Lord's: Sourav's Litmus Test

CATCH the third eye did John Wright only by conspicuously keeping himself out of the ESPN camera range during the grandstanding July 13 Lord's ovation to Sourav and Co. Coach Wright, in being so exemplarily self-effacing, foresaw that the litmus Test of character for Sourav's India begins only now at Lord's. While Lord's on July 13 was but 'one-day' to savour in the life of the nation. A day on which all India, sitting telestruck, never could forget viewing Sourav failing to keep his Lord's shirt on - after having put it on a Mohammad Kaif nerve-tinglingly bringing us home (at 326 for 8) with 87 not out (75 balls, 10 fours, 2 sixes). Sourav's body language here said it all. In a Kolkata stadium idiom underpinning Sourav's playing grassroots being in football first, cricket after.

'How The NatWest Was Won' came to view as a story-book ending worth filming. For all that, Sourav must learn to hold his wild horses now that the litmus Lord's Test has begun. Drawing his grim 'final' lesson from a Nasser Hussain 'back-baiting' the back-biting British media. Is that what put the onus on Sourav to bare and dare? Like Navjot, for one, not being able to resist the urge to indulge in 'flag-waving'? Poor Geoffrey, he had to be 'on the defensive' all over again. That Boycs put a good Yorks face on it is a pragmatist measure of the man. Neither is Sri Lanka the beginning, nor is England the end, of the World Cup. Sourav's India still has some Boycott-observed distance to go on the Long Road to South Africa.

Even in the run-up to the rearguard Lord's win fashioned by the Yuvy-Kaify duo, the problem for Sourav's India was our peaking too soon. That is why the run contribution of Rahul and Sachin alike (in India's reaching the last lap in style) could be so easily 'minimised on the small screen'. That is the Tele Triumph of Youth. Of Yuveraj and Kaif as the mettlesome twosome running the supremely fit England off their feet for a rare one-day win. But one swallow does not an English summer make. There are four arduous Tests to go on TV - via the visuals of Channel 4 on STAR Sports. Asking the English to "Flint off" is not cricket.

Sourav's final explosive one-day 60 (43 balls, 10 fours, 1 six) was but timely atonement for his countless NatWest batting lapses earlier. Sourav as skipper could now hope truly to re-emerge as a striker 'on the ball' only if he comes up with a Lord's Test encore of his century. Of that 131 knock on his Test debut for India at the Mecca of Cricket in the third week of June 1996. 'On the threshold' then was Sourav. For Dona to get 'carried away' as his bride. For Sana now to come and work the oracle for Papa Sourav in England. If only the ESPN camera could have turned the focus on Dona-Sana too in that heady Sourav trophy-raising instant! But then the camera here belonged first to Sky Sports, only then to ESPN. That is why 'Yuvy Mummy' Shabnam had to be ESPN-fleshed out to speak adoringly of her son even before the lad's near-70 'final' flourish.

After Yuvy got his 131-run trophy-aiming act together with Kaif, there was no way Gautam Bhimani and his ESPN could have reached out to Shabnam in the achiever hour that mattered. That is, after Shabbo's Yuvy had yet again set India on a possible 267-for-6 victory course with that superlative 69 (63 balls, 9 fours, 1 six). As Mohammad Kaif was viewed to lash out where Yuveraj had hooked off, Shabnam sadly became a mere face in the crowd - beyond ESPN's Sky-limited ambit. Frankly, even Yuveraj's bat, as he walked out, had looked something like that Yatin Karyekar walking-stick unerringly headed for the LML Energy FX manhole! A manhole into which Rahul (5) and Sachin (14) metaphorically disappeared. Almost a memory by then had become ESPN's failure to provide a spot replay of Sachin going from 86 to 92 with a rousing six - during his 102-ball 113 (with 12 fours to boot) vs Sri Lanka just a couple of days earlier at Bristol. Instead of a six replay, we then got a spot! Tara Sharma as the Liril navel-exposing girl here was not a beauty patch on Preity Zinta.

Then the final saw Sachin rotundly pre-empted by Sehwag (45 off 49 balls: 7 fours). By a Veeru demonstrating that Ronnie was just his Irani cup of tea. Yet in the end it was Kaif (87, bat in hand) all the way to the 'Souraving' balcony at Lord's. Why did it take the cowboyish Sourav so long to fire from the hip in the 'NatWestern'? Because Sourav had misplaced his IA-erased BRITANNIA willow with which he retrieved his batting fortunes in the West Indies (322 runs from 8 Test innings - ave 53.67)? Or was it because BRITANNIA became too commonplace a long-rubbered handle for Sourav to wield in England? As the run-starved skip, Sourav here was certainly under pressure to find a high-octane bat. A bat that would make him look the HERO HONDArling of the crowd. That he pitched upon such a sharp run-yielding blade in the nick of sponsored time at Lord's is what set the pace for Sourav to cut to size that dubious-looking centurion called Nasser Hussain - 115 off 128 balls: 12 fours. That NatWest trophy Sourav held handsomely high means TV in India has no time for losers from this winsome point. Such is the emotional fervour already generated in India that, as Sourav takes our side to South Africa, one can almost hear our TV audiences wishing him and his team bon voyage with the loaded message: "Come back with the World Cup or don't bother to come back at all!"