To each his own kick

WORLD CUP to World Cup! Warranty now and worry four years later. The brand-new TV set is all yours for the kicks! Cricket be damned, even Sourav is seeing the ball as large as a football. Was Sourav (28) then already so hooked on football by that Tuesday of May 21 as to mishook Adam Sanford to Ramnaresh Sarwan and lose the Test series like a shot? Encouraging Laxman (23) to swallow the same bait - hook, line and sinker - for Big Merv to bend over backwards in helping his Hooper skipper get an even tighter hold on the rubber? That rubber naughtily sticking out as an extension of Sourav's bat-handle certainly hit the eye. As did Sourav refusing to discard this bountiful blade as his comeback willow in the face of the IA viewed to be missing from the BRITANNIA emblazoned on his bat. Neither factor helped see Sourav rule the Testy Windies waves. So 'miscued' looked India's Test effort in the end 1-2 result that there almost was reason for Michael Ferreira to celebrate.

In such tickety-boo soccer celebration now lies the supreme test of sustained Indian public approval to football on TV. Could football emphatically displace cricket in the Indian viewer's telestream of consciousness? TV coverage attained new levels of technological excellence during the recent Caribbean feast. Indeed, eagle-eye lensing of the twin Pepsi series in the Isles is what we had from TWI. But right now it is The World As A Cup that has the nation in thrall. As the world's number one spectator sport, football as a super entertainer gets visually more and more breathtaking by the hour and a half. As we dizzyingly head for the 'Seoulful' grandstand finish on the Sunday of June 30.

The contradiction to be perceived here in India is that even such intense involvement eye-rivetingly lasts only so long as does such 'a tournament to end all tournaments'. Oh yes, for a week or so after the June 30 TV cut-off date, all talk, even in India, is going to be about how football is the game grass-roots suited to our native Kalmadi genius. But there the Great Tele Debate ends. Here the reality dawns afresh that India, in football, ranks no better than 123rd in the world - that we last soccer-qualified for the Olympics in the 1960 Rome Games. In 40 years, even Cricket, Unlovely Cricket turned the Wadekar Windies corner.

Still we are no great leg-shakes in cricket, are we, for all those TVIP pearls of wisdom dropped in our laptop by Sunny and Boycs, Ravi and Sherry, Tony and Mikey? 'Harshackled' the Bhogle lad no longer feels in 'drawing out' such a captive set of commentators. Yet the STAR team's diabolic diagnosis remains predictably the same. That Indian cricket is sick at heart as a true Test force. For all the calumny thus heaped upon Indian cricket, is it sure to lose out to football? Here and now on TV? Not on your Sunilife! Online Harsha very much was even as the football fever began to grip India. As those World Cup Football previews unfolded, there was Harsha on the 26-03-2001 Kumble ball and 10-wicket haul! Going back 14 months in time and space to reinvent Anil as not one to hold his jaw. Harsha even had Anil feeling dehelmeted enough to warble a Kishore Kumar ditty ranking as a Sachin pet. Round the wicket came Anil here. Round rhythmically enough to make you wonder if Anil Kumble had not missed his vocation. If Anil should not be sonorously turning to singing from spinning.

For all that, Harsha disappointed millions of Kishore-Pancham votaries in letting Anil get away with that lilting Amit Khanna-Bappi Lahiri 1976 line of thought running as 'Chalte chalte mere yeh geet yaad rakhna kabhie alwidaa na kehnaa kabhie alwidaa na kehnaa'. Harsha - I thought I once sounded you out as vocally empathising, with Kishore K, via RD rather than Bappi! An RD whose unfailing job (as a mere 'assistant' then) was to get up early in the morning and rush to Bombay's Cooperage football ground to book a seat for himself alongside one for Papa S. D. Burman. A music-making pop who, in his prime, was a fine tennis player standing ramrod straight while serving to Calcuttan ace Sumant Misra. The lama-like S. D. Burman (later in his career down in Bombay) would beatifically join son Pancham as a front-bencher to watch East Bengal excel at football.

Scoring point - even while fashioning such trendy music, the SD-RD father-son duo fleshed out the time needed intently to watch football, even hockey. Likewise I say that no matter how spot on you feel witnessing World Cup Football, to each his own kick. The next-door guy has every right to watch Brian Lara instead. The girl next door the turn-on option to view Tiger Woods. Boycott the French Open even Geoffrey need not. Wimbledon in fact arrives as World Cup Football reaches its high meridian.

The small screen is big enough to accommodate each sport all at once. Even while football becomingly holds pride of TV place. Come to think of it, the triangular cricket series featuring India, England and Sri Lanka begins in good Old Blighty on the Thursday of June 27. That is, the very day after the two heady football finalists are determined in the World Cup! For the set-struck, set-stuck one-day audience in India, cricket remains a high-ranging kite-flying competition between Amitabh B and Sachin T. If Imran Khan, even as he started bowling fast, viewed Waheeda Rehman as "the most beautiful woman in the world", Shah Rukh Khan feels likewise about Kareena Kapoor (hour-glass slim in her novel navel display) even while he Pepsi feigns to flip for that Italian old flame!