White goes the cricket ball

KING RICHARDS stealing the Antigua Test show as the Super Black Commentator came as a spot rewind. A rewind to the 'VIVIANEENA' hook-up by which dot Masaba, even while opting for tennis, is ever in a couple of minds about whether to root for the West Indies or India. Come the weekend and it is a topical twist we give to Mom Neena's 'On' TV serial as: 'Kamzor Khiladii Kaun'? No question about it - our choice of the Bacardi Blaster non pareil here is no longer 'hypeingly' between Tendulkar and Lara during the five-match Pepsi play-off. As the May 25 ODIce-breaker unrolls the 'Saturday Night Sunday Morning' show at Sabina Park. The Saint Johns Test duck with which Sachin came to be dubiously 'blessed' revived visions of the Steve Waugh Wisden-endorsed interface drawn of Laxman - "potentially as good as Tendulkar". Remember how all India's end-March 2001 theme-song ran: 'Dial 59-2816566 For TVVS'.

Ten - even after a stroke-laden counter-hundred (126) in the rubber-sealing Chennai Test that time - was reduced to a hapless 'dismissed-for-17' dressing-room telewitness to his international thunder being stolen by Laxman - with that final fling at Mark Waugh worth 66. That March month itself Sachin, by suffixing 000 to Ten, trendily turned the Pepsi spotlight back on himself. For all the telly drama surrounding Tendulkar's 28th one-day ton thus materialising as 139 (125 balls, 19 fours) vs Steve's Australia, in reality this was no 'Sach Sach Hota Hai' way to settle international scores with Laxman - as the 2000-2001 run-accounting year came to a close on March 31 with that Indore ODI.

Now, in May 2002, Venkatasai Laxman (130 off 244 balls, 369 minutes, 14 fours) stands visualised afresh as India's gallant 'Antiguard' in revitalising a crashing innings - a la the Eden Test 281. Sachin thus needs urgently to have delivered in the fifth and final 'Test of charismatic character' that was Sabina Park. For Sachin's one-day contest next is essentially with the six letters of, not Laxman, but Sehwag. After the 'Thoda Hai Thode Ki Zaroorat Hai' pace at which the Windies-India five-day series moved, 'Hathoda Hai Hathode Ki Zaroorat Hai' it is now - as Sledgehammer Sachin is joined by Blunt Instrument Sehwag! The Coca-Colaunch of Veeru by Little Master Mind Sunil must compel even the Big B to view this one-day series as the 'Pepsiege' of Sachin.

Fun Cricket and Fun TV (from this paparazzi point) it therefore is. Even in such a meretricious setting Ten's Windies Test scoreline (79; 117 & 0; 0 & 8; 0 - at the time of writhing) is bound to make any ODI runs Sach now dashes off look mere shadow idiot-boxing. Remember, even Ravi Shastri ran out of Antigua alibis in upholding MRF. That upholding Laxman's epic Antigua ton was something STAR failed property to do came as something of a culture shock. It was gone 1.30 in the morning as the tall-and-rangy Lax looked set to tip the scale at a ton. If we were still sitting up and taking notice, it was only because we had six-footer Lax inching by then towards his 90s. Gravy fatally took the viewer flavour out of that eagerly awaited third VVS Test century. All the more so as the STAR Gravy train came to unimaginative view just as Lax, suddenly blazing vividness, burst into a flurry of shots. After having gone against each grain of his bat in 'Trojaning' his way to 102 not out (India to 397 for 6) in the exemplarily gutsy company of Ajay Ratra (then 51).

How could STAR do this to us, making us vitally miss even being told at which score and shore the third new ball came to be landed by the West Indies? Gravy as an add-on to his 102 Laxman surely did not expect. How suddenly human the ruthlessly professional face of STAR could get! For STAR otherwise took timely note of this column's May 4 'Gripes On The Electronic Scoreboard'. At the tell-tale top right corner, we now got to view Laxman and Ajay's individual scores duly flashed (more than once) alongside India's total. In fact, that other striking maroon graphic (if it gets to be viewed as running across the silver screen much more often) would do fine as a substitute. Seeing how it packs in the batsmen's scores and fours; number of balls and minutes; partnership position; team's score; overs from which the total came.

A graphic violet having us on velvet! Effectively compulsive viewing, divertingly, came to be made by that Shah Rukh-Kareena spot - shot in a vein of 'Pepsi Clinch and Tell'. No Straw Poll needed to adjudge this as 'The Clinch of The Series'! The bottle Kareena K coolly pulls out of Shah Rukh K's provocative pocket is the Singapore 'Sherry' icing. That is by the way. For a far more serious show was on during that Antigua Test's eventful third day. As Jaws II following the Jaws I Merv-Rahul Guyana face-off-unfolded the Great Kumble Getback at Lara (4) in Antigua. Thus, even while aiming one jaw-breaker after another at Karnataka,

Big Merv failed to break India's spirit. Helmets off to Rahul and Anil! While compulsively away recuperating, trust Anil to work out, in front of his still worried wife's mirror, how helmeticulously to negotiate the ball aimed at his brainy persona.