion to clothes notwitshtanding, there are crazier people out there… If rumors are to be believed, then an Indian had planned on selling his kidney for buying tickets to the semi-final match. There has been no report as to whether he hocked the other one for tickets to the finals.
Just to clarify – when I said I ‘watched the final match’ with my friends, I meant I looked up from my laptop a few times to glance at the live telecast. I am not into sports, I’m not into cricket. These traits are considered so un-Indian that it took the government thrice as long as usual to process my passport. But despite my disinclination to the sport, I was enamoured by the last few overs… I watched India’s winning moment. I guess you don’t have to be a fan to connect with a victory for the nation. For an actual fan, the moment must be even more intense. And for the actual players, it must be indescribable… certainly a stronger high than Poonam Pandey’s therapy. Kudos.