Thursday, February 01, 2007


Cricket is back in India, the country where it is next to GOD in terms, of fan following. The dwindling fortunes of the Men in Blue in the lead up to the world cup does not deter the sponsors and the even the cricket fans to flock the stadiums to catch a glimpse of their idols.

The journalists are back with a bang as India is playing at home and now with the return of DADA (Saurav Ganguly) the Bengali journalists cannot hide a smile on their face and are out in large numbers to cover the opening match in Orange City (Nagpur). Two local TV channels in Bengal have even deployed their OB vans to catch the action as it happens.

Friday and the buzz is evident as fans flock the stadiums during practice sessions to catch a glimpse of their icons. Saurav Ganguly gets the biggest cheers as he enters the stadium.
The former captain fans are ecstatic and the smile is back on Saurav’s face afterall he is making a comeback into Team India after a 16 months hibernation. Saurav’s deceptive style of throwing unsolvable puzzles started with his warm-up with Robin Uttappa but padding up alongside Gautam Gambhir send journalists into decoding mode.

On the eve of the opening match in Nagpur. Rahul Dravid sensed trouble looking at the large journalist’s turnout from the East. The men in Blue captain, Dravid knew Saurav’s return meant journos flocking the team hotel and gossip galore. He stamped his acumen into the new role following his policy to announce his final eleven in South Africa into the home series. Many considered this a positive step but it was indirectly meant to neutralize the Bengal effect. Super stuff! Rahul. It was a dampener for the journalists from the east but for the rest it was a sigh of relief.

Sunday, the match started and in walked Saurav and Gambhir in the middle to open the batting for India. The journos from the East were the first in the press box in the best possible positions to catch DADA in action. The South Paw did not disappoint and let his willow do the talking. His shots through the offside, his cut, his pull was all exquisite and the left hander was back. However, lakhs of viewers missed the action as the channel broadcasting the match refused to share the feed with Doordarshan. The 32,000 capacity stadium was jam packed by 11 am and the non visibility of the channel in the press box and in major parts of the city forced people to rush to the stadium to catch updates.

Saurav roared and stamped his class with a superlative knock of 98. His diehard critics and journalists who had written for months together that he is history were forced to eat humble pie. He missed the hundred but had booked his ticket to West Indies.
The top order firing all cylinders was a treat but the presence of Saurav in the team is it the reason for such aggressive style employed by the batsmen baffled many.

The Post match press conference and there was a buzz as Saurav missed the man of the match award thanks to Shivnarain Chanderpaul who played a calculated innings but ended up on the losing side.

Rahul defended his move of going into the match with a 7-4 combination but his comments did indicate that he was feeling edgy. The pressure was clearly visible and his body language indicated he was under tremendous pressure. He sensed the mood and did handle the situation well. Meanwhile, the Indian team, came back next to the press conference room for a snack and the journalists were confused what to cover, the PC or the team snack party.

Rahul had played another ace, he was able to control the situation and get over with his PC in 12 minutes, another first for the captain for the world cup.

Rahul walked out and along with him the team but Saurav a champion when it comes to using the media to his advantage delayed his snack party and the media pounced on the Prince of Kolkata. Saurav spoke to the local TV channels in Bengal and also to his friends from Bengal. The Bengali journalists who were in Pakistan clinging on to national daily journalists for stories were suddenly standing on their feet and looking tall. The national daily journalists felt cheated and they had every right to do so.

The victory was team India’s but the star was Saurav and the south paw gave some juicy quotes which dominated headlines on Monday. The Prince of Kal was the top story running across four to six columns while the Dravid quotes did get sparse mention. The TV channels saved BCCI the blushes by showing the PC live.

Match one over and India has seven more matches before the World cup but the message is loud and clear. Rahul has to watchful and he needs to keep his head on his shoulders on and off the field as his captaincy is under pressure from two quarters.


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