Cricket as Karma Cola

Sachin Tendulkar with the Man of the Match cheque in the Coca Cola Cup held in Sharjah in 1998. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

A Straw Poll is "an unofficial ballot as a test of opinion". No matter which be the side of the double edged straw through which you now view the Pepsi drinks break, it is a theme of consuming interest. In the sense that Cricket As Karma Cola has been our tele lot for as long as we care to wind the hind of our mind. Coca Cola we viewed to be gaining terrific visibility as Sachin (143 & 134) emerged as "Sharjahaanpanaah" on April 24, 1998. Now in 2003, of course, Aamir Khan is Coca Cola's spot brand performer. In this quick-change artiste role, how many Rahul-swept kudiis has Aamir Khan put through their Lagaan limb loosening paces! As "Nizam" Laxman's spot Akhtar Hyderabadi motivator, however, Aamir got thus Coke far and no further. Cussedly single minded remains VVS while pulling off all those Aamirave fours. Scrupulously resisting the bait offered by any of Aamir's many Gracies.

Aamir aside, it is Pepsip by Pepsip we have absorbed the Monitor Game for some time now. Our not so soft drinking Cricket Board might choose, with New Zeal, not to stay with Pepsi. But they can't wish away the fact that our most memorable moment in the recent World Cup (the way Sourav & Co made nearly every speed post a winning one) came to belong to Pepsi. That quaintly sanctimonious Cola Karmacharya had indubitably coined an all-time quote by the day the Sou Gang raced into the Wanderers final. "Humein World Cup kii kya ichchha ho saktee hai, sab Moh Maya hai!" is a Pepsi punchline rooted in the mindset. Sourav & Co looked unstoppable, until Zed chose to "Australiaise" the totally wrong way with Adam and Matt. In one Sachin shot, all the fizz went out of the World Cup.

Chalte Chalte, the entire cola controversy caught the Kapoor Cutie Kareenapping. For this choco<147,1,7>late charmer just couldn't comprehend what all the "Pepsi Shah Rukhsat" fuss was about. Shah Rukh, as Sachin's 1999 World Cup Pepsi Duplicate, is by now almost as much of a memory as is Azhar. Yet the Bijlinchpin of India's captaincy was the model Sangita, till the game passed through that Pepsieve. Before that, just like the irrepressible Tony Greig to get the TWI camera to turn upon a still to wed Sangita. A Sangita sex-symbolising the beauty of being a face-and-a-half in the crowd. Next, Greigy Tony, just for half a sec, switched the camera spotlight on the Sangi smitten Azhar in the pavilion. To spot-ask fellow commentator Ravi about the "Amritang" to it all.

Sourav Ganguly with the Pepsi Cup, which India won in 2000 beating Zimbabwe. — Pic. THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY-

But Ravi was agile on his mike mobile. "Let's concentrate on real cricket!" said Ravi — as the Man For All Ritus. No Fevicol Action Replay ever caught Ravi stuck for a turn of phrase. The only time Ravi went out of sight, but not mind, was when DD cut in with that grotesque toothpaste ad. A DD spot just refusing to go away. This while Ravi was interviewing Sachin after a super century! Sachin, for his Gulliver part, continued to be the genie in the Pepsi bottle. Uncorked afresh at No 1, Ten rose to his full stature in the 2003 World Cup. Yet our most impressionable Sach Tele Hour belongs to Coke rather than to Pepsi. Recall how, on April 22, 1998, Tony Greig took our bubbly breath away with that prize 100,000 dollars' Coca Cola announcement, awarding a Ten going smashing past 100 to 134? Ten had cut, in the process, the Sharjah "Playground of the East" from under the feet of the Ugly Stevie Aussie.

It thus was with A Fistful Of Dollars Ten went to Australia to greet Cricket God Sir Don. In so coming face to face with Bradman, Sachin did his best to burnish the Shane Warne image. That the image has suffered such damage, since, is not the doing of Sachin's bat alone. Shane Warne — as one habitually making "leggy" advances — is a reminder of the old English adage that the books written on cricket are outnumbered only by the books written on sex. The accent on sex had a healthy Pepsi ring to it so long as it was Shah Rukh keeping Kareena cozy Adnan Sami sung company. In the instant in which Tiger Pataudi's son Saif joined Fardeen (as the twosome foil to Kareena and Preity), a Pepsick joke it was in the eyes of viewers. The first sign of Pepsi overreaching itself in India? But is anything going to come out of it — for all the 24 x 7 Dutt Girl "We The People" brouhaha? Or is it all just Barkha kii raat mein he ho ha?

So much for so little Pepsi. Remember the best of Coca Cola is yet to come as Sourav's India "Channel 9" confront Australia. An Australia still vicariously led by a Steve Waugh telebent on proving that no Sunny way is he in the December of his career. From December 4, therefore, how Brisbaneful, in their influence, are going to be those Coca Cola spots sure to figure on the ESPN screen? Who shall swear that all the Coke-Pepsi froth isn't just for now? How much has Authority been able to do about Indian viewers still being on Bacardi song? On the telly created Wagah border — before Laloo Yadav — did we not keep running the "8 p.m." gauntlet of Kamal Chopra and Kunal Vijaykar? All about ultimate election time peace, is it, this cola war? Bottle green the cricket field still is. Nowhere more lush green than in distant Australia — via Channel 9 Coke.