Big snub for Big Brother

Spectator indifference, a T20 path-breaker, the Pantheon of Gods, a captaincy switch and another Kiwi heartbreak in a super-over, figure in this edition by K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

The cheer for India was largely muted in the stands at the R. Premadasa Stadium right through the course of the ICC World Twenty20. The limited applause emerged from the Indian fans, who arrived here on various cricket-tourism packages. During India’s matches against Australia, Pakistan or South Africa in the Super Eights, there was no evidence of neighbourly love for the men from across Palk Straits!

Random conversations evoked various theories. Some said that they did not want Sri Lanka to run into M. S. Dhoni’s men in the semifinals or final and so every Indian stumble provided joy in the stands. A few other fans drew in religious and linguistic factors but for everyone else on the streets, India ran the West Indies close as their second-favourite team.

Yet the indifference to Indian cricketers at the venue was still a perplexing reality. The only inference was that at the sub-conscious level, there is a perception of India being the ‘Big Brother’ and that has bred a certain resentment, which is often the case in sibling-rivalry.

T20 pioneer

Often when the camera pans towards the West Indies dugout, Richie Richardson flashes the thumbs-up sign and grins. The former West Indies captain, who was a destructive batsman in his own right despite living in the shadow of Vivian Richards, is currently the manager of Darren Sammy’s men.

Most importantly he is a prime witness to the rapid growth of Twenty20. Richardson lead the Lashings World XI that played the first trial T20 match in England during early 2000 and he is impressed at the manner in which cricket’s shortest version has evolved since that distant day.

“The England and Wales Cricket Board was experimenting with T20 and I captained the Lashings team which played against Gloucestershire. I just thought it was a great idea, fun and different. We won the first match against Gloucestershire. I remember Wasim Akram, Chris Harris and Rashid Latif played for us. T20 has added a new light to the sport, opened up a new avenue to a different type of fan and also attracts more sponsors. It is here to stay,” Richardson said.

A mixing-pot of various cultures

A regular strip pasted inside all auto-rickshaws that ply the roads of Colombo, features the Hindu pantheon with Lord Buddha placed within the divine ranks. Later over a meal of Chinese fried rice and Sri Lankan pickles washed down with the famous cream soda, a variant of which called the ‘goli’ soda does the rounds in Chennai, clarity emerged about religious-fusion in the Emerald Isle. Manikkam, with ancestral roots trailing back to Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, who works at a restaurant owned by Romesh Dissanayake, said: “Here we consider Buddha to be an avatar of Vishnu and hence that religious strip has all the gods.”

A super-over slump and a captaincy-swap

Pallekele witnessed a dramatic day on October 1. First-up, New Zealand blacked-out in another super-over climax while the West Indies stayed on the path towards the semifinal. It was the second super-over defeat for Ross Taylor's men after their failure to get past Sri Lanka in an earlier contest.

The day’s second clash provided fodder for a debate on captaincy-rules within the ambit of the ICC as Kumar Sangakkara walked out for the toss along with Stuart Broad. Mahela Jayawardene did not want to take chances and suffer a one-match ban just in case his team again crawled with a slow over-rate. The host won that clash but the over-riding talk centred on the ‘spirit of the game’ and about whether Jayawardene’s move would set an unhealthy precedent for other skippers, who are on the ICC’s warning-list for sluggish over- rates.

A few days later, an unfazed Jayawardene said: “I spoke to Stuart Broad before the match and he was fine. I can’t stop people from thinking about whether it was in the right spirit. I haven’t done anything wrong to any team, player or individual. We just made a tactical move under the circumstances. The fact is that if we had fallen short by another one over then I will miss a match.”

The next-day, Pakistan’s spinners ambushed Australia in a Super Eight fixture at Colombo and the tournament acquired an unpredictable air while calculators popped up and net run-rates were pencilled in as the race for the semi-final spots heated up.