The Axe Effect and after

RAJU BHARATAN

THE Gang Leader and his henchmen are back — in sackcloth sans Ashes. Acutely aware of what James Thurber meant when he said: "Ashes to ashes and clay to clay, if the enemy don't get you, your own folks may.'' "The enemy'' got Sourav & co 4-0 as early as by the first Sunday of the New Year. Got such a vice-like hold of India, as a team, that our "own folks'' back home could but wonder about one thing. As to what our plane ascending team members possibly could say when Sherry's pet `Sexy Shot' airhostess, displaying her own assets challengingly, flightfully enquired of Sourav and his boys — "Anything to declare'' Sachin alone could escape searching scrutiny here as one having taken steps to stay out of the 4-0 kickback.

Verily did our batting (in the two Tests and first four ODIs) look as slim as Aishwarya Rai's waist. Not knowing where to draw the waistline after the `Bollywood Hollywood' exposure they had (before, during and after the Mini World Cup), our world-beaters, did they become spot `soft' dismissal targets? As they found the red and white cherry wobbling all the way from Basin Reserve to Queenstown? Or did Sourav and his party think they had gone on a spot location shoot to New Zealand? With Gautam Bhimani obligingly there to pick out those favourite duet-picturising Kiwi spots of our movie moghuls? `Pardesee pardesee jaana naheen' no Karisma-stuck Indian resident in New Zealand was prepared to hum to a team suddenly divested of all charisma. Indeed the farming-the-bowling Aamir Khan's lily-white Karishma kudi (from that `Coca-Cola in the well' spot) made more eye-catching viewing than did any glam player of our team. A Karishma giving the `Femina Look Of The Year' to her navel in the mirror. As the ad-dame `one up' on the other two Coca-Colasses in the threesome's SUNSILKEN rivalry.

As I switched channels in despair, even Biswajeet, `Bees Saal Baad', appeared to have ceased looking beautiful rather than handsome — the way our cricketers exposed themselves as not man enough for the act. But Waheeda Rehman still arrested the black and white eye, her come-hither `Kaheen deep jale kaheen dil' a wistful reminder of why Imran Khan wrote her up as the "Most Beautiful Woman In The World''. `Jemima Jemima, pyaar kisee se, ho hee gayaa hai, hum kya karen'! But Imran Khan pursued success in cricket as single-mindedly as he pursued Zeenat Aman. By contrast, how brief was the NatWest reign of our captain from the East! Words further failed Ganguly each time he further failed. `Fly Emirates' Asoka de Silva no longer needed to tell him. The fly in the BOROPLUS ointment was there for all India to see.

It got to a partisan point where viewers genuinely began to consider if, in the case of John Wright, the `Indian' spirit was willing but the Kiwi flesh was weak. Seeing how only the multi-costumed Raveena, as the ZEE zing thing, had rollercoaster Rahul reason — by the awards' year-end stage — to dance with verve and swerve. A Raveena feeling fulfilled, while she so swayed `must-must', to see Rahul at last take off the big gloves. At least during the 4th ODI — in tune with the mood prevailing during the festive first week of January 2003. `Britannia' still rules the waves, seeing how sturdy as the straight bat of Rahul Raveena looks, as a matching stayer in the performing arena. Enduring enough for Vir Sanghvi to interview Rav, hour-long, in India's gloomiest cricketing hour.

During this fatal phase in our game, Ravi Shastri for one, as `Cricket Ka Asli Badshah', stole the idiot box-office show from our five STAR TV players with his exceedingly smartly turned out LG spots. The `Om Cricketaya Namah!' spots were all South Africa ready, only the shots were missing from the blunted blades of India's crashing heroes. The whole nation was in the Hero Hondark about what ailed the otherwise freewheeling Sourav through Matches Six. The hi-fi six he landed with such connectivity beyond Naghma, on the Dona threshold, where was all that power play gone? Even Geoffrey would have liked to know — about the Sou he viewed as a "coot'' above the rest.

``The Prince of Calcutta'' just can't hope to rule beyond the World Cup unless he changes his style of functioning — to invoke the political jargon. Jagmohan Dalmiya could go on confronting the ICC only so long as Sourav with his men measures up to the Best Bowling In The World — As A Cup. TV creates idols only to be in a media savvy position to smash them. Sourav is just the style of maverick myth TV would delight in demolishing.

As the shirt-waver no longer seeing the ball as large as a football. Sou must not give celebrity-hungry TV that World Cup opportunity to get the next not so piquant part of its Gang act going.

The World Cup in South Africa is visibly Sourav's Last Post. Caught in the third eye of the storm, the NZ-sowing Sourav has but one way left to avoid reaping the whirlwind.

Those whirlwind shots he must somehow unleash afresh — the Souravaging way he did last, where if not in South Africa! Just when, like now, his cause looked lost enough for the Axe Effect to be felt. To the armpits (with each `match') did Sou and his team's game descend early in New Zealand. Light at the end of the South African tunnel viewers now will see only in the shape of Sourav and his side, atoningly astonishingly, making it to the Super Six.

No way? `Kapil Dil Se', you never can tell in the World Cup. As the fall with a `Taste The Thunder' thud of Clive Lloyd's 1983 West Indies illumines to this D-Day.