Two's classy crickety company

Brian Lara v Sachin Tendulkar... one just the best left-hander while the other the best right-hander in the World? — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-Brian Lara v Sachin Tendulkar... one just the best left-hander while the other the best right-hander in the World? — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN

IN TV promo after promo, in her own `Andaaz', revealing her vital-vital assets, in instalments easy-easy on the third eye, came Lara Dutta.

IN TV promo after promo, in her own `Andaaz', revealing her vital-vital assets, in instalments easy-easy on the third eye, came Lara Dutta. A `Sexy Shot' to set off Brian Lara unfurling the full array of his strokes on the same `all-embracing' screen. `Brian Lara Dutta' some combo, that! Yet this is no time for fantasy. The reality is `Telly' Lara's left no — `Kangaroom' for doubt that his silken rivalry with Sachin abides. Going by the way Lara landed his left on three successive balls, for three sixes, to round off (3-4) the C & W ODI Series. In the result, Lara's West Indies underlined to Sourav's India that even Ricky's Australia, when `champing' at the bit, is vulnerable, after all.

There was both style and substance to the way Lara and his freshers hit back to take a Test, then three ODIs in a row, off World Champs Australia. "Easy meat, these Kangaroos!'' was the appetiser message Lara had sent out to his men from the Test outset itself. Yet the Windies wizard appeared to lose clout, for a while, in the ODIs. Only to pick up the `3-4' pieces in an idiom that witnessed the credibility gap between Lara's bat and Sachin's pad to be narrowing all over again. So — for Barry Richards to revise his opinion about Tendulkar still having to match Lara "on the bouncy wickets in Australia'' — Sachin (in going `Down Under') has now to score like never before. Score, during the four Tests `Down Under', in the same mould as Lara vs Steve's Australia — 26 & 110 in the Georgetown Test; 91 & 122 in the Port-of-Spain Test; 14 & 42 in the Bridgetown Test; 68 & 60 in the Antigua Test. On the Sachin greensward is the red Kookaburra ball now. `Australia 2003' is Sachin's Litmus Lara Test. It is a contest the White Richards and the Black Richards alike must watch with run-consuming, rum-consuming interest. If Lara could so rousingly return upon turning 34, what is the stance for Ajay Jadeja to adopt in the crease at 32-plus? Genius does what it must.

Talent — does it do what it can? "It can't!'' I say. If only because the game, in India, has grown visibly younger since Jadejack-in-the-box set female hearts aflutter. In the ZEE box, charismatically, is where Ajay now fits — for those eminently natural comments with which he came up during the World Cup. Maybe Ajay just wanted to prove a TV point by holding up a bat afresh. Play on, Ajay. `Play the field' you now can only at the cost of your cricket. The `Dalmiyardstick', by which our Cricket Board measures current playing ability, sees Our Man Jaggu, as a movie buff, interested enough in every single film minx Ajay meets. But there is no glam way Ajay could get Jaggu to address our selectors, again, to consider his case afresh `one-day'.

As far as Jaggu goes, the angular Azhar, given what he sex-symbolises on the rectangular screen, belongs to the past. Jaggu's straight submission here is that his job is to see that the idea of the `remix', rampant today, is not followed by `refix'! To Jaggu — on the sightscreen as on the silver screen — it is the Age of Youth. No doubt it is the Spirit of the Age that keeps Ajay going. Yet Ajay has at all times been a pragmatist. Extrovert and articulate, Ajay still has careers beckoning to him. He could remain in the game without necessarily being there centrestage.

Ajay comes through as a super TV commentator. One ready-witted enough to challenge the best in the espnstar business. Ajay's problem, here, is not going to be his telly adaptability. Only his telly acceptability. What weight Ajay's views on the game now carry must remain a matter for debate. And dissent. As a nation, we forget. But not forgive. Wasim Akram perhaps has the inherent class to overcome, in the box, his oft-raised `drawbacks' as a 100% performer. But Ajay Jadeja never did acquire that calibre of stature, in the game, for his telegenic word to carry the stamp of authority. Well could Ajay argue that, as a commentator, he could still match the best voice as a `finisher' in the slog overs! Raillery apart, I wish Ajay well in the box.

Maybe Ajay retains the magnetism to keep viewer attention riveted on what he is saying — here and now. But, in cricket itself, such is the content of the India `A' team, today, that the form of Ajay Jadeja is going to matter so much and no more. That is why it would be in good form, for Ajay, to continue to concentrate on the female form. Ajay is a pastmaster in the art of winning girl friends and influencing women as a people. How Ajay holds the balance even between a Malayalee mum and a Keralite mom-in-law! Swearing as colourfully in Malayalam as in Hindi and English! In fact, our hepcats in the media discovered to their delight, in Ajay, one equipped to give them fresh lessons in four-letter artistry! Verily is Ajay a man for all seasons. If cricket be a season that is past, there are other pastures no less green.

Ajay's scoring point — no matter what he takes up, never does he `Jadejar'. Happy hunting, Ajay, you have the potential to be a peerless emcee on TV.