Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Whatever happens tonight.....even if we lose.....let’s behave sensibly after the match

As the frenzy over today’s India-Pak SF becomes unbearable and the newspapers devote entire front pages to the match, a really small 4-line piece on page 19 in today’s TOI caught my attention. It’s titled “Special Security for Dhoni’s house” and mentions that police in Ranchi are taking pro-active steps to avoid problems just in case India loses tonight. For me, this small piece of 25 words is worthy of being on page 1. If India loses today, we need to ask: how will we conduct ourselves?

The match provides a great occasion for us to show that along with growing economically, we have also grown culturally. That we have matured as a nation and have shed tribal behavior along the way. The PM showed his big heartedness (along with some political savvy) when he invited the Pakistani PM to watch the match. Many Indians have offered their almost-impossible-to-get tickets to Pakistani fans who have come over to watch the match. Dhoni and the Indian team have remained maturely silent and stayed away from any pre-match machoism. This shows maturity. But our media’s conduct has been along expected lines.....most TV channels have whipped up extreme nationalism......in the race for TRPs, there is no role for suaveness and polish! Most have not bothered to remind that it’s only a match after all.

It is indeed just a match after all. Winning and losing is part of the game. It’s going to be great fun alright. But if we lose.....and let’s be honest.....there’s at least a 50% chance of losing......we must make sure that we don’t shame the nation by behaving like animals. The entire world is watching our rapidly growing country. Let’s not do anything that shows us in a bad light.  I remember how in the past, miscreants have hurled stones (and abuses) at our player’s homes when we have lost a match. This kind of crude, immature behavior should be stopped with the full force of society.....and even the security set-up if required. Everyone shows graciousness when they win; can we show it when we lose?

But let me not talk too much about losing today! Our boys look confident. They surely have no shortage of advice! Winning today is really very easy. Win the toss (!). Bat first. Make sure to make 350 minimum (!). But while playing fast, don’t lose wickets (!). Yuvraj will play well (!) because it’s his home town; Raina because he’s got to keep Pathan out (!). Sachin is God incarnate (this I agree!). Sehwag will play well because he has not fired (!) in the last few encounters. Gauti will play well because he has fired (!). So awl is well on the batting side. Don’t include Sreesanth in the team and please keep the rusty Nehra out as well (after all, we haven’t forgotten his last over against South Africa have we?!). Play with Munaf and Zaheer. Continue with Ashwin. Bhajji had better perform(!).....

In the end, it’s going to be a clash of Pakistani junoon and our professionalism. This is one place where our famous patented concept called “jugaad” has no role to play.....unfortunately for us! If we could have, we would have asked the Pakistanis to adjust a bit today!

So how should we behave if we lose? Can we please stand up and applaud the Pakistani performance just like we would any winner’s performance? Can we show that we’ve outgrown our jingoism? That we have grown culturally? That we can handle a loss? That we can be generous in defeat?

The first real challenge will come when our media covers the loss. The second challenge will come when our players leave the grounds and go back home..... But the biggest challenge will come when the Pakistanis march towards Bombay. The authority of the Indian Government will be tested by the ultra-chauvinistic crassly-jingoistic Shiv Sena. If I was in charge of governance, I would use this opportunity to show the Shiv Sena its place. I would smother them like Sachin would Afridi’s spin so that they would never think of giving such threats again. But even if the government does not do so, let’s all of us....the people of Bombay and of India.....show the Shiv Sena that we hate their guts and will never vote for them. This is the only language they will understand. My fear is that something totally different will happen. The Maharashtra CM will likely make a friendly appeal to Bal Thackeray not to precipitate matters thus affording him an opportunity to grandstand before his small group of uneducated louts. If that happens, it will be the biggest tragedy for India. Much bigger than not reaching the finals. If India’s commercial capital behaves so wimpishly, it will be a matter of great shame for the entire country.

The real truth is that I think we will be grumpy losers. We will create hundreds of conspiracy theories. The BJP will say that the PM asked the Indian team to lose because he wanted to oblige his guests (and demand his resignation)! The media will say that the match was fixed. No one will say that maybe Pakistan was the better team of the day. It’s going to be up to people like us to defend our country’s name....let’s not fail in that duty.

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