It’s here, it’s here! Speeding towards our collective brains like Sanjeev Nanda in a BMW, the World Cup is here to unleash some glorious fanaticism, thus making it ok for a straight man to say, “Dhoni’s packing some sexy wood tonight.” And in the midst of this unabashed madness, all I can say is, “Meh.”
Don’t get me wrong – I do love cricket. It’s just that as of now, I’m not jumping around like a bunny on coke the way I should be. The focus I had as a kid has now been replaced by the fleeting attention span of a – Oh look, beer!
Ahem. Sorry about that. So yes, I’m not terribly pumped up about the World Cup. This is in stark contrast to 1996, the first World Cup that I have clear memories of, wherein The Incredible Hulk came disguised as Jayasuriya (as opposed to Ranatunga, who played The Incredible Bulk)
I followed that tournament day in and day out with the dedication of a Facebook stalker, allocating large portions of my brain to vital trivia, such as the economy rate of someone called Phil DeFreitas, who was either an English bowler, or my imaginary childhood friend.
This dedication was rewarded during the India-Pak quarter-finals at Chinnaswamy in Bangalore, when Venkatesh Prasad dismissed Aamir Sohail with a historic delivery that Wisden describes as “a jolly good bitchslap”.
Cut to the ’99 semis, when my startled mother woke up to the sound of her son Tom Cruising the couch and yelling at some Lance Klusener fellow. The look I received was a mix of annoyance, disgust and despair, the kind you’d give your kid if you saw him eating earthworms.
That was the peak of my World Cup fanboyness, with South Africa ‘03 being a hazy memory (the one good thing about it was that the aural rape power of the vuvuzela hadn’t been harnessed yet). Then came the 2007 Windies edition, a tournament that lasted so long that even Ravi Shastri ran out of clichés mid-way and had to make do with his usual “went like a tracer bullet” to describe everything from a well-timed boundary to his bowel movements.
It doesn’t help that the publicity for this World Cup has ranged from the ordinary to the vomit-inducing. Case in point: The billboards featuring Dhoni, Harbhajan and Sehwag wearing nothing but green and yellow body paint, glaring at us, as if to say, “We look pretty tough for a bunch of drag queens.”
It’s also sad to see that Pakistan will not be playing host. This is a country that loves sport and respects foreign sportspersons, so much so that they once welcomed the Lankans with a 21-gun-salute.
I’m not worried about my lack of enthusiasm just yet, because I’m quite the emotional fool. All it takes is a sharply cut montage of India’s best cricketing moments set to the voice of Shankar Mahadevan, and I’m sold quicker than a bag of stones at a Kashmiri rally.
In fact, just writing this column has done it for me. As of now, I cannot wait for the World Cup to begin. The only problem is that I’ll have to make a bunch of excuses at work. If you’re wondering about the same, don’t worry – just take a deep breath and think, “What would Ravi Shastri say?”
(Note: This is my HT column, dated 13th Feb 2011)