KP’s words matter a lot

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli... on a shopping spree in Colombo.-K.R. DEEPAK

The ‘watch on Pietersen’ continued as writers from London tried to lip-read and second-guess the batsman’s analysis on England’s matches. From K.C. Vijaya Kumar.

The images beamed in from Pallekele threatened nerves and nails on a humid Thursday (Sept. 27). A few metres outside the R. Premadasa Stadium, just ahead of the exit gate, a group of Sri Lankan fans were huddled around a television set. Tired Indian journalists, leaving for their rooms, paused their feet. And close to the television, a Pakistani fan stood clutching his flag.

The ICC World Twenty20 Super Eights Group I match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand had hurtled to its twisted climax, a super-over.

Lasith Malinga though froze the Black Caps and in a split-second, the fans lost themselves in delirium. Sinhala words of joy boomed all over the place, crackers went off in the immediate neighbourhood of small homes, narrow bylanes and mosques and as the Indian scribes smiled, the Pakistani said: “ jeetgaya, jeetgaya” (we won, we won). At that moment, the sub-continent was truly one brotherhood.

The Kevin Pietersen show

It was a vignette during the first week: Shane Watson addressing the press while the British media was closely watching an adjacent television that beamed in images of Kevin Pietersen the commentator. The ‘watch on Pietersen’ continued in the second week too as writers from London, tried to lip-read and second-guess the batsman’s analysis on England’s matches. Currently mired in a stand-off with the England and Wales Cricket Board, Pietersen may not matter to his team but his every word from the studios matters a hell of a lot to harried journalists.

The supreme entertainer

The ability to strike sixes at will and the impromptu dances after scalping a few wickets, makes Chris Gayle an entertainer par excellence. Talk about someone who seems to encapsulate the celluloid magnetism of Rajnikanth’s chutzpah, Salman Khan’s bravado and Prabhudeva’s dance on a cricket field and you cannot go beyond Gayle.

His unique dance after nailing Irish and English wickets, evoked Kevin Pietersen’s bemused tweet: “What the hell was that dance Peter AKA?” A few days later, Gayle tweeted: “I need a producer to produce my gangnam music video...Know any? However I’m shooting a amateur gangnam style video tmrw...Will post video!” In these days of players sounding the same everywhere, Gayle is a welcome breath of fresh air.

How does Dhoni stay sane?

Ahead of a Super Eight match against Australia, M. S. Dhoni was asked about how he clears the clutter in his mind. The Indian captain’s reply was prompt though it was a slap against the information highway!

“For me no news channels, no newspapers and no phones. Once you are done with the tournament you can think about all these things. It’s important that I’m thinking in the right direction. The energy we are spending, it’s important that we spend it on cricketing aspects — the nets and the fielding sessions and all those areas,” Dhoni said.

Ancient language, evolving sensibilities

The road signs in Colombo and the rest of Sri Lanka follow the three-language preamble: Sinhala, Tamil and English. The names and directions written in ‘Thooya Thamizh’ (Pure classical Tamil) catch the eye. There is a constant back-and-forth references to the language all over the city. The bar manager at the P. Sara Oval refers to ‘Deiva Pulavar’ (Divine scholar) Thiruvalluvar during a conversation over black tea; a theatre nearby screens a Tamil flick named ‘Vishwa Tiger’; and music shops stock up on the latest music CDs of Vijay and Surya films.

The conscience-keepers

Cricketers are often stereo-typed as supreme sportsmen with fat bank balances. But they have a heart too and are aware about the world with its inequities. During the course of a tough cricket week in Colombo, a few stepped out to lend their support to developmental causes. Shane Watson participated in a ‘Room to Read’ outing that promotes education and reading among school kids. He read out stories, tried his hand at illustrating those tales and answered queries from wide-eyed children. Kumar Sangakkara is his favourite Sri Lankan cricketer and maths is not his favourite subject, quipped Watson.

In another ‘cricketer meets conscience’ moment, South African cricketers past and present ranging from Allan Donald to Richard Levi, interacted with 15 youngsters for a ‘Think-Wise’ campaign, an initiative of the International Cricket Council, the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Soon a spot of cricket and a discussion on AIDS, blended sport and social causes much to the delight of the assembled gathering.

That day, this time

September 24, 2007, is a key milestone in Indian cricket. On that day, M.S. Dhoni’s men won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in Johannesburg. Five years later while being in the midst of the tournament’s fourth edition, the Indian skipper and a few of his team-mates spent a rest-day lounging at a mall in Colombo. Dhoni picked a few button knives and adventure gear and was in good cheer while Virat Kohli indulged in footwear and Yuvraj Singh tucked into Chinese food with chopsticks.