Names catching the Third Eye

An elevation in ICC status should have made the real umpire achiever feel genuinely humble. Making Asoka de Silva introspect about the higher expectations aroused in his specialist field. But there was a regrettable touch of arrogance in Asoka.


BY way of `Cricket Masala', was it not Ruby Bhatia who fleshed out Rahul Dravid as the game's "Most Eligible Bachelor" in India? While shock enlightening us, side by side, that `TVVS' Laxman had no Sony Talkie takers! "Bride to be or not to be'' is the delicious dilemma VVS continues to pose, to the luscious ones, as the Hamlet of Indian Cricket. This when, with the Test wicket in Bangalore city a sleeping beauty, Rahul is all set to acquire a newly wed shimmer as the Man of the `Match'. Isn't there something to be said for the Nagpurist diagnostic approach of Rahul's would-be wife in just refusing to `Vijetarry'? Sensing it to be `Raveenow or never'?

Rahul Dravid... what is batsmanship but a marriage of style and technique? — Pic. N. BALAJI-

To No. 6 does VVS therefore stand demoted afresh (as the eternally hesitant suitor) in the order of young lady priority. As even Yuvraj moves up in `Shilpadding-off' romantic esteem. Rahul thus is one-up in life even while being one-down in Tests. Following Ten turning 30 as the `Anjalinchpin' of India's Batting. While VVS — for one once rated by Steve Waugh to be "potentially as good as Tendulkar" — enters his 30th uncertain year in six months, come November. Very likely keeping `on the threshold' such opposite-sexy admirers as he still has. How Laxman Eden flattered only to Chepauk deceive! Wearing but briefly the `Hyderabadge' of being `The Neo Azhar'. As Laxman's Steve apprehended Zimbabweakness against the wobbly ball saw him Hararest on his laurels.

Laxman was to be observed but recently on DD Sports — in vibrant `Chepauk 65-66' action replay. Putting Steve's Australia to the Nizam sword even as rain played TVS Cup `Dha.kaput'. I mean the Banglashing thunderstorm during the one Sunday afternoon that the nation felt free to view Young India engage the `single' minded World Cupless South Africa in combat. With STAR back here, did we miss Sony? The beauty of being Sony is that, as a cricket channel, it is out of mindset the moment it is off sightscreen. There can be no doubt now about which channel is the STAR attraction in true blue cricket coverage. Thus do we leave Sony behind without exactly looking forward to DD. Five-ball overs are on the October anvil again, not to worry, as that willowy `Everest Masala' one asserts herself as the DD spot-in-trade. How every face and facet of Indian TV looked transformed after the World Cup. How vitally `24 x 7' restored to us viewers our momentarily lost Indo-Anglian tele-ethos.

Yet, like the Bourbons, DD has learnt nothing, forgotten nothing. It must bring us Maninder Singh in Punjabi Hindi when this commentator is perhaps among the three finest English analytical brains in Indian cricket. Kudos to Jason Dasey for the resonant strains in which he `Sportsline' tuned with Maninder as the potential Sardar of Commentators. A Maninder coming over in a vein exactly the antithesis of vintage Sherry. Our tubewatching dream now — to see Navjot and Maninder STAR slug it out, coming commentating face to face. A clash of Sardar styles to fantasise!

If that is in the `remote' future, the current reality is Asoka de Silva living up to his enhanced ICC stature in the Georgetown-Port of Spain Tests. There were those who felt I had given Asoka the kind of dressing down even he did not deserve (The Sportstar, March 29, 2003). But my feelings about Asoka were formulated purely by the stony style in which he unfolded on `Sportsline'. An elevation in ICC status should have made the real umpire achiever feel genuinely humble. Making Asoka introspect about the higher expectations aroused in his specialist field. But there was a regrettable touch of arrogance to the way Asoka came across in `Sportsline' (and I requote): "My opinion counts in the middle and that's the most important thing."

The tone in which Asoka said this — his finger pointing to an imagined pavilion — was what filled viewers with fresh misgivings about de Silva re-emerging in the middle vis-a-vis India. Fortuitously the West Indies and Australia felt the sting of Asoka's finger first. Arrogance has no place in an international umpire's lexicon. With promotion comes maturity. At least it did in the case of S. Venkatraghavan. It is not exactly a state secret that Venkat was considered arrogant in his playing days. If arrogance it at all was, Venkat visibly turned it into a seasoned umpiring asset as he acquired a world `standing' centrestage.

Such is Venkat's sang-froid today that he is able to shrug off Tiger Pataudi not deigning to name him, even once, alongside Pras, Bish and Chandra (in `Harsha Online'). To think Venkat as debutant was the one to sow the seeds of the spin revolution in world cricket (India vs New Zealand, 1964-65: four-Test series figures 257.3-124-399-21 wickets at 19.00 each). Venkat now should have been the ESPN role model for Asoka. Instead, Asoka created this impression, after his promotion, that the umpire, like the customer, is always right. It is amazing how, time and again, Asoka got his lbw ruling wrong in the basic matter of the ball pitching outside the batsman's leg stump.

If it indeed was the anti feeling of Sourav's Dalmiya India that earned Asoka his World Cup upgrading, de Silva should have made the most of the ICC `Malleable' opportunity this presented. Instead Asoka fell so foul of Australia and the West Indies as now to stand logically disqualified from being October-November reappointed in India against the Kangaroos after the Kiwis. Yet we can but hope we do not see Asoka on our native umpiring heath again. If only because all India by now knows Asoka will not lift a finger to save Sourav!