The noblesse of being Imran

Imran Khan pulled no vocal punches in acknowledging Sachin's masterly display against Pakistan.

BHARATAN

Imran Khan... welcome voice of reason.-Pic. RAJEEV BHATT

HOW the teletracks of the 1999 World Cup and the 2003 World Cup ran parallel for India! In mid-1999, there was the Kapil Devil for Azhar to pay as India lost out to Australia by 77 runs on the Tuesday of June 4. Only for Azhar to become a willowy skip, in the nation's eyes, as The Oval ground (that his India had lost to Australia) was Old Trafford retrieved (on Saturday, June 8) by a 47-run Super Six triumph over Pakistan! Likewise, in 2003, the same Australia first traumatised the entire nation at the Centurion. Only for Sourav to metamorphose, from `Centurion Zero' to `Captain Hero', via that grandstand winning statement: "Taste The Sachin Thunder, Shoaib Akhtar!"

If even Dona Ganguly is by now on TV record hailing March 1 as "India winning the World Cup", what do you say of The Republic turning itself into a near mobocracy during that Saturday Night Without End? The showdown with India affected Imran Khan to the point of his contending that there IS democracy in Pakistan today! Rajdeep Sardesai, here, certainly scoop-fed India with what perhaps must rate as his `Celebrity' Swan Song on STAR News. At least in English. Rajdeep happily had Imran speaking solid cricket sense. The Khan's plea for an India-Pakistan cessation of cricket hostilities came couched in terms most gracious in defeat. All wrapped up in what The Khan had to say — among others in India — was Zeenat Aman. The Khan, in fact, was heard in `pin-up' drop silence by his Zeenie Baby. A jazzy Zeenie who, before being swept off her shapely feet by the body language of `Immy', had (as the Glossy Cover Girl) pouted: "Should something happen to my Dev Saab, I'll go to pieces!"

Those pieces Imran K manfully picked up to recast Zeenat into a provocative piece by the November of 1979. As The Khan thus came on his maiden tour of India, even old romance-hound Raj Kapoor had reason to worry. Worry about the wavering loyalties of his Satyam Shivam Sundaram Oomph Girl. For Zeenat Aman, after all, had defected to the RK camp by stealing her opportunistic way through Dev Anand's Navketan wicket gate. Aptly, Rajdeep now made it a point to bring up Imran's `playboy' image too. But The Khan fielded this slippery one with hands seasoned enough to hold Jemima firm. Imran Khan verily struck Indian telebuffs as the Sole Voice of Sanity in a Pakistan discovering its World Cup to be full. But then Imran Khan is a sportsman first, a politician after. The Khan therefore pulled no vocal punches in acknowledging that Sachin, with his `Windows 98' stroke production, had Waqar's Pakistan pressing the panic buttons from the word `Wasim-go'. Sachin in fact struck a Centurion stance tension free enough to have taken the prickly Shoaib Akhtar point to Akram as: Kya chucker hai, Wasimbhai?

Sachin choosing the March 1 Pakistan-India match as his Bradmandate with Destiny was Mandira sexpot luck for Sony! As Mandira grew into the Sony Sweater Girl job, Sourav's India raised its game to the Super Sixes. No denying that, even before that happening day, Mandira had begun to find her poise and voice. So much so that Mark Nicholas — who had been so dismissive of the Bedi dingbat during the India-Holland February 12 Wednesday World Cup opener ("I suggest, Mandira, you come down here and take over my job and I do yours!") — began responding articulately to the dropping-anchor queries this bright-eyed lady began posing to the Sony Panel.

Oh, I allow for the Sony bobbysoxer idiom persisting here. Yet how did this sitting pretty presenter, `Mandirankling' for a fortnight, go on to display the gumption, in that Mark Nicholas interface, to put forth her questions without sounding submissive? A British oriented Cathedral School `co-ed' foundation, I contend, helps no end here. For my part, I felt startled to discover, one not so fine morning, this forthright Bombay girl approach manifesting itself in my daughter Shilpa too — as Mandira's batchmate. Now, in 2003, Mandira just glam-pussyfoots her way through extraaa innings without ever shedding her Indianness, no matter what be her style of attire.

These are vital statistical attributes in a lady emcee. Even if it still takes us Injuns a while to accept a dame doing dazzling duty on a one-to-one basis with the male of the cricketing species. Typical of our outlook here, we take a fresh look at Donna Symonds — as being not so young — once the West Indies go out of the small screen contention picture!

That STAR, as Sony's `ambush telegraph' rival, continues to present a bravely effective front (in the face of such a visually rich Max challenge) is something for which `Harshadow Boxing' Bhogle deserves spot cheetah credit.

That SonyMax had to get down to putting up mock models to mimic Geoffrey and Sherry was a pointer that the STAR-tossed coin had dropped. The reflex mechanism that impels us, fine-tuners, to turn to the not really `visual' STAR Sports as soon as the Sony Panel Charu-heaves to view — will the habit of mind endure as STAR News goes Hindi from All Fools' Day? If you accept Mandira Bedi (until recently `dead' and gone as Mandira) `topically' returning to STAR Plus life in Kyunki... Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, if you concede that Ruby Bhatia (as Menaka Bose) has now to play second violin in Kasautii Zindagii Key, well could you end up listening to Rupert Murdoch Hindi hop, step and jump (to a much wider telly audience) in STAR News too.