Wednesday, March 21, 2007

World Cup Cricket 2007: Where is the excitement?

Watching World Cup Cricket in England is a sober experience – a stark contrast to watching World Cup football. Just six months ago, there was so much verve and enthusiasm in the air -- England flags everywhere, pubs revamping themselves for the big event, cheerleading songs being composed and all kinds of football memorabilia flooding the malls. The English football fans, known for their mercurial temperament, if not thronging Germany, were shouting themselves hoarse at home. So even though England’s victory in World Cup football is almost a sepia moment now, English fans made their presence felt everywhere; Wayne Rooney’s health update was on every television channel. The television commentary, self referential to the point of being jingoistic, almost had you believe that England was poised to win the championship.
The same excitement and energy is missing now and the silence is almost deafening.

That is a pity since, World Cup Cricket, 2007, thus far has all the ingredients of a thriller – set in beautiful sea side locations it has already seen death, maritime adventures and the dethroning of the giants by the greenhorns. Inside the playing arena, the outcomes are undecided, with only New Zealand, Australia and West Indies making it into the Super eights as yet. Records have been broken and re-made including the highest score ever made by a batting side in a World Cup match and brilliant catches have been held. All this in a week which the pundits had predicted was going to be rather dull. In fact, there were nasty whispers that the ICC had unnecessarily prolonged the World Cup to fill their coffers. But the exit of big teams has certainly vindicated the much maligned cricket administrators.

I would like to think that the ripple effect began with Herschelle Gibbs; after practically ‘dropping’ the World Cup in 1999 he did a Gary Sobers by hitting six 6s in an over. India’s loss to Bangladesh created quite a stir, and then the zealous fans went on rampage in Dhoni’s house. Bangladesh and Ireland outmaneuvered India and Pakistan respectively. Perhaps the most tragic and chilling incident is Bob Woolmer’s death which the Jamaican police are now treating as ‘suspicious.’ Following Pakistan’s ouster from the World Cup, the coach was found unconscious in his hotel room. Andrew Flintoff’s drunken revelry has earned him a match expulsion and a few headlines. Luckily for England, they got past Canada, without Flintoff, recording their first win in two games. India has recorded the highest score ever in a World Cup match with 413 runs. We hope that this feather in their caps comes not in vain for the boys in blue.

Things may accelerate if England go through to the Super Eights. At this moment, however,any involvement in the game is simply not visible, neither in shopping arcades nor in sports pubs. Cricket news has to share the spotlight with F.A. cup. Television channels are doing their bit, telecasting all matches; the panel of commentators with the exception of erstwhile golden boy, David Gower and Bob Willis, (whom you will not recognize as the maverick fast bowler who had the Indian openers quaking) lacks star element. But it is the lack of participation of the vox populi that surprises and disappoints. Ironic, since England it was who carried the game everywhere and re-wrote national boundaries and pastimes. In the subcontinent, for example, cricket is the stuff of popular imagination and mass hysteria. So, while effigies of unsuccessful players and captains are being burnt and whole nations are on emotional overdrive, English cricket fans seem to have buried themselves. As I drive past Reading County Cricket club, I hope that they are sitting in the recesses of the lounge somewhere, watching their team play, ready to accept defeat or victory with a stiff upper lip. It is an English saying, isn’t it, may the best man win! So for World Cup 2007, may the best team win.


Anonymous said...

Petinent observations.

... in fact, even CNN is showing more interest in the event compared to the average man on the street in Britain. Having recently been summarily dismissed downunder, hope it's not a case of sour grapes !!


Fortunately here in India things are a lot different. Today is the crucial match with Sri lanka and one could feel the deserted roads, Groups of people surrounding the television sets here and there, office goers actually left the office early to catch the match and tomorrow probably half of India would reach the office late without any eyebrows being raised. log live the spirit and may the most spirited win.