The catch behind being Lara

HOW crystal-ball clear was the TWI image of the Georgetown Test! Images that endure of Carl and Shiv, Sachin and Laxman, Rahul and Srinath. Pointedly, was it not Sunny who said (on STAR Sports during the 1996 World Cup): "Wicket-keepers make good lovers!" With the gloves on to avoid leaving a trail? With or without, they must be 'keepers first, lovers after. Nayan Mongia, (in the ditto Deep slot) would have made it a 'Carl Catch For Your Eyes Only'. Zero in on India after that great escape did Carlton-Upon-Ton' Hooper, leaving viewers wondering if Anil Kumble 'turned' only when he went back to the top of his bowling run. Sourav's being so inelegantly hooked on Deep shut out India from the Georgetown Test on the show's opening night itself. By Rahul's side, Laxman's Carl 'slip' showed no less - even in the face of India's big-ton atlas Rahul and VVS (69 off 113 balls, 11 fours) later making up with that tea-tables-turning 119-run rearguard unfolding so precipice-hangingly on the narrow screen.

As for the 233 Carl 'Caribbeano', it came as the topsy-turvy happening thing in Windies cricket only after Brian Lara had been visibly denied the opportunity to pre-empt Sachin's gem-polishing 79. There was no Fevicol action replay here to tell us why Sachin got so inexplicably stuck on 73. While Lara had looked poised enough to get stuck into the Indian bowling until Daryl Harper gifted that Packer duck to Brian on his comeback morn. If it was now Lara (0) who had reason to feel 'had' by Daryl Harper, Sachin it was earlier. When on a like Packer duck, by the selfsame Daryl was Sachin ruled out - 'body before wicket' to Glenn McGrath (first Ansett Test, Adelaide Oval: Tuesday, December 14, 1999).

By now we know all about Brian Lara walking when on 91 (c Nayan Mongia b Venkatapathy Raju) in the December 1994 Mohali Test. Walking when umpire S. Venkataraghavan had his fateful finger firmly down. And promptly up, upon seeing Lara leave! Remote-press to India-West Indies' first encounter of the 1996 World Cup - the February 21 Gwalior day-and-nighter that year. With a touch of supreme irony did a Pakistani umpire, Khizar Hayat, here have a 'finger' in the Indian pie! As Lara (2) was the telepicture of the reluctant walker, you doubted Hayat's niyat in handing out a spot verdict of 'caught behind'. Caught by Nayan Mongia - off who if not Javagal Srinath? Farokh Engineer stoked the embers of controversy further with his smart-alec STAR Sports observation that Lara was out lbw, if not caught-behind!

Between February 18 and 21 in that 1996 World Cup, it was a caught-behind confrontation of kinds between Lara and Sachin. In our 18 February Sunday World Cup Sachin opener vs Kenya at Cuttack, the Elfin One superhit Azhar's India to a seven-wicket win. As Sachin returned to the deck-chair, his Man of the Match 127 not out did not go unqueried. Sachin had been on naughty 99 when there was an almighty roar by Kennedy Otieno off Maurice Odumbe for a caught-behind. Good old Brian Langley (on STAR Sports) recurringly recreated the Sachin caught-behind scene - to Syed Kirmani's eternal commentating chagrin! So much so Sachin felt constrained to come clean (on STAR itself) by insisting: "I did not get a touch!" From persisting did that daunt Brian Langley? No more than it halted the STAR teleboys now from blowing up Lara's caught-behind as his Georgetown zero-return to Test cricket after a telly tally of 588 runs from 6 innings during 3 Tests in Sri Lanka. At Georgetown, therefore, the idiot-boxing focus was first probingly on Lara, only then on Sachin.

After Lara's Daryl dismissive departure came the style and aptitude Carl Hooper brought to his Test career-highest 233 (402 balls, 29 fours, 3 sixes). Carl's fours and sixes represented the one crucial detail that STAR - visually inexplicably - denied viewers for long. What price technology if TWI could not gear it instantly to Carl's 29 fours, 3 sixes? Even the 402 balls' Carl info we got from the electronic scorecard, not from the 'bottomline' to Hooper's coming off as the exemplar skipper. Tony Cozier, so strong on Windies statistics, was expected to furnish us with the vital statistics too - as TWI razzle-dazzlingly zoomed in on Carl's girl the moment Hooper weighed in as a two-tonner. During the November 1974 Bangalore Test between Clive Lloyd's West Indies and the Junior Pataudi's India, I was sharing the mike with Tony. And Cozier enlightened India's vast radio listenership that a Caribbean centrepitch powwow (between two Windies batsmen) could be for something as revealing as "a fine pair of legs" the two had fleshed out from the glam Garden City audience! Tony, having grown Cozier and Cozier as a commentator since, was now naturally expected to retail to us whether this 2002 Hooper girl is the same one about whom (as noted by him then) Our Ma'an Carl was so expectantly anxious when last on a tour of India.