The image will endure

IS Sunday the end of the world? Or merely the end of the World Cup? For eyes held compulsively captive through Weeks Four within the four corners of the rectangular screen, there is going to be this feeling of being totally drained once the World Champions are identified with the Cup Final on Sunday. In a shot will viewers divine that the phantasmagoria that is the World Cup is over. But the image will endure. TV will never be the same again. Is there TV life after the Sunday of June 30? Through two successive evenings (of Tuesday and Wednesday) did you dizzyingly 'monitor' the four teams contesting the semis - your eyes transfixed on the narrow screen. Narrowed to two you 'finally' beheld the FIFA field, as you also discerned you had (until June 30) three days of robust rewind (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) to reflect upon what might have been.

The World Cup has been a happening spanning your mindset. A superduper event during which you experienced your pet team to be so near the screen and yet so far. Finely tempered, steel yourself for Sunday's grandstand finish you do. Here is where cricket faces its sternest visual test yet. After the semifinalised football extravaganza of Tuesday-Wednesday, desultorily do you now view the 'sighlights'. Oh, but wait a minute! Isn't there a diverting bit of ODI cricket to tilt towards between June 26 and June 30? An ODI designed to put on summary trial your new-found visual loyalty to football? Come June 29 and it is time to go for India's ODI triangular opener against age-old rivals England. The very fact that it is Vijay Tilak - not customary Coca-Cola - sponsoring this distant triangular suggests that you could at least wait for the World Cup to end (on Sunday) before beginning to watch 'Cricket, Lolly Cricket'.

But could you be cent per cent certain in your mind's eye that is what you are going to bring yourself to do in your cricket-'drawing' room? Once you are into the afternoon of Saturday, June 29, is the following evening's football clash in store (of even the two best Cup teams in the World) going to keep your ODI eyes off the cricket set? How could you possibly resist the urge to view Sourav's India confronting Nasser's England at Lord's that 'football-free' Saturday of June 29? At best you could, during Sunday's crucial footballing hour and a half, be persuaded to keep The Oval eyes off Sourav's inflated India playing (with a touch of genius) Sanath's deflated Sri Lanka on June 30!

But who knows anything about Vijay Tilak as a sponsor for Indian viewers to feel so encouraged to betray the game of football all over again? Well, who knew anything about a toothpaste called 'Meswak' until April 22 & 24, 1998? Those were the two Sharjah days you watched (eyes riveted) the elfin Sachin teleblast Steve's Australia - 143 off 131 balls (9 fours, 6 sixes) & 134 off 131 balls (12 fours, 3 sixes)? By way of an MRF bonus, Ravi had viewers eating out of his mike-holding hands as he interviewed, 'live', centurion Sachin. This was the psychological moment for which DD, good old DD, had been waiting. Even as Ravi put Sachin a piquant question, DD mindlessly interrupted the flow of Ten's thoughts with a 'Meswak' spot! A spot (as viewers would vividly recall) that stayed stuck there for a good 4-5 minutes - as Sachin's 'brush' with the 'making' of a toothpaste! 'Meswak' is but one pasting DD took. DD has many such nuggets still up its not-so-sleek sleeve. To think that Sanjay Manjrekar, Maninder Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Chetan Sharma, Charu Sharma & Co are going to make us feel DD-diminished afresh (with the blessings of the 'Prasar Bharatiya Janata Party') as Carl Hooper's West Indies come over to India with a one-day score to settle!

But we were on Sourav's India and Nasser's England - on Lord's as the venue for cricket to stage a TV rearguard. Once there is a two-day football ceasefire after the Wednesday of June 26, once Indian viewers have alternated between Hindi film promos and World Cup flashbacks through June 27-28, wild horses are not going to halt them from climbing the Tendulkar-Sehwagon all over again! Never forget, Navjot comes on as a full-time commentator from that Lord's Saturday afternoon of June 29. Plus this time it is Sunil Gavaskar of India interacting with a Geoffrey Boycott for England at heart. Nor is Ravi Shastri going to be the picture of dynamic neutrality here. Leaving the soft-spoken Harsha to decide how to 'remote control' this opinionated ESPN lot, given that Sunny relates to Geoffrey's England so much and no more.

This is a telly team we have savoured for so long now that we cannot envision India's overseas commentary itinerary without ESPN-STAR. But it is certainly going to be a new telecommentary dispensation for a new World Cup in February 2003. Change is the name of the telegame. Yesterday it was Aditi Govitrikar Coca-Colanding with Hrithik as the model supreme. Today it is 'Sonalimca' Bendre still stunningly looking for the big breakthrough. I touched earlier upon Sachin's 143 and 134 at Sharjah in April 1998. "One black coffee, please!" was our pet punchline then when we did not know it to be Kavita Kapoor making Kamal Chopra feel not so Ericsson mobile. Kamal is still fishing for TV compliments. But where's Kavita gone? Whatever happened to Blithe 'Sprite' Lisa Ray springing 'transparently' to view as the Bathing Beauty? Such provocative queries are for Navjot playing the Lord's field to answer.