This, that and the other. Mostly the other
There is every chance that at the pre-match press conference the captains will say this is just another match for them. They will, of course, be lying.
This is not just another match. This is worse. This is just another match between India and Sri Lanka. One of 30 ODIs that these sides will have played against each other since July 2008. To go with nine Tests and four Twenty20s.
The World Cup has cheated us. These have been a tough 46 days. England left us in a daze, now losing to Ireland, now beating South Africa. Jonathan Trott was the leading run-getter at one point. Imagine how many times we have watched him scratch and mark his guard.
Figuring out who was going to fly out where for the quarter-finals was more difficult than understanding French philosophers. We even survived Asoka de Silva, Amish Saheba and Daryl Harper. We fought the urge to put Shankar Mahadevan in a Stumpy suit and make him dance to his own "De Ghumake" so that at least once, for those five minutes, he understands the pain our ears have felt. We have been civil to Haroon Lorgat, and haven't thrown pebbles at him. Masochistically we have even pretended to have enjoyed all this and more.
And what does the sadistic World Cup give us in return? An India-Sri Lanka final. Really now? Of all the match-ups possible, we get this. Like India-Sri Lanka is the only complete, absolute truth. Sucking everything else in, like some super vacuum cleaner.
Objection. We will review this. This decision sounds just wrong. There could have been many other, more desirable, scenarios as opposed to watching another rerun of cricket's Neighbours.
We don't mind Ricky Ponting spitting generously into his hands, accepting the World Cup with one and shoving Sharad Pawar off the dais with the other. Or Jesse Ryder drinking from the Cup That Counts. (Coke, of course.) Or Shahid Afridi celebrating Boris Becker-style, and thus being unable to hold the World Cup, with Ian Chappell moaning about the despicable act on air. Or Andrew Strauss and his team on crutches sitting in a shrink's couch, holding the World Cup aloft. Or South Africa choking with tears at having won the World Cup. You get the point.
There could have been so many poor, cringe-inducing pranks the World Cup could have played on us, but this is black humour of the worst kind. The Misbah-ul-Block jokes are better than this one.
India and Sri Lanka may be the two best teams in the competition, but something goes wrong when they see each other. They start playing attritional, "I will out-annoy you" cricket. It is possible that this time, hypnotised by the sight of the World Cup, they might forget and play a great match, full of emotion and class, going "for glory", as Sonu Nigam so earnestly exhorted in Dhaka so many months ago.
Even a great match, though, will result in something undesirable. For surely the two boards will capitalise on the success and sign another five-match bilateral series to be played for a cup with the name of the the nearest cellphone company or plywood manufacturer on it.
No, Bob, nobody will help sing. There is no redemption song here.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo
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