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A toast to the South

When bragging rights are presented to you, you've got to take them

Team-mates mob Praveen Kumar after the dismissal of Mithun Manhas, Royal Challengers Bangalore v Delhi Daredevils, IPL, 52nd match, Johannesburg, May 19, 2009
Bangalore: in with more than a shout © Associated Press

When Manish Pandey became the first Indian to make an IPL century, Yuvraj Singh and the rest of the Punjab team must have realised that their semi-final dream wasn't about to materialise. About the same time, I was thinking: who is this Manish Pandey, and where has he been hiding all this time? I was also thinking how interesting it was that all of the south Indian teams - Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad - have made it through to the final four.

The North-South divide is an inevitable and age-old divider of people. For some countries, like in the USA, there's a line (the Mason-Dixon) that signifies you're crossing over into different territory. In other countries, the demarcations are more subtle - a river that cuts through the land, a change in the light, the pace at which people walk. Whatever that north-south boundary may be, it exists, and inhabitants of one side will always acknowledge the difference of the other side, and generally claim that their side is best.

In India, it's no different. The marker that divides the north from the south is the Vindhya mountain range, and anyone who has ever visited India will know that travelling from one side to the other is often like visiting another country. The languages are different, the names people give their gods are different, the styles of architecture, the history, the way people look... it's all very different, and naturally there's unwarranted arrogance from both directions, and a strong holding to stereotypes.

To generalise, North Indians, for example, like to believe that southies are rice-eaters, with five-syllabic surnames, who have an excessive fondness for coconut oil and movie heroes with moustaches. Of course this is partly but not always true. South Indians, to compensate, tend to believe that northies are a bunch of uncultured, aggressive, meat-eaters who wouldn't know the value of a good filter coffee if it hit them in the face.

Now I know that the IPL teams are only "representative" of their particular franchises. Where possible they have tried to keep domestic players as close to their home states as possible, but this is hardly uniform. I also realise that Herschelle Gibbs is probably unrelated to any Reddy on the planet, and that curd rice and mor kozhambhu probably isn't Albie Morkel's favourite dish. But having lived in the south for most of my life, and being a self-adopted Tamilian, I've been at the receiving end of enough north Indian condescension to know that when bragging rights present themselves to you, you've got to take them.

Having said that, though, there's plenty of rivalry between the three south Indian teams, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think that after last night's performance, the Challengers have a really strong chance. They had a lacklustre start to the tournament but have undergone a serious transformation under the leadership of Anil Kumble. They've managed not only to turn the losing tide but also to hold on to the winning momentum, and are peaking when it most counts. The Chennai Super Kings are still strong, but seem overly reliant on a few key players for success, and haven't managed to close out the tight ones. And the Chargers, well, what to say about them? They had a phenomenally explosive start, and now look to be on the downward slide. Still, you never know how things are going to go. All we can do is wait and see. But one thing's for sure: Delhi, you better "mind it!" The southern invasion is coming to get you.

Tishani Doshi is a writer and dancer based in Chennai

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