Towards the 'other' World Cup

BANG on the horizontal Dan Leno was as he philosophised: "I see the world as a football kicked about by the higher powers." Even the highest power in the game, France, met its telematch in Senegal (1-0) and then in Uruguay (0-0). With 10 men France mounted on Uruguay the style of offensive that truly rattled the monitor woodwork. The world is a cup from which you drink football, instant football! Surely even TV with all its technological razzmatazz could not go on to excel this 2002 World Cup as a spectacle? That is the magnetic hold of the rectangular screen - spot on, it makes Football and TV look as made for each other.

Even as the 'No. 1 Superpower' in the game waits to be Seoul-delivered on the Sunday of June 30, India returns almost incognito to the telescene of its 1983 World Cup triumph - Lord's. Cricket as a game 'dates' no more than does Marilyn Monroe as the Calendar Girl! On the eve of the World Cup Football Final, Sourav's India (come the Saturday of June 29) runs the ODI gauntlet of Nasser Hussain's England. This in India's NatWest Triangular Series opener at Lord's. This in a series pitting Sourav, now against Nasser, now against Sanath. Any such cricket happening running parallel to the Football World Cup must come as a terrific TV anticlimax , mustn't it? Remains to be viewed! "Remember, India did win at least the ODI series 2-1 in the West Indies!" That is the ad boys' Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola theme Lagaan song as, by the luck of the Kapil Devil, it is yet another one-day cricket tournament Sourav & co play in England! The 'teleplay' here unfolds as India vs England thrice - at Lord's, at Chester-le-Street (day-night) and at The Oval. Likewise does India confront Sri Lanka thrice - at The Oval, at Edgbaston and at Bristol (day-night). If Sourav's India does not make it on Saturday, July 13 to the NatWest Final at Lord's, there is the Haryana Hurricane backlash to consider in the 1983 champagne shape of Kapil Dev. As for any World Cup Football backlash, it Navjot-bee stings cricket so much and no more. Identify on the set an ODI where Sourav's India takes on Nasser's England and it is the Republic vs the Empire for our sellout viewership! The spots are bound to come thick and fast as Darren Gough stomps in to bowl to Sourav. As Darren does so, take up from where 'Nelsonian' David Shepherd last left off with the total 111. For pop singer-enactor Adnan Sami to take over charismatically enough to put even the captive Asoka superstar pair in the shade with his cutely well-rounded catchline of Pepsi le le tuu hee saaraa, Dil kie naao mein chal dubaaraa!

It is on spotful ESPN we view the 10 NatWest ODIs (including the July 13 Lord's Final). The picture here comes to us via the Sky Sports telecast in England. ESPN's commentators by now mikepick themselves - Sunil Gavaskar and Geoffrey Boycott when not Ravi Shastri and Harsha Bhogle. Only, no Singapore telephonic hook-up this time - Navjot Singh Sidhu merges with the above quartet as a full-fledged 'live' commentator at Lord's, come June 29. Mind your Ps and Qs, 'Richard Attenborough!' Is that not what Alan Wilkins (due to join the panel later) recently styled Navjot in the Caribbean?

Where then is Tony Greig? No one knows though the shrewd guess is that this Packer maverick is beaver-busy erecting the South Africa World Cup platform for him to stand six foot-seven tall as the SONY numero uno! Just like Tony to try and cut the mike from under Geoffrey's nose! Of course there will be the periodic ESPN-Sky Sports swap of commentators. Bob Willis would be most welcome here. Fair and forthright, Bob is your telecommentating uncle! The STAR collaboration during India's four Tests to follow in England is with Channel 4 there.

TV buffs in India have become so habituated to five-STAR cricket coverage that SONY would have to come up with something extraordinary to rival standards eye-catchingly raised over the Prime Sports years. Sanjay Manjrekar is the key global player here, seeing how visible he was in 'grass-rooting' for SONY and then TEN Sports. As a nascent cricket channel SONY has some world cricket catching up to do. Sanjay might have cut his telecasting teeth at SONY but his instinctive audio-visual association is with 'DD, Deadly DD!' To think that it is DD's diabolic return we soon 'celebrate' as the West Indies arrives on a return visit to India.

How much cricket then on TV does Sourav's India get to play before the World Cup? Plenty looking to how the fancy dress rehearsal for the World Cup comes in the form of seven ODIs on the tour of New Zealand starting mid-December 2002. Only two Tests here on 'Kiwickets'. Then seven NZ-India ODIs lined up through January 2003. The good news is that these nine matches are in the wringing-out-2002 custody of ESPN-STAR. TV equations change so swiftly after the 2003 Cricket World Cup in February that there is no knowing what style of punch the 'idiot-boxing' is going to pack through the rest of the year. Only, Bees Saal Baad if India fails yet again to lift the World Cup, does it really matter which channel covers our cricket during what ruefully remains of 2003?