Saturday, 19 February 2011

Power Play

The intensity of the debate about the forthcoming cricket World Cup that kicks off from today reminds the coffee houses within the community of a simple truth: as far as the wider public is concerned, a World Cup determines the world champion. Never mind that 50 over cricket is not the highest form of the game. Never mind that one day cricket is notoriously fickle--though it has seemed quite predictable in the last few World Cups.

Such niceties are lost on the crowd as it sits agog in the stadium or as it huddles around a TV set in remote villages. Indeed, they are lost on the players. To win a World Cup is the ultimate dream for all countries participating. For a while, winning a World Cup overwhelms the problems of daily life. Of course, they cannot cure them. Sports need champions and emphasizing on world champions. As much can be told from the response of the athletes upon winning gold medals. It is quite something to be the best in the world in any capacity. Sports offer that promise. In most of walks of life, these things are a matter of opinion.

In sports, it is often a proven fact. The craving for sports for champions stem from that opportunity. Of course, it serves several purposes, gives the young a chance to prove their courage without unduly harming their rivals, spouses a little time away from their beloveds and allows the age-old to debate about strength and speed and skill to be settled in the ring or on the field. Alas, the settlement is only temporarily for the terrible truth is that sporting success is fleeting. As every gunslinger knows, there is always another person emerging who thinks he is a fraction faster. Sooner or later, he is right.

World Championships provide testing grounds where players, teams and nations can prove their nerve and ability. The pomp and ceremony of the opening and closing help to set the tournament apart from its peers, tells all and sundry that the time has come for those seeking glory and convinced of their capacity to stand up for themselves. As the fallen angel called out in Paradise Lost: "Speak now or forever hold your peace". World championships serve another purpose. They provide an arena in which truly great cricketers can assert themselves. In that regard, it's easier in cricket with its man-against-man aspect. It is a raw game with a civilized surface, an individual game in the guise of a team activity.

Clive Lloyd's innings in 1975 set the pattern. Even now, the lithe ferocity of his stroke play lingers in the mind. Sir Viv Richards came next, with his awesome and controlled attack in 1979. Richards used to walk on the balconies in the early rounds, urging his comrades to take him to Lord's. He was aghast when Somerset dismissed Nottinghamshire for a paltry score in a domestic final in 1983. How was he going to score a hundred? Only great players can think along those lines and those heading for a fall. Although his intervention was brief, Kapil Dev's stunning catch to remove Richards in the 1983 final was another instance of a great player seizing the moment. Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Aravinda de Silva, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist are few examples who have imposed themselves in finals.

Now comes the 2011 edition in India, anything can happen in lesser events. As a rule, though, World Cups and Olympics for that matter, produce the right winners and inspire the best players. The early rounds might not tell us much but the semi-finals and final will tell us all we need to know. That is the harsh reality. It is the moment of truth.

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