Asia, India & `The World'

Dhanraj Pillay as the captain of the Indian hockey team brought a Cup from which all India drank deep.-AP

Well, the Asia Cup take-off is proof that our hockey is in somewhat better health. Dizzying was the Asia spectacle of India forging ahead of Pakistan — by a 4-2 short-head margin in that phantasmagoria photo finish.

BY any Pillayardstick, a Dream Cup to win — no raj like Dhanraj! Time again, obviously, for that Billiards Bull In The China Shop, Michael Ferreira (as one hockey hooked), to stick out his neck in rubbishing Cricket, Ugly Cricket! And who shall say Ferreira hasn't a Ferrari right to vent his pet obsession in this our finest hockey hour? No Rolled Gold Medal, this Asia Cup. There is roller-coaster reason, therefore, for all India to view our prize as our pride. To rejoice at having got to view our hockey stand Pakistan rejuvenated. Even if any title win over Pakistan is fraught with the euphoric danger of `medalomania' metamorphosing into megalomania.

How to keep our Navjot Sidhu head in such a head swimming setting is the problem. Recall how, in his Navjottings on STAR, Sherry played down Sourav & Co's Wanderers Final loss to Australia? Incredibly arguing: "So what if we lost the World Cup. After all, we beat Pakistan on the way. That's as good as the World Cup for me!" Break into a bhangra by all means at your Yeh desh hai veer jawaanon ka disposal, Navjot. But don't celebrate — like we prematurely Mandi did in the World Cup — to a point of no Ricky return.

Beyond doubt the Asia Cup uplifted was a telesight for the Gods. Which Indian did not feel ethereally elevated in that misty telly moment? After the way Pakistan had shunted us out of the medals' picture in the Champions Trophy by "turning up bronze trumps" almost at the victory post? So India never had it so gold against Pakistan. Not lately anyway. It is a champagne shareout in which all Indians drink deeply from the Asia Cup. Even while taking pertinent note of what Ric Charlesworth — never needing to hate cricket to love hockey — observed as Pillay's India felt reinvented, anticipating reaching the bronzenith, at least, in the Champions Trophy. Following that teleset shattering 3rd-spot loss to Pakistan, Ric pinpointed how not all the top hockey teams in the world were there at the Champions Trophy. How some world-beaters there were not at full strength.

Well, the Asia Cup take-off is proof that our hockey is in somewhat better health than Ric was prepared to concede. Dizzying was the Asia spectacle of India forging ahead of Pakistan — by a 4-2 short-head margin in that phantasmagoria photo finish. Still Indian Hockey, remember, has but impressively entered The Straight — in the international context. Even if the Sidhus of the subcontinent contend that this is it. Perhaps even suggesting that the nation's Asia Cup rise over Pakistan must rate as an even taller achievement than Sourav's India making it to the Final of the World Cup. Underscoring that here it is the Asia Cup won. While there it remains the World Cup lost.

Fair enough. The gold is the gold is the gold. To this extent, hockey now is certainly set to vie with cricket for the telespots. Against the "Ignace Is Ace" backdrop of the stick of Tirkey talking turkey. Most deservedly are our Kuala Lumpur Cuppers being feted by the media in India. Becomingly are they, side by side, attracting big-sponsor attention. Which sponsor would not like to `endorse' members of a TVictorious Indian team making Pakistan feel "browned off" at the Final whistle?

For all that, hockey is hockey, cricket is cricket. In the sense that Sourav and his Sehwagon are a draw whether India win or lose. Of course there is a much larger booty to distribute, across the Little Screen Monitor, if Sourav's India makes it to the World Cup Final. Such a peaking even sees Mandira emerge, overnight and day, as "Ms 46 Per Cent." Dot Ball Point — the ambience of cricket is such that there is scope to spread out those very special sponsorship shekels. For there always are, in cricket, `spot' breaks in the run of play. On DD — never changing its Everest Masala Willowy Wifie `spots' — there is even elbow room to turn it into a 5-ball-over game.

By crafty contrast, the game of hockey moves at a frenetic pace. Where, only at the halfway stage, is there breathing space to say: "Sorry For The Break!" The break needed to fit in the spots. Plus, most importantly, our team has, willy-nilly, to keep winning in hockey. It's a sport in which no opponent bar Pakistan can attract the same glossy ad attention. So Coach Rajinder Singh need not have come down like a sledgehammer on our hockey heroes seeking to make an instant kill. Knowing hockey to be far from the Golden Goose cricket is. That our hockey boys delivered in the moment that mattered against Pakistan is all that counts now. For the Bedi Diva to Mandiram home the point that she is a hockey-stick at nothing Sardarni first, a Mark Nicholas "Cathedralite" cricket buff after.

Verily has it been an Anju George scale of leap by our hockey. A leap putting Sourav and his men under pneumatic Shilpa Shetty pressure to perform, in all legs, against World Champs Australia. Indian Cricket has sticky competition at last.

That New Zealand is no Kiwinsome competition is what Sourav has to TV prove straightaway. ` The World' was our oyster until that Sunday of March 23. Now what will be recalled is the pearl in that oyster not being ultimately Sourav's in the shimmery shape of the World Cup. Also, Indian Hockey triumphed on the September 28 Sunday `viewing' Golden Voiced Lata Mangeshkar on Sahara song. "Gaata Rahe Mera Dill," co-singeth Kishore here.