Australia, India & Pakistan

BHARATAN

HOW tantalising, the 4-3 Titan Edge by which "The Slimmest Watch In This Universe" turned into "The Slimmest Match In This Universe"! So near the bronze and yet so far. "Either come back with the gold medal or don't bother to come back at all!" was the Munich Olympics mandate to the 1972 Pakistan team. Likewise, there was now a Bronze Sword of Damocles hanging over the Pakistan team's head. A sword that looked to have all but dropped as India so sensationally led 3-2. Sword play in which our sharp shooters lost their cutting edge, sadly, in the last TEN Sports minutes that mattered.

Dhanraj Pillay was the centre of attention when the team returned to India after the Champions Trophy. For all his stickcraft there was not even a bronze reward for the country . — Pic. PTI-

Australia it was that had given Indian Hockey a shot in the lost arm with that 8-3 thrash of Argentina. Just as Australia it was that had shown Sourav's India the 8 wins in a row way to the World Cup Final. I mean via that timely 2nd World Cup match drubbing that Ricky's Australia administered to Sourav's India. Call it incidental, call it coincidental, but it was first Holland, then Australia, that put India, galvanisingly, on its cricket guard in the World Cup. If that February 15 Saturday league loss to Australia had the whole nation up in arms, it was because it came as a traumatising follow-up to Sourav's India having merely scraped through vs Holland in our World Cup opener.

That was then. Now quite a few viewers wished that "8-3 Australia" hadn't uplifted India only for us to lose our bronze sheen! Such visual escapism is a measure of how we Injuns, as a tribe, glimpse things, in convenient hindsight, on the small screen. Disheartening it certainly was to have to witness India being out of the medals' orbit in the Final TV screening we got. Viewing Pakistan there (in cosy bronze closeup) did make Indian telewatchers feel ruefully diminished. But that is the way of the World Cup — we somehow get there, only to go crashing out. We played economy class hockey until we had nothing, just nothing, to lose in that final bronze fling. Just goes to show how lucky we were not to have had to play Pakistan in the semifinal scene of the World Cup. Sachin (98) here hit where it hurt Pakistan most. There thus was no World Cup chance for Pakistan to regroup. As there was now in Champions Trophy Hockey. The final whistle here had India just about blowing it.

How much your team's being seen "there" in the ritzy medals' countdown, matters on "TV, Instant TV"! The whole nation felt the visual pinch (after India stood upgraded by Australia) as "Bonzer Bronze" emerged Pakistan. Thousand million Indians — Not Even A Bronze"! Time to get Khushwant Singh into the teleframe. Trust the sportive Khushwant to put a "fair" face on things by suggesting that Mandira Bedi (with her come-hither shoe-button eyes) would have made all the goal difference! As a Sardarni committed to hockey first, cricket after. Still how close to her cheesecake chest would Mandira have held her hockey cards? Only so close as for Dhanraj's India to be in with a 46% chance. While it was Pakistan's 54% territorial advantage that clinched. "The odd goal in 7". For Pakistan (after that 4-7 climbdown) to seal 4-3 this "telematch of wits."

One look at the tube here and Mandira would have discerned how little is the cushioning (even in the case of a well-upholstered presenter) that hockey provides compared to cricket. As to how many moves behind Our Bedi Diva would have been seen to be in hockey — your gush is as good as mine. A Ric Charlesworth (excelling at hockey and cricket alike) could have displaced the gallant Mark Nicholas to help out our stick-at-nothing Mandi. Yet what, at best, could you envision Mandi asking Ric? Whether Ric despatched the white ball, in one-day cricket, as pinpointedly as he did the white ball in one-hour hockey?

TEN Sports deserves kudos for the visually vivid tones in which it brought hockey, live hockey, into our living room. But was it in the Fitness Beach of things for TEN Sports to have switched the focus, culture shockingly, to wrestling in a trice? Just after viewers had absorbed the arts and graces of now hockey, now cricket? One moment Sanjay was there, holding forth on the finer pencil points of the scoring pattern in the Pakistan-Bangladesh Test match. Next instant, we had TEN Sports' Wrestling intruding upon the Sanjay commentary. In a style calculated to make viewers squirm. Sanjay's image just didn't jell here. Given his body language, Sanjay looks game only for Cricket, Comely Cricket. TEN Sports needs to zero in, more alertly, on the game Ten plays for Sanjay to score.

But Sunil Gavaskar did ESPN-score with the dot-ball point he made about what Graeme Smith could conceivably have said to Andy Flintoff. As that "sledgehammer" (set to smash 55) first came in to bat (with his shirt on) in the Headingley Test. Here we get to the gut of the matter. Assuming Graemy said something really foul sounding to Andy, does the umpire (away from it all) step into the TV picture? Is it any part of the umpire's job to bother about what the opposing captain could be saying to an admittedly explosive striker who, strictly speaking, is still to reach the middle? How does the umpire, out of earshot, really know what, precisely, is being spoken — at some 20 yards' distance? No pat solution is there to the messy business of sledging. Neville Cardus hit the ball on the red when he observed that you can't "legislate cricketers into sportsmanship". It is for a Shane Warne to determine if his career is all about spin. Or all about skin.