March 30, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011

Cut out the clichés and hype

Akhila Ranganna

An editorial in the Indian Express states that while it easy to look at sporting encounters between India and Pakistan through the lens of political and social confrontation, succumbing to that temptation can create for us the febrile cricket-is-war environment we’re having to endure today. More importantly, it does a disservice to the two teams, to the sport they are playing.

Games are games, and games need good manners, cricket in particular. They need sportsmanship on the pitch and cordiality off it. It is that cordiality — and perhaps something more — that lies behind the welcome that Pakistani fans will receive in hospitable, outward-looking Punjab. It is that cordiality that underlines Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s invitation to his Pakistani opposite number to watch the match, and Yousaf Raza Gilani’s acceptance. Take the cordiality as what it is: the necessary accompaniment to a great sporting moment.

And in the same newspaper, Sandeep Dwivedi writes that it is no doubt a challenge to cut out clichés and stereotypical sentiments from an Indo-Pak cricketing contest. But if one is able to do that, watching two sides with unique and outstanding skill sets becomes a serene experience, and not necessarily a nerve-jangling ordeal.

After appreciating a classic Tendulkar cover drive, in case an Umar Gul in-cutter makes way between the Indian opener’s bat and pad, he too deserves at least a few claps. And if Zaheer Khan loses the race to be the leading wicket-taker to Afridi, it would not be the end of the world. Zaheer and Afridi have done enough to be judged by their showing in one tournament.

It has been fascinating to watch the way Sachin Tendulkar has manipulated the bowlers in this World Cup writes Simon Hughes in The Telegraph. And who would bet against him achieving his century of centuries in the biggest game of cricket on earth, Wednesday's unique semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali.

Quite apart from his talent, the other thing that sets him apart is the way he plans an innings. Every innings. He is meticulous in his assessment of bowlers and conditions. He is not intent on intimidating a bowler, but on calculating his best shot options. You can practically see him computing bowler type, pitch state and field settings, processing the information and unveiling the appropriate shot.

In the Independent Dominic Cork writes that it is time to forget about the spot-fixing issue. A win for Pakistan today would be great for world cricket.

As a neutral all I want to see in Mohali is a cracking match – something along the lines of India's 338-runs-apiece tie with England would do nicely – and provided both teams bring their A game then we should be in for a real cliffhanger. But if Pakistan end up going through to Saturday's final then I will have no problem at all in applauding them.

Nirmal Shekhar in the Hindu writes that sport can at once divide and unite. It is up to us — the lay fans, and not the politicians alone — to decide what we want it to do.

Armed with a copy of Cricket for Dummies Wright Thompson from ESPN.com goes on the road with the Indian team to understand the hype, hysteria and passion surrounding the game.

In the Dawn Bina Shah looks at the trends that have emerged ahead of the India-Pakistan clash, a match that is being seen by political commentators as more significant than India-Pak peace talks, Partition, and a South Asian nuclear war combined.

In the same newspaper, Rafia Zakaria looks at how Pakistan’s relationship with cricket represents an opportunity, an orientation toward the world that goes far beyond the sport and presents answers to historical conundrums.

In the Guardian Andy Bull writes that while sports and politics are inextricable, Indian and Pakistani cricketers seem to have done a better job of promoting the spirit of friendship than some of the politicians who have imposed themselves on their sport.

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Akhila Ranganna is assistant editor (Audio) at ESPNcricinfo

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