Post-match press conferences are usually about as interesting as watching a Madagascar giant tortoise chewing a blade of grass. "We should have bowled better." "They were the better team on the day." Yawn. Bring on the giant tortoises.
The pre-match jousting, though, seems to have taken a few leaves out of the handbook of hype-maestro Don King. With the action on the field blowing hot and cold in this World Cup, the India-England clash at Kingsmead, Durban, was set up quite nicely. Both teams needed the win desperately, yet both teams could go through to the Super Six even if they lost. So it was little wonder that Andrew Caddick decided it was the best time to take a dig at the Indians.
Speaking to journalists at practice sessions before the big match, Caddick suggested that India hadn't really come to terms with themselves in the World Cup. "India hasn't been up to the mark...both their batting and bowling have been unimpressive," said the 34-year old medium-pacer.
Perhaps he was right. India had lost disastrously to Australia, managed to sweep Zimbabwe aside, beat Netherlands only apologetically, and then got into something approaching form against Namibia. But there were sure signs that the Indians were turning things around. "India should not take pride in scoring 300-plus against Namibia. They were aided more by the nimble-fingered Namibians than their batting strength," said Caddick, perhaps a touch more outspoken than usual.
The Indian camp would have taken quiet note of this, make no mistake about that. India and England have played each other often enough in the last year, and there has always been plenty of needle in the contest. The Indians, however, would have ordinarily been no more worried by Caddick's remarks than by his bowling in the subsequent match.
But then came the pippin.
"Even Sachin did not play well despite his century. Sachin's just like another batsman in the Indian team, and there are a lot of others in the Indian side."
Quoting statistics - Tendulkar has scored 34 one-day centuries, over 10,000 runs at an average of just under 45 - could prove that Tendulkar is not just like "any other batsman," but the statistics are hardly needed. Even a little child on the streets of India could tell you that.
Indeed, few people have dared to take verbal liberties with Tendulkar. Glenn McGrath has, and he has succeeded - but then again, he's Glenn McGrath, backed up by years of performing phenomenally at the highest level. Caddick has not, and he is no McGrath either.
Word has it, then, that Tendulkar walked out to bat with a quiet determination to settle a score of sorts with Caddick.
That Tendulkar did so, in the most emphatic fashion imaginable, was proved beyond doubt on the day. There was one cover drive that even left the normally garrulous television commentators gasping. There was an on-drive that could have easily been written into batting textbooks. For good measure, Tendulkar then unfurled the straight drive, placed impeccably between the bowler and mid-off.
Fans in the stands were on their feet. Caddick huffed, Caddick puffed, and Tendulkar blew his house down. Seeing a short ball early, Tendulkar rocked back, shifted weight from one foot to the other perfectly, and essayed a pull shot that sent the ball soaring over midwicket, over the stands and straight out of the ground.
There was something about the shot that appeared larger than life. There are enough and more good, clean hits in one-dayers, but the brutality of this particular stroke far surpassed willow hitting the cover off a leather ball. It was more like a guillotine coming down unerringly on its mark.
Caddick, in a nutshell, was summarily dismissed from Tendulkar's presence.
That was only the beginning. A man famous for bowling brilliantly in the second innings of Test matches and yet being flat in the first was brutally taken apart and ended with 10-0-69-3, the three in the final column all coming in the last over when the Indians were caught out in the deep slogging. At Durban, Caddick registered his most expensive figures ever in one-day cricket.
Then again, it was all hardly a surprise. As not a few bowlers have found out over the years, this is the price to pay by testing the anger of a patient man. Tendulkar was angry, got India off to a flyer, enabled them to reach 250 and then beat England comprehensively, cantering to a win.
Any more comments, then, Andy?